Microsoft, Google link arms on browser vid chat

ORTC: Skype without, ummm, Skype?


A standard proposal to get voice/video chats into standard browsers has brought Microsoft and Google onto the same side of the table.

The “Object RTC (ORTC) API for WebRTC” (here) provides a framework to embed Skype-like voice and video over IP directly into browsers (instead of having them rely on mutually-incompatible third-party plugins).

By using JavaScript as the basis for real-time communications, the spec would also make it easier to do fully-open voice/video chats between desktop/laptop browsers, tablets, and phones, and as this post by Doug Mahugh notes, it should also be easy for Website developers to implement.

Mahugh adds: “it supports advanced video features such as scalable video coding and simulcast”, which are “difficult to support in an interoperable way within SDP in WebRTC 1.0.”

Microsoft's Open Technologies is now calling for implementations, in particular seeking use of the API on mobile devices via the ortclib library, and servers via ortc-node. It also provides a link to prototype implementations here.

A key aim of the spec is to avoid dependency on the IETF's Session Description Protocol (SDP, RFC 4566) or the offer/answer state machine, which Microsoft told Cnet has been “challenging to get truly interoperable in browsers”.

Instead, the ORTC page describes its model: “ORTC focuses on 'sender', 'receiver' and 'transport' objects, which have 'capabilities' describing what they are capable of doing, as well as 'parameters' which define what they are configured to do. 'Tracks' and 'data channels' are sent over the transports, between senders and receivers.”

Video features, the MS Open Tech post claims, have also held back WebRTC, again because things like Scalable Video Coding and simulcast are difficult to support in SDP. ®

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