Why WebRTC API platforms were not born equal
WebRTC API platforms are not new around here. One of the important and early acquisitions in the WebRTC space was of an API platform by a tier one service provider, that is TokBox by Telefonica.
We have also seen some of the collaboration/video conferencing startups make their way to become API platforms in their struggle for a business model.
From a high level perspective, most of these API platforms seem to be more of the same. Having said that, some have an unfair advantage, those coming from the service providers. Except for the immediate suspected benefits of having deep pockets and strong market reach there are other points that relate to their assets:
- Having a managed VoIP network and peering agreements (this means they can give better call quality)
- Controlling the call across devices (moving during the call from wireline to mobile to Web)
- They send their users monthly bills that are related to their identity, the phone number
TokBox of Telefonica is probably the most well know WebRTC API platform and one of the better platforms from feature and usage perspective but they are at the end of the day a regular WebRTC API platform with similar messaging, target users and capabilities as non-service provider owned API platforms.
They have strong backing and use their unfair advantage that stems from the Telefonica global network. But that’s where it ends.
AT&T’s take on WebRTC
AT&T could have taken the me too approach but they didn’t. They took a different and interesting stab at WebRTC and made use of their unfair advantage, their users and their AT&T identity.
With the API platform AT&T released (currently in Beta) developer can allow their users to make use of their AT&T identity (phone number) to make and receive calls in their application. This identity can also be used when accessing customer service, so for example, if a user is checking status of his shipment from an on-line store and has problems, customer service will know right away who this person is.
Since the WebRTC call is managed by the AT&T platform, it can be easily transferred between devices such as browser to mobile. This is a result of the fact that the service provider provides telephony services for multiple networks and devices. I get a similar experience from my service provider. Since my mobile service provider also gives me my home wireline VoIP telephony, when a call comes in to my mobile phone I can pick it up from the home phone. With AT&T’s platform you can add the browser as another “device”.
These capabilities are nicely demonstrated in a demo by Plantronics using the AT&T WebRTC platform.
Why this is important?
I hear all the time the question – “where is the money in WebRTC?”.
My typical answer to this is – “There is no money in WebRTC. WebRTC is a technology that let’s you build services and the money leis there.”
Enhancing a service that is already billable is a nice way of “making money” from WebRTC.
A few things you need to think of when contemplating your business model for a new service:
- What is my unfair advantage and am I making use of it?
- Is there an asymmetric business model I can create?