WebRTC is being heralded as a major breakthrough by many experts – and with the potential to bring instant voice and video calling to anyone with a browser, freeing users of proprietary plug-ins and installed apps, it’s easy to see why.
Support for WebRTC is already in place on the Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers, with Microsoft recently announcing future support. However, the full potential of WebRTC has been held back by a long-running disagreement about which video codec should be mandatory to implement.
The audio codecs were chosen over two years ago; the legacy codec G.711 and Opus, an advanced codec co-designed by Mozilla engineers. However, the IETF RTCWEB Working Group has been in deadlock for years over which video codec to opt for; VP8 or H.264.
Both codecs have plus points; the VP8 can be deployed without the need to pay patent royalties – and the H.264 has an extensive installed base in existing systems and hardware. To this end, many pushed to make support for both H.264 and VP8 mandatory for browsers – and a recent IETF meeting in Hawaii saw the RTCWEB working group reach the same conclusion.