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Video: Pros & Cons of WebRTC for Live Streaming Playback
VideoRx CTO Robert Reinhardt discusses the benefits and drawbacks of WebRTC in this clip from his presentation in the Video Engineering Summit at Streaming Media West.
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Watch the complete video of this presentation from Streaming Media West, T202: HOW-TO: Identifying Real-World Options for Live Streaming Playback, in the Streaming Media Conference Video Portal.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Robert Reinhardt: WebRTC is the big gorilla in the room, if you will. It's been around for a long time, and I came from the world of Flash. I did a lot of Flash development when Flash was popular. And one of the great things about any of those environments was that as soon as there was something new in that environment, I knew that it was going to be available to an audience worldwide within a year's time. Right? So if a new feature came out like H.264 support, boom, we knew it would work because there was a plugin that got distributed pretty quickly around the world.

Obviously, with standards, standards take a while to evolve, let alone not just from their specs, but to their implementation. So not everyone's using the same API still. I know Firefox is catching up. I actually have a client right now that's in the medical space that is doing a WebRTC implementation, but it's one of those sites where when you go to use the service, it's like you have to use Chrome. They just don't want to worry about, he doesn't have the resources at the time for his team to worry about multiple browsers, and fixing all the WebRTC issues that might pop up on one browser versus another.

So, I recently wrote a Developers Pay the Pioneer Tax for WebRTC Live Streaming about the pioneering tax that WebRTC's going to bring along with it. It's funny, if you search for open-source libraries for WebRTC, you're going to find a lot of outdated libraries that aren't necessarily going to be part of the latest and greatest WebRTC APIs that are available in browsers.

One of my beefs with Wowza, which I'm a big fan of... If you've seen be talk at other sessions, I use Wowza almost consistently across my server installations, although I do plenty of other server installations as well. Starting to use Red5 more in WebRTC implementations mainly because Wowza ... I don't want to say they've dropped the ball with WebRTC, but they're not giving it the prioritization that I think it needs. Again, I'm nitpicking with them again on that one.

But WebRTC is the future, and the biggest drawback I sill find with WebRTC, and again with this medical client that I've been working with for over a year on their implementation of WebRTC, it's just the whole VP8 versus H.264 stack. So sometimes their recordings, or sometimes if the user's broadcasting from their computer and they're on Chrome, it might be using VP8. It might not be using H.264.

But it's really just converting everything at the end of the day, because they want to record everything they're doing on WebRTC, taking it to a common format. We all know that VP8 is not something that's going to play on iOS, so if he wants recordings to work across devices so that people can review in the medical space what he's doing with this platform, then converting becomes a necessary evil to make a WebRTC solution work.

And potentially transcodes on the fly. If you're live streaming in VP8, and you want to go to a big audience, again, I can have a WebRTC session with like three colleagues, but if I want everyone to watch what we're doing, they don't have to watch over WebRTC. I could take that WebRTC, aggregate it, do some compositing with things like FFmpeg on the cloud, and then push out an HLS of that presentation.

If I was doing a panel here, virtually I could do that over WebRTC between the participants, and then if I wanted to convert that to HLS on a server level, and then we could mix and match these technologies. Again that's, in a one-to-many sense, that way we're going to have a lot of ... There's going to be latency my broadcast in this fictional situation with the panelists. But again, the latency's not going to matter so much for just people participating.

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