WebRTC becomes design-complete strengthening the Web Platform as a solid actor in the telecommunications arena

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W3C calls for testing and experimentation to bring universal interoperability to real-time communications

https://www.w3.org/ — 2 November 2017 — The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today called for broad implementation and testing of the Web technology that re-shaped the world of online communications. WebRTC 1.0, first version of the main JavaScript API for Web Real-Time Communications, published as a W3C Candidate Recommendation, has now become feature-complete, sending a strong signal about stability of the API.


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Live video chat is easier than ever on the Web. WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) is a set of protocols and APIs whose standardization enables this cross-browser and -device communication. The WebRTC framework provides the building blocks from which app developers can seamlessly add video chat in gaming, entertainment, and enterprise applications.

On-line live communications now only one click away

WebRTC is widely deployed across all the major browsers, both on desktop and mobile, and has already re-shaped the world of on-line communications.

Setting up an audio-video communication system used to require years and millions in investment - now that the major necessary bricks have been standardized and deployed as a royalty-free feature in browsers, it has become a commodity available to any Web site, any Web app. This means on-line live communications no longer needs to be a product - it can be a feature of any on-line experience. Setting up an on-line meeting no longer requires agreeing on apps or plugins in advance - it is just a matter of sharing a link.

This also means the Web platform itself is positioning itself as a critical actor in the telecommunications landscape - many telcos and communication service providers have started building or adopting WebRTC-based solutions to enrich their offerings, and as the API stabilizes, we expect many more to join.

Beyond real-time audio/video, WebRTC also introduces the world of peer-to-peer data exchanges to the Web: before WebRTC, both the Web and P2P networks have been strong forces of technical and business disruptions, and we can expect that combining the universal reach of the Web with the dissemination power of peer-to-peer networking will provide many new opportunities for rethinking how to build and operate data exchanges. The emergence of P2P Content Delivery Networks based on WebRTC are a clear first illustration of the potential.

Complementary W3C and IETF protocols

Reaching Candidate Recommendation was a major effort, launched 6 years ago in close collaboration with the IETF. Their twin RTCWeb Working Group developed the complementary stack of protocols that underlies all the operations exposed by the JavaScript API. It enables WebRTC Web applications to interoperate both with native WebRTC apps as well as with existing communication systems (e.g. based on SIP).

The W3C WebRTC Working Group worked through 770 issues (and counting), taking great care in ensuring its APIs work well within the security and privacy needs of Web browsers and their users. The resulting API likely represents one of the most complex sub-system exposed to the Web platform today.

Developers who started adopting WebRTC in their products over the past few years will know that, as we advanced in our understanding of what needed to be exposed and how, the API evolved considerably, creating challenges in keeping code bases updated, and dealing with different rate of adoption of these changes across browsers.

WebRTC Next Version efforts already underway

Now that the API is stable, the Working Group will focus its efforts on interoperability - while projects such as adapter.js have helped insulate developers from some of the inconsistencies across browsers, our goal is to bring all browsers to the same level. Great efforts have already been put in our associated test suite, and with the recent release of a dedicated open source engine to facilitate cross-browser testing of WebRTC, we look forward to much more progress in the short term on this front as we work toward bringing WebRTC to Recommendation.

We also know that there is more specification work ahead of us:

  • improving the main WebRTC 1.0 API as we get more implementation experience,
  • finalizing the designs of other associated specifications to help managing media streams (recording, page and screen sharing),
  • looking into new designs and features for "WebRTC Next Version" (based among other things on the exploration of the ORTC Community Group),
  • and more generally, gathering input on what new functionalities are needed to make the Web platform a strong communication platform (e.g. a call session API?).

Many of these will be part of the discussions the Working Group will hold at its meeting during W3C annual Technical Plenary meeting in November 2017.

Reaching Candidate Recommendation is thus only one step among the many others we will need to carry out our mission to bring real-time communications everywhere - but it is a major step, which we hope the whole WebRTC ecosystem, and more broadly, Web platform users and developers, will benefit from for many years to come.

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The mission of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to lead the Web to its full potential by creating technical standards and guidelines to ensure that the Web remains open, accessible, and interoperable for everyone around the globe. W3C develops well known specifications such as HTML5, CSS, and the Open Web Platform as well as work on security and privacy, all created in the open and provided for free and under the unique W3C Patent Policy. For its work to make online videos more accessible with captions and subtitles, W3C received a 2016 Emmy Award.

W3C's vision for "One Web" brings together thousands of dedicated technologists representing more than 400 Member organizations and dozens of industry sectors. W3C is jointly hosted by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, Keio University in Japan and Beihang University in China. For more information see https://www.w3.org/.

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Amy van der Hiel, W3C Media Relations Officer <w3t-pr@w3.org>
+1.617.253.5628 (US, Eastern Time)

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