Web Real-Time Communication, or WebRTC, is an open-source project that enables voice, video and data communications and peer-to-peer file sharing through a browser by simply clicking a button. No internal or external plugins, software or applications are required. With WebRTC, these capabilities are integrated and embedded in web browsers. The browser accesses the device’s camera and microphone, sets up calls, captures media and shares data. It can also retrieve statistics about WebRTC sessions.

The WebRTC initiative began in 2011 with Google leading the charge to develop a common set of protocols that would simplify how individuals and organizations communicate. Today, the Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium are working to formalize the WebRTC 1.0 standard for browser-based communication. Already on its way to becoming mainstream technology, WebRTC is fully enabled in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers. Microsoft is working on bringing WebRTC to Internet Explorer, and a number of leading vendors have integrated WebRTC into their offerings.

According to forecasts from Disruptive Analysis, the WebRTC market is growing quickly. WebRTC will have more than 2 billion users and be available on more than 4.6 billion devices by the end of 2016. By the end of 2019, WebRTC accessibility is expected to reach more than 6 billion devices. The fastest growth will be on smartphones for both consumer applications and business communications via the cloud and third-party applications. This study also reports that telecom operators are developing WebRTC solutions as part of their service offerings and could have 500 million users by 2019.

There are a number of reasons why WebRTC is taking off. The most obvious benefit of WebRTC is simplicity. Instead of downloading and opening applications or signing up for a service that may or may not be compatible with your device, you can go to a WebRTC-enabled browser and start a video or voice chat or share data with a single click. WebRTC is also highly secure, using encryption for media and signaling to protect sensitive data transmissions.

There is significant potential for cost savings. Businesses could use WebRTC in place of toll-free phone numbers, eliminating the associated per-minute charges. A customer would place a call directly from the organization’s web site by clicking a button. Organizations could also reduce call handling time because the context of the customer’s visit would be used to automatically connect the customer with the right employee.

In the next post, we’ll discuss common use cases for WebRTC and how it relates to unified communications in the enterprise.