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Microsoft Picks Another Web Standards Fight 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the dem's-fightin'-woids dept.
mikejuk writes "WebRTC is a way to allow browsers to get in touch with one another using audio or video data without the help of a server. Google has been something of a pioneer in this area, and submitted a suggested technology for the standard. Mozilla has gone along with it, making it all look good. Microsoft, on the other hand, just seemed to be standing on the sidelines, watching what was happening. However, Microsoft now has a product that needs something like WebRTC; namely, Skype. It has been working on a web-based version of Skype and this has focused the collective mind on the problems of browser-to-browser communication. It now agrees that a standard is needed, just not the one Google and Mozilla are behind. Microsoft has submitted its own proposals for CU-RTC-Web or Customizable, Ubiquitous Real Time Communication over the Web, to the W3C. It may well be that Microsoft's alternative has features that make it superior, but a single standard is preferable to a better non-standard. Given Microsoft's need to make Skype work in the browser, it seems likely that, should its proposal not be accepted as the standard, it will press on regardless, thus splitting the development environment. Both Google and Mozilla have already put a lot of work into WebRTC, and there are partial implementations in Firefox, Chrome and Opera."
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Microsoft Picks Another Web Standards Fight

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  • Microsoft is correct (Score:4, Informative)

    by rabtech (223758) on Friday August 10, 2012 @06:35PM (#40952425) Homepage

    Google's WebRTC proposal is very narrowly tailored, relies on stateful SIP, and is tied to their WebM video standard.

    Microsoft's proposal is more flexible, stateless, simpler to implement, and is more "web-ish", eg: Relying on an exchange where my browser says "I can accept h264, webm, mpeg2" and the baby monitor says "I speak h264" so we use negotiated h264.

    Basically Microsoft is saying that we should adopt a standard that makes it easy to interact with non-browser devices, phone/cell networks, etc. We should also make the API easier to use and stateless. The original WebRTC proposal is only concerned with letting Google+ users video-chat with other Google+ users and it shows.

    I would urge you to go read the actual proposals before commenting on this:
    Microsoft: http://html5labs.com/cu-rtc-web/cu-rtc-web.htm [html5labs.com]
    Google's http://dev.w3.org/2011/webrtc/editor/webrtc.html [w3.org]

    I would also point out that Microsoft is following the correct W3C procedure by making a proposal and asking for comments. In the past they would have just shipped it in IE and/or rolled it out automatically to all Windows users, thus making their standard the de-facto standard. We should reward this kind of participation and interaction, not condemn it.

    I would also point out that Microsoft invented AJAX by just rolling out their own standard... the same way JSON was invented. Design by committee sucks in most cases and we'd be far better served by selecting from competing proposals or merging two competing proposals rather than requiring 15 people to sit down and agree on the definition of the draft standard of the proposal to consider altering the document title.

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday August 10, 2012 @06:36PM (#40952447) Homepage

    ok, it's funny, because i've just been reviewing WebRTC. i was extremely excited to hear about it. i've been setting up videoconferencing systems on and off for some time. they've *always* had to be flash-based. if you've ever set up red5, you'll know it's a dog. now there's crtmpserver and there's even rtmplite and siprtmp: http://code.google.com/p/siprtmp/ [google.com] - i just managed to get this to work a couple of days ago, with yate, thanks to the help of the people on freenode, in #yate

    the problem with flash is this: back in 2008, flash was reasonably stable. but now, it's an absolute dog. flash under macosx on google chrome runs audio in "dalek" fashion. flash under gnu/linux, if ever you enable the webcam you *will* end up with an instant crash, because the video is read into a buffer that's the wrong size (you can see the picture jumping all over the place before the crash occurs).

    and webex? i'd never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago: that crashes, too: at least once every 30 minutes. and you have to pay for it. also, it's a plugin that's only available for macosx and windows.

    the bottom line is that the state of videoconferencing - ubiquitous videoconferencing that's easy to use - is in pretty deep shit. so i was *delighted* to hear of WebRTC.

    unfortunately... *sigh* this was only about an hour ago... i spoke to the implementors on #webrtc about the standard, after finding that there's no way to select the microphone or the output. their response: we're not interested in listening to you. we are going to make this "secure". we have no interest in doing what everyone else in the industry has done. security is the absolute top priority.

    so what that means is: if you create a phone call application, and you want the sound of the call to go out over speakers, and the call to come in on headphones - tough shit. why? because they want to make the *browser* UI (not a javascript API) select the audio output device - singular. likewise, if you wish to select different microphones - tough shit. why? because they want the *browser* UI to select one and *only* one mic source.

    the reason stated (only about an hour ago)? "security". it's "not secure" to give information to web browsers, because people *might* write applications that abuse that information.

    the fact that people *already* abuse cookies to track people very very accurately, and the fact that a UI popup could be made which says "do you wish to give this web site access to the list of audio devices?" then "do you wish to give this web site access to audio device N" were completely ignored.

    so the opportunity to level the playing field - to take over the monopoly that flash has had for decades, and that skype has had for almost a decade - is being lost *not* by the WebRTC technology but by the people *implementing* that technology.

    if the people implementing WebRTC in google chrome and firefox are the same people behind the WebRTC standard, then i am really not surprised to hear that microsoft is going ahead with an alternative standard.

    much as i don't actually like microsoft's abusive dominance which we've all witnessed over the past two decades, i've spoken to the IE team a couple of times and i know that they really really do a hell of a good job, under difficult high-pressured circumstances: their HTML5 compliance is now second to none, for example, and they *still* get flak for it! :)

    so the opportunity is being lost - by the people behind WebRTC - and i truly hope that microsoft's initiative will give them a good kick up the backside and get them to sort themselves out. sort yourselves out, damnit!

  • by Eirenarch (1099517) on Friday August 10, 2012 @07:27PM (#40952937)

    There is no "existing standard". There is some work in progress and (according to Ars Techinca's article) MS's proposal has a lot in common with the original work (many APIs are the same). Basically MS's proposal suggest lower level API than the current proposal and does not mandate the usage of any particular codec (HTML5 video style) while Google's proposal mandates VP8 and has some higher level APIs. MS insists that for high quality video there needs to be low level flexibility and that libraries will fill the need for higher level APIs

  • Re:Here's a thought (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjames (1099) on Friday August 10, 2012 @10:14PM (#40954101) Homepage

    They are. MS's proposal would require royalty payments for H.264 while Google and Mozilla are using VP8.

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