Microsoft Edge now supports WebRTC/ORTC. How close are we now to a complete solution across browsers?

I don’t really know…

Microsoft just announced support for ORTC in their Edge browser along with Skype for Web, and its integration to Office 2016. Consider this a huge release from the point of view of Microsoft. Launching this year alone Windows 10, Office 2016, and re-branding and “merging” of Lync and Skype, a new modern web browser. That’s a lot to chew.

Which is why the WebRTC parts of it are lacking. For now:

  • The APIs are ORTC. WebRTC isn’t really there. You need to develop a shim on top of it. Twilio and &yet already shown that this is possible - you can achieve voice calling interoperability between Edge, Chrome, and Firefox
  • The video codec there is H264UC. Essentially Microsoft proprietary is useless elsewhere. H.264 will be added later this year, but VP8 or VP9 are nowhere to be seen

This kind of support is enough for many use cases, but the sad part is that Microsoft Edge as a browser isn’t garnering a huge uptake. Gregg Keizer explains the recent statistics around Edge’s usage:

“According to StatCounter, Edge usage peaked on July 30, the day after its launch, at 20.1% of those running Windows 10, but then slowly declined throughout August. By the final seven days of that month, Edge's usage as a percentage of Windows 10 had drooped to an average of 14.5%, down from the 17.2% average for the first seven days of August.”

While people are adopting Windows 10, they aren’t necessarily switching to Edge along that ride. I did the switch on my own laptop. Edge is fine, but somehow I am already too used to Chrome to change (and I do have WebRTC sessions to conduct on a daily basis).

Which brings us back to WebRTC and browser share:

The image above, taken from Wikipedia comes before Edge was released. But what it shows are three interesting trends:

  1. Internet Explorer is falling down, so unless Microsoft can take some of the user base of its rivals - along with switching Internet Explorer use, Edge will stay irrelevant in the grander scheme of things (and in our interest in it with WebRTC).
  2. There’s been some higher adoption of Safari, but it seems to have stagnated at around 15%. Apple is nowhere to be seen with WebRTC yet. While not that important on the desktop, it brings us to the next trend:
  3. Mobile use is growing - even in browsers. And there, without the addition of iOS and Safari, there’s going to be a gaping hole for WebRTC - at least in use cases that cannot rely on mobile apps and require a browser

Where does all that leave us?

  • People will be starting to learn and adopt the ORTC API set, to be prepared for Edge. Not necessarily making it their first priority though
  • No change over what we’ve seen in the last year when it comes to the adoption rate of WebRTC - Edge makes no difference there
  • Higher hopes for this industry to find a solution in the coming years. Maybe Apple will join us on this ride?

You can find some more thoughts and ruminations on ORTC on Edge in my personal blog.