Will Apple’s FaceTime & WebRTC Ever Meet?

Will Apple’s FaceTime & WebRTC Ever Meet?

Whether or not Apple’s FaceTime will make it to the browser with WebRTC is a good question, but there is no simple answer. It is a question that many people have been asking since Apple decided to place WebRTC in development for Webkit, the engine that powers its Safari browser. So let’s take a moment to think about whether it is feasible for Apple to bring FaceTime to the browser or not.

What is FaceTime?

Most people, from young children to the technically disinclined, not only know what FaceTime does, but have probably used it in some capacity.  FaceTime is Apple’s video calling service. It allows anyone with an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or Mac to make and receive audio and video calls to any other Apple device over Wi-Fi or cellular network.

Apple currently uses H.264 and Advanced Audio Coding-Enhanced Low Delay (AAC-ELD) in FaceTime as their codecs of choice. FaceTime was originally slated to become open sourced when it was introduced by Steve Jobs in his 2010 keynote speech at the Apple’s Worldwide Development Conference (WWDC), but the open sourcing of FaceTime has never come to fruition.  

Even without it becoming an open sourced standard, we can all agree that FaceTime has transformed the way we connect with other people. As users we can experience increased personal interaction or intimacy when we are not physically face-to-face: “Do you want to FaceTime?” has become common parlance.  

What is WebRTC?

There are some similarities between FaceTime and Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC), such as live audio and video communication. Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC), led by Google open sourcing it in 2011, provides a simple set of APIs that adds real-time communications capabilities into your mobile and web applications for free. Although WebRTC has used VP8 and OPUS for its video and audio codecs since its inception, with the release of Chrome M50, H.264 can be implemented ‘behind a flag’, which allows advanced users to experiment with the feature.

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