When it comes to making collaboration technology such as high-definition video open and broadly available, it’s clear that the web browser plays an important role. The question is, how do you enable real-time video natively on the Web? It’s a question that folks are anxious to have answered.
WebRTC--a set of enhancements to HTML5--will address the issue head on. But, there is an important hurdle that must first be cleared, and that’s standardizing on a common video codec for real-time communications on the web – something the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) will decide next week.
The industry has been divided on the choice of a common video codec for some time, namely because the industry standard--H.264--requires royalty payments to MPEG LA. Today, I am pleased to announce Cisco is making a bold move to take concerns about these payments off the table.
We plan to open-source our H.264 codec, and to provide it as a binary module that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. Cisco will not pass on our MPEG LA licensing costs for this module, and based on the current licensing environment, this will effectively make H.264 free for use in WebRTC.
I’m also pleased that Mozilla has announced it will enable Firefox to utilize this module, bringing real-time H.264 support to their browser.
“It hasn’t been easy, but Mozilla has helped to lead the industry toward interoperable video on the Web,” said Brendan Eich, Mozilla Chief Technology Officer. “Cisco’s announcement helps us support H.264 in Firefox on most operating systems, and in downstream and other open source distributions using the Cisco H.264 binary module. We are excited to work with Cisco on advancing the state of interoperable Web video.”
The first time I met Jim Barton (DVR pioneer and TiVo co-founder) I was a young man looking at the hottest company in Silicon Valley in the day: SGI, the place where Michael Jackson and Steven Spielberg just arrived to visit, the same building in Mountain View as it were, that same week in late Spring, 1995.
The second question that Jim asked me that day was if I knew H.263 – a fledgling, new specification promising to make video ubiquitous, affordable over any public or private network – oh, those 90’s seem so far away…
For a hard core database, kernel and compiler hacker, that was a bit too much telco chit-chat for me, though remembering this was supposed to be an interview, and that the person who asks the questions is in control, not knowing the answer, I managed to mumble a question instead of an answer. Jim liked the conversation and obliged me with an explanation equally encrypted, that one day, we will have these really cool, ubiquitous players on all sorts of video devices, not just “geometry engines” running workstations in “Jurassic Park” post-production studios (actually, come to think of it, the scene itself), but over all sorts of networked devices and maybe that should be a great opportunity to dive into and change the world.
Open standards and open source live in an entangled relationship, or so I wrote about it years ago, the Yang of Open Standards, the Ying of Open Source. Never has it been more intertwined and somewhat challenging than with the case of H.264, MPEG4 and the years old saga of so-called “standard” video codecs.
Almost a generation later, even if H.263 and its eventual successors H.264 and MPEG4 came a long way, we still don’t have a truly standard and open source implementation of such a video codec, though we are hoping to change that now!
My colleagues announced today that we are open sourcing our H.264 codec. We still have a bit of work left to do as we start this new open source project and I am counting on both communities to receive it with “open” arms. It is meant to remove all barriers, to be truly free and open, as open source was meant to be.
Please join us this morning in a twitter chat covering this event. We are convinced no matter how one looks at this, it is a positive move for the industry.
In today’s business world IT professionals have to manage multiple collaboration applications in order to support an increasingly mobile workforce, flexible desktop solutions as well as collaboration and video rooms within their organizations. The collaboration environment is multi-endpoint and multi-vendor and reaches beyond enterprise boundaries -- both B2B and B2C.
Compounding this IT challenge is the maturity of the collaboration market. To date, companies have typically made significant investments and want to protect these investments as they move forward. In particular, companies want to protect the quality of experience as they move to integrate across department, company and consumer boundaries, and as they look to expand their deployments. This challenge grows more acute as the market rapidly evolves towards innovations such as H.265 and WebRTC.
Companies are looking for true interoperability with a seamless user experience that:
- Allows them to benefit from new innovations
- Interoperates with existing and future investments
- And, works across company boundaries and functions in a diverse environment
At Google I/O it was revealed that the standard WebRTC, or Web Real Time Communications, would be available on more than one billion unique endpoints, desktops and mobile, within a week. That’s a lot of devices and this number is only growing.
In fact, WebRTC is looking to have the largest impact on how we communicate since voice over IP (VoIP). Thanks to WebRTC, collaboration technology, such as video, will be readily available and even easier to use through a web browser. With the increased adoption of WebRTC you can expect to see video play a more substantial role in our daily lives.
Cisco CTO of collaboration, Laurent Philonenko recently took to No Jitter to provide his thoughts on the potential of WebRTC and what’s still missing from the initiative.
When you start pulling back the covers and realize how much is going on behind the scenes…It is both amazing and scary. Its a connected world. No doubt about that. Whether you are connecting through apps or a browser..or you don’t know, don’t care…there is a lot happening on our behalf.
I first struggled to understand exactly what problem we were solving here. At the risk of oversimplifying, the number one benefit to this communication standard: No More Plug-Ins. Those pesky little programs we have to update and run, just to get what is increasinlgy normal things done, when online. These plugins can be useful but they vary widely and are each proprietary to the vendor who developed them.
WebRTC, as part of HTML 5 is very close to getting us past this (and many other) hurdles. In development for years now, but making its presence known in 2013. Its worth understanding.
This is a standard that, instead of coming from the video codec and resolution world, is coming from the web world. The definition is being drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium and the IETF…two big and important standards bodies that have a lot to get right here, together. Its not a standard yet -- but this has not stopped it from being implemented already in several browsers.
WebRTC: Cullen Jennings talks with TechWiseTV
WebRTC: Demo from Paul O’Dwyer
WebRTC: Jimmy Ray Whiteboards the Meat and Taters
Watch this Space
This is a foundational change with big, positive disruption that will re-shape a lot of interactions we have today. WebRTC is a way of turning every browser, every app, into a HD quality video endpoint. This may first be evident in the browser, but don’t limit your thinking. Most of the quick app development we have seen these days is due to web-based back ends that are simply hidden from our view.
If you want to dive deeper. Here are some of the resources I found most useful when prepping for these shows we did.
Cullen Jennings explains WebRTC in a long but fantastically good and complete manner. I wish the audio were a bit cleaner here (Happy to help re-record for you in our studio Cullen!) but the value of the content over-rides these issues.
El Reg does a nice job laying out a high level explanation of WebRTC and explaining why this will be a market disruptor.
I like how Alan Quayle has broken this down in no jitter as it gives us a view from the communications perspective. There are respectiable hurdles here and this will round out your understanding.
A couple of other sites had great detail and may be good for some ongoing coverage if interested. Check out
From anExperts in Residence: Podcast from the early days I interviewed Cullen Jennings on the subject of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). We actually could not get the timing to work…so we had the team record him…then I went back and laid in my questions…so it sounds very stiff (on my part) as I listen back to it.
Hope you enjoyed and learned a few things. I know I have.