WebRTC Explained: How it Works and Why You Should Use It

There are numerous plug-ins available for all kinds of functionalities, but downloading and installing such complicated solutions is not usually the first preference. When you want your browsers to communicate with each other and with your different devices, there is a simpler method than using additional hardware or going the plug-in route.

What is WebRTC?

What does webRTC mean? It stands for Web Real-Time Communication. It enables the transfer of real-time voice, data, and video between devices and browsers natively. Users can communicate from within their own web browsers with this open-source, customizable, and easy-on-the-pocket solution.

How Does WebRTC Work?

All you need to make webRTC work is a Javascript API. There was a time when you would probably need to use a coding language like Java or C++ to enable video and voice communication, but not with webRTC. You no longer have to worry about underlying code and can simply use the API inside your browser. 

Which Browsers Support WebRTC?

Most popular browsers support webRTC. For example:

  • Google Chrome
  • Safari
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Microsoft Edge

WebRTC Features -- Main Components of the API

WebRTC API has three main components that each serve their own purpose.

1. RTCPeerConnection

RTCPeerConnection does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. It takes care of codecs, bandwidth adjustments, actual media transfer, and SDP negotiation, as well as issues like packet loss. You don't need an intermediary server to create a direct connection with your peers. A video or audio feed is created by plugging the output from the media stream API into RTCPeerConnection.

2. MediaStream API

You can use Javascript to access your microphones and cameras through the MediaStream API, providing a certain level of control over devices that are used to create your content.

3. RTCDataChannel

If you want bi-directional communication with your peers, you will need the RTCDataChannel API. Its UDP-based streams provide reliable delivery of data without the latency and bottlenecks associated with TCP connections. 

Do I Need WebRTC?

You can determine whether or not you need webRTC by looking at some of the most popular use cases mentioned below.

  • Collaborative Viewing -- When you want to watch a sports event or other content together from different devices or browsers
  • Professional Events -- Online meetings and webinars
  • Broadcasting -- When you want to broadcast an event or a sports game to large audiences with minimum latency
  • File Sharing -- When you want to share large data files with a friend or a colleague
  • Teleoperations -- When you want to remotely operate trucks, drones, cars, etc
  • Gaming -- When you want to send the visuals of a game to another player in realtime
  • User Endpoints -- Endpoints like ATMs, kiosks, bus stops, and vending machines can be embedded with webRTC engines  

Advantages of Using WebRTC

There are several pros to using webRTC for real-time communication.

  • WebRTC is open-source- There are frequent updates and you can leverage the support of the open-source community
  • Browser Compatibility- Most of the commonly used browsers support webRTC. You don't have to look for separate applications for your various different browsers
  • Mobile Support- WebRTC can be used with most mobile applications. You can use the available software development kit and get started on any device of your choice
  •  Support for Various Data Formats- If you think that webRTC is all about video and voice, think again. You can transfer almost any type of data by using the very versatile and powerful webRTC. 

In Conclusion- WebRTC Explained

Using a server for sharing data between peers can prove to be quite expensive. WebRTC solves that problem for you. It also eliminates the need to download a separate application or install separate hardware every time you want to join a meeting online or attend a virtual event.