the Long Tail, part 2, powered by WebRTC

 Posted by on August 12, 2013 at 22:46  WebRTC  Add comments
Aug 122013

For now, ignore the potential impacts of WebRTC on our current telecom world.  WebRTC is an environmental change.  New environments foster entirely new services.

The first place to look for these types of services is the tail.  The long tail.  Just like the web helped long tail commerce and content to explode, WebRTC will help power long tail real-time communications.  Three themes that we will see in WebRTC enabled long tail communications services:

1.  Speeds, feeds and IDs enter communications

Most current real-time voice, video and data communications solutions are built on a single, unique, pre-configured, authenticated, static identity.  That is the necessary model for most telecom applications that need to bill for every transaction, but is a prohibitive and ineffective model for many real-time communications applications.

WebRTC will change that, providing a new framework that will:

  • Put the user in control of her identity and enable anonymous communication when desired.
  • Help apps optimize for true real-time, ad-hoc communication (eliminate pre-configuration and ID-based authentication when they get in the way).
  • Leverage identities, feeds and other attributes from other applications (in a manner that provides ease of use or functionality to the end users), and change the mix with every interaction.

What types of apps and services will be built on this new framework?

2.  Interactions, not transactions

The web helped all of us become content producers and broadcasters.  However, there is not much real-time, multi-directional audio or visual interaction.

  • Are you a teacher that doesn’t work for a university, or a TA with limited time and space?  Today, you post good lessons or tutorials to YouTube.  Tomorrow, you can switch to a WebRTC-powered interactive session with two-way voice, video and content.
  • How many of us upload and view millions of photos to Facebook, Google or Flickr?  Tomorrow, we will use WebRTC-based content-sharing applications, together with WebRTC-powered voice and video to change those transactions into interactions.
  • What if your Kindle app (on any device) added links to enable you to instantly join a voice, video or text chat about what you are reading?  An ad-hoc book club.  And a new club for the next book, or even the next paragraph.

As we merge content with real-time communication, and add RTC as a contextual feature of other applications, what types of services will evolve?

3.  The rise of the machines

Webcams, cameras and microphones increasingly ship with embedded Linux systems (or interface with SD cards that contain their own embedded systems).  These systems can easily run applications, a browser, web server, use WiFi/3G/4G and much more (consider for example that we can already run an Asterisk PBX on Raspberry Pi).  WebRTC will power apps that will enable any user to interact with these media sources with unprecedented simplicity, scale and functionality (can be done without WebRTC but not at the necessary ease, access, speed and robustness).

In the simplest case, WebRTC architectures could enable you to “call” the real-time media device (or servers in the cloud that the device interacts with) in order to control the device and consume its media.  Go a step further and consider networks of webcams, microphones and cameras that could be controlled by networks of people (and other machines such as sensors) and policies.

What types of applications and services will be built on top of those real-time communication enabled networks of man and machine?


  • Lawrence Byrd

    Good stuff, Galeal. I think you and I are aligned on the idea that WebRTC intersects with various kinds of user control over identities. Although, if most people’s identities are managed within current and emerging social sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and many more) then the structure, anonymity and use will be governed by the capabilities of those platforms.

    Chromecast is already an example of Linux+Chrome on a stick doing M2M communications with some parts of the WebRTC stack! Tsahi Levent-Levi has discussion of this on his site.

    I absolutely agree that everyone needs to think big (Elon Musk style) about whole new use cases, inter-connectivity, and value that are now enabled with the modern web + WebRTC + cloud power.

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