Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE

While the wireless operators were busy fearing Skype cannibalizing their voice minutes, Skype was fighting off an enemy of its own -- WebRTC. That's changing today, however, as the Microsoft voice-over-IP (VoIP) division says it will support its "frenemy" in Internet Explorer.

WebRTC is an open-source protocol that enables peer-to-peer real-time communications from any supported web browser. One of the most oft-cited reasons for the three-year-old technology's slow adoption in the industry has been the lack of ubiquitous support. Firefox and Chrome have been long-time supporters, but Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Internet Explorer and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s Safari have stayed on the sidelines for fear it would compete with their own telephony services. (See WebRTC: A Double-Edged Sword for Telcos.)

That's starting to change, as Internet Explorer senior program manager Shijun Sun writes in a blog post Monday that Microsoft is developing the Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC) API for WebRTC, which will remove the need for a plug-in on the Internet Explorer browser. The company's Skype division is leading the charge, in recognition that it can't beat the standard, so it might as well join it.

Read up on real-time communications on our dedicated WebRTC page on Light Reading.

In fact, Skype has always seen the writing on the wall, as Neil Ward, general manager of global business operations at Skype, last year called it a "welcome innovation" and said that it would help drive partnerships for Microsoft. However, it has taken a while for Microsoft to actually welcome the innovation into the fold, and now the next step will be to see what partnerships arise from it. (See MW13: Skype Waits for Operators to Woo It.)

Sun writes that Skype is "working closely with the web community to improve other existing standards for richer video interoperability, for example, features to adapt to changing bandwidth conditions and more." He also says that Microsoft will ensure interoperability with web browsers and SIP-based VoIP endpoints, PSTNs and teleconferencing systems. (See WebRTC & the Rise of the WebCo.)

It sounds like he sees room for partnerships with wireless service providers, which badly want in on the WebRTC action and can provide transport to ensure the quality and security of any browser-based call. But they, too, will have to be willing to partner smartly with over-the-top guys, including Skype, which they've proven resistant to do in the past.

Either way, Internet Explorer support is positive momentum for WebRTC, and represents an important roadblock removed on the path to ubiquitous browser-based data sharing, voice and video calling.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Liz Greenberg 10/31/2014 | 12:57:48 AM
Re: WebRTC advancing Clicked, tapped, and wrote...that is keyboard, touch screen and pen.   I hope that they can keep it up.  It is good for consumers to have choices...all strong and healthy choices.
pcharles09 10/30/2014 | 11:03:17 PM
Re: WebRTC advancing @Liz G,

I was glad when I saw it. Hopefully something's clicked after years of ineffective (or not as effective) campaigns.
Liz Greenberg 10/29/2014 | 11:56:02 AM
Re: WebRTC advancing Well said @Kruz...but I am speaking of a long ago age when Apple was young and struggling to get market share against PCs...they embraced it big time (think original Jobs not Jobs 2.0).  Now, forget it, even making a ringtone is a nosebleed.  Anything other device uses a simple MP3.  IPhone...nope needs an M4R extension, so stupid.
Kruz 10/29/2014 | 9:04:03 AM
Re: WebRTC advancing Open standards were behind a lot of today's technology initiatives shaping services into the form they do exist in. Take OpenStack for example; it is key in managing multiple cloud deployments within enterprises.
mendyk 10/29/2014 | 8:28:43 AM
Re: WebRTC advancing This kind of gets to the core of the open/standardization issue. Don't we want people to innovate and set themselves and their products ahead of the status quo? Yes, there are benefits to the all-things-being-equal approach that the open movement strives toward. And there are parts of the telecom ecosystem that absolutely require adherence to common standards. But innovation is about pushing ahead with new ideas, and new ideas by committee usually don't happen.
Kruz 10/29/2014 | 12:33:13 AM
Re: WebRTC advancing But that also applies to the wat msft develops its products. It still tell you what to do and ties you to use its proprietary proudcts. The grip is less tight recently as they had to open up but still, they have a long way.
Kruz 10/29/2014 | 12:30:45 AM
Re: WebRTC advancing Apple was never an embracer of a standard if that standard didn't suit its closed ecosystem.
Liz Greenberg 10/28/2014 | 11:45:13 PM
Re: WebRTC advancing Have you seen Microsoft's latest Surface Pro 3 ad?  It is hysterical, showing a new Apple laptop, Ipad and a piece of paper to equal one device.  Yeah still focusing on features but beginning to get the idea about lifestyle...
pcharles09 10/28/2014 | 8:28:24 PM
Re: WebRTC advancing @smkinoshita,

I agree. Just look at their marketing. Apple's more about lifestyle. MSFT still focuses on features.
pcharles09 10/28/2014 | 8:27:17 PM
Re: WebRTC advancing @Liz G,

They have a lot to learn on MANY fronts!

But I still love Windows
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