August 26, 2014

First ORTC Public Draft Specification Has Been Published

Object RTC (ORTC) is a free, open project designed to enable mobile endpoints to talk to servers and web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via native and simple JavaScript APIs. The Object RTC components are being optimized to best serve this purpose. This enables rich, high quality, RTC applications to be developed in mobile endpoints and servers via native toolkits, simple JavaScript APIs and HTML5.

Much like WebRTC, ORTC can enable plugin-free, real-time communications for not only mobile, but also Web and cloud. It has been custom-built and specifically designed to provide the direct control which is needed in order to enable advanced multimedia and conferencing features.

It is also a mandate that Object RTC be compatible with WebRTC. The Object RTC initiative is a project supported by Hookflash, Microsoft (News Alert), Google, along with others. Today, we have news that the first ORTC Public Draft Specification has been published. The driving force behind this is the three companies mentioned above. Essentially, the specification provides WebRTC 1.0 with new functionality, outstanding flexibility, all with no loss of compatibility. This brings us to WebRTC 1.1 API.

Justin Uberti, who is Google’s (News Alert) tech lead for WebRTC, made the following comments, "We heard developers say that they wanted more direct control over the technologies available in WebRTC. At the same time, we didn't want existing developers to have to start over with a new API. ORTC is our proposal for how we can accomplish both of these things – a new set of APIs for direct control that builds off the existing WebRTC 1.0 API set. As an evolution of the existing API, we consider this WebRTC 1.1. We're grateful to Hookflash for their work to get ORTC off the ground. They have been instrumental in making this cross-industry collaboration happen, and we look forward to continuing our work with them."

Now that the first stable ORTC specification is out, the question of how it is going to impact WebRTC arises. Last year, Robin Raymond, who is chief architect at Hookflash, had expressed his discontent with the use of Session Description Protocol (SDP) in WebRTC. He had issues with the following;

  • unneeded – much too high level an API
  • arcane format – legacy and problematic
  • offer/answer
  • incompatibilities
  • lack of API contact
  • doesn’t truly solve goal of compatibility to legacy systems

All of this has led to the formation of the W3C (NewsAlert) Object RTC (ORTC) Community Group. The mission of this group, is to define Object-centric APIs (client-side at first) to enable real-time communications in Web browsers, mobile endpoints and servers. Its goal is to define a set of ECMAScript APIs in WebIDL which would allow media to be sent and received from another browser or device.

The group currently has 60 members including Microsoft and Google. It appears that this newly published public draft has come a long way since the W3C ORTC Community Group was formed in mid-2013. It is now at the point that it can be implemented. Microsoft and Google have joined Hookflash, which enables real-time social, mobile and web communications for integration of voice, video, messaging with federated identity into world leading software, enterprise, applications, networks, mobile and computing devices, as authors of the emerging specification.

"We have been working hard to get the ORTC API to the point where it can be implemented. This would not have been possible without the initial and continuing work of Hookflash. We also are excited by the ORTC API's support for advanced video features such as SVC (Scalable Video Coding) and simulcast. The JavaScript Object API approach has made these advanced video technologies more accessible, which has been difficult in the past." These were the comments made by Bernard Aboba, principal architect at Skype (News Alert).

His comments were echoed by Erik Lagerway, a co-founder of Hookflash, when he said, "We believe the contributions to WebRTC 1.1 / ORTC will allow web communications technology to become ubiquitous and transcend nearly all communications technologies that came before it. We are honored to be working with some of the brightest minds at Google, Microsoft and the other contributing members in the ORTC CG to mature WebRTC into a universal go-to toolkit enabling communications across the globe."

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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