How will WebRTC affect my washing machine?
"How will WebRTC affect my washing machine?"
That is the question that has been causing me actual physical pain for the last week.
As much as it may seem like a zany non sequitur to jump-start this post, it’s actually a serious question. Not only that, but something I feel more and more compelled to ask myself about any new piece of technology, and with good reason. At first glance you may be forgiven for thinking that my washing machine is probably perfectly safe from WebRTC, as it has infinitely more to do with things like real time video chat within a browser than things like spin cycles. In that sense you would be right.
WebRTC, or to give it its full name The Web Real Time Communication standard, is currently a draft HTML5 standard that will allow browsers to support real-time audio and video communication without the need for third party plugins like Flash or QuickTime. This would mean that you would be able to have a similar video chat experience to Skype or FaceTime, but just running on your browser without any other programs or plugins.
Facebook would seem perfectly placed to take advantage of something like this; it would fit pretty seamlessly into the Facebook user experience probably in a similar way to their existing chat system. It could also be very useful for Google+ with their real time collaboration, streamlining and enriching the user experience. But whilst the video chat capabilities of WebRTC are definitely very exciting and will undoubtedly have an impact on the way we use the Internet to communicate, there is more to it than just that.
During the industrial revolution they built a lot of machines, which was great, but one of the problems they had was that when it came to basic things, literally the nuts and bolts, there was no standard size. Different manufacturers used different shapes and sizes, which made it impossible to have cheap interchangeable parts, and prompted the development of the British Standard Whitworth. Nuts and bolts were standardized which made production faster, maintenance easier and ultimately helped to build the world we all live in today. WebRTC is in some ways not so different to the British Standard Whitworth, it represents another step towards web standardization, another piece of the HTML5 puzzle.
As our experience of the web is increasingly fragmented between smartphones, tablets, laptops, televisions and anything else that can run a basic browser, the ‘nuts and bolts’ of HTML and CSS become more and more important as we expect to be able to access the Internet on wildly differing hardware. One of these new pieces of hardware will, one day, be the piece of hardware I like to use to wash my laundry, which brings me back to where I started. So, how will WebRTC affect my washing machine? Well I’m not going to be video chatting with grandma on it, but the movement towards web standardization and streamlining that it represents will be hugely important. Especially as we move closer to realizing the fabled ‘internet of things’, in whatever form that will one day take. One thing is clear, if we want to connect the world and everything in it, we need to build on strong foundations, and WebRTC would seem to be a good step in the right direction.
Now if I can just work out how my iPad will affect my dishwasher……
This article is written by our guest technology & culture writer - Jaimie Barker