WebRTC: Realtime Communications and HTML5

Session Type: Working group
Session Category: Open Media Developers
Session Leader: Tim Terriberry (Mozilla), Serge Lachapelle (Google)

Day: Saturday
Faculty Commons
12pm – 1:30pm

Session Notes


HTML5 <audio> and <video> have become first-class citizens of the web, but they are designed for pre-recorded content or relatively high-latency streaming from server to client. Real-time, low-latency communication directly between peers enables a whole host of new applications, but is currently only available in custom applications or via sparsely deployed plugins, using incompatible signaling and protocols.

Last year the WebRTC project began as a joint effort between the W3C and the IETF to standardize the APIs and protocols for real-time communications in browsers. Compared to the traditional <video> tag, there are a lot of moving parts: cross-platform camera and microphone access, signal processing to improve audio quality, encoders in the browser, with severe latency constraints, firewall penetration, codec and media negotiation, unreliable transports like RTP, possibly multiplexed with a generic peer to peer data channel, with encryption and a whole host of security considerations, and a huge collection of legacy equipment to interoperate with.

In this session, we will discuss the current progress of both the standardization efforts and the implementation efforts, and we will look for solutions in areas that currently lack consensus. This could include the APIs that are under design, the back-end architectures that these imply, and the underlying protocols that are needed to connect them, and the codec technology that makes them work.

Of particular interest is feedback from non-browser vendors who will want to interact with this system, and from developers who want to build innovative new things with it. It is not too late to influence use cases and requirements.


This session will communicate the current technical proposals and make progress in defining the standards for real-time communication on the web.

One possible outcome could be the proposal of new APIs for managing devices, error reporting, negotiation, etc., as input for the W3C working group.

Another possible outcome could be a list of new use cases for applications that go beyond “video chat in a browser”.

Other recommendations for the protocol pieces or scoping of codec or other work could result from this session.