5 Challenges for businesses thinking of implementing WebRTC

Understanding what WebRTC has to offer is the first step when deciding how to implement it into your web site or web application. There are several useful features available that can be configured within most web browsers, from simple click to call buttons to more complex multi channel communications options. Learn more by reading What is WebRTC for Business?

The main options are as follows:

  • Making voice and video over IP calls from browser to browser.
  • Chat
  • Secure file transfer
  • Screen sharing
  • Integration with web apps using API for contextual information sharing
  • Secure peer to peer networking

The opportunities are numerous and by the end on 2017 all browsers including Safari 11 will hopefully support all Web Real Time Communications functions. Given the possibilities both now and in the future it is important to get your implementation strategy right to avoid wasting resource and getting stuck in a costly dead end.

What are the main challenges?

Keeping your code up to date

A reliable service depends on several elements working together such as the main browsers, voip servers, javascript libraries, NAT servers, API scripts and several (e.g. PHP) main scripts. An unexpected browser code update can break the service overnight so monitoring forthcoming changes and their impact is the first challenge. Keeping up to date is almost a full time job.

Integrating with legacy systems

Many call centres would like the benefits of WebRTC, such as click to call and chat, but need to receive the web calls using their VoIP PBX extensions. In these cases, conversion from WebRTC to SIP is needed for the phone call. This process may involve several suppliers and some new technology such as a gateway server or session border controller. Some PBX servers offer WebRTC support which may appear to be a neat solution but they don’t effectively handle NAT traversal.

Software development

A simple click to dial button on a web site will require minimal coding but extend this to include customised branding, contextual data sharing, chat and video and someone will need to start writing some code. Web Real Time Communications scripts can be written in various programming languages such as PHP and Javascript which are widely used. However specific skills in WebRTC are required and experienced developers are currently hard to find.

Ownership of the WebRTC service

Implementing real time communications using WebRTC into your web site will involve several parties such as your web host, website designer, Internet service provider, PBX maintainer and security officer. Getting these parties to work as a team will be a challenge in terms of the initial implementation and subsequent support of the system.

Creating a no-nonsense user experience

There are several traps waiting for the new WebRTC user and a poorly designed web page will frustrate them. A large number of people in Europe have an Apple iPhone, its default browser currently does not support it, if you don’t know this it could be a source of irritation. There are some settings on the user’s PC that need to be checked to allow audio and video, sometimes these are hard to spot and enable. The browser may be out of date, with an older version of which has some annoying bugs.

All of these issues need to be handled in a slick way, such has hiding the controls from the user if there is no chance of WebRTC working, or displaying a message informing the user what they should do.

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