Everything you ever wanted to know about WebRTC

Companies like Google, (s GOOG), Cisco (s CSCO) and Microsoft (s MSFT) all have been working on bringing voice and video chat to the browser, with no downloads necessary. These efforts are commonly known as WebRTC. But what does WebRTC actually do, and how does it work?

There’s likely no one who could explain this better than Cisco’s Cullen Jennings, who co-chairs the Internet Engineering Task Force’s WebRTC working group. Jennings recently posted an introductory presentation about WebRTC on Vimeo, and you should watch it if you want to know what people are talking about when they’re saying WebRTC:

RTCWeb Explained from Cullen Jennings on Vimeo.

Two things are worth noting: First of all, Jennings actually does a really good job at breaking down the complex technology behind these efforts. And secondly, he’s trying really hard to steer clear of some of the politics in this space, most notably around codecs.

Google in particular is putting its weight behind VP8, the video codec it open sourced in 2010. Microsoft and others have raised doubts on whether VP8 is really royalty-free, or whether third parties may have patent claims on the codec. That may explain why Jennings seems to be a little unsure on how to talk about VP8, but it could also help to provide some common understanding of the technology without poking into some of its open wounds.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  Tsahi Levent-Levi.