File Under: JavaScript, Web Standards

WebRTC Is Hard, Let’s Go Demoing

Conversat.io, simple video chat in your browser.
Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

WebRTC is changing the web, making possible things which just a few short months ago would have been not just impossible, but nearly unthinkable. Whether it’s a web-based video chat that requires nothing more than visiting a URL, or sharing files with your social networks, WebRTC is quickly expanding the horizons of what web apps can do.

WebRTC is a proposed standard — currently being refined by the W3C — with the goal of providing a web-based set of tools that any device can use to share audio, video and data in real time. It’s still in the early stages, but WebRTC has the potential to supplant Skype, Flash and many device-native apps with web-based alternatives that work on any device.

Cool as WebRTC is, it isn’t always the easiest to work with, which is why the Mozilla Hacks blog has partnered with developers at &yet to create conversat.io, a demo that shows off a number of tools designed to simplify working with WebRTC.

Conversat.io is a working group voice chat app. All you need to do is point your WebRTC-enabled browser to the site, give your chat room a name and you can video chat with up to 6 people — no logins, no joining a new service, just video chat in your browser.

Currently only two web browsers support the WebRTC components necessary to run conversat.io, Chrome and Firefox’s Nightly Channel (and you’ll need to head to about:config in Firefox to enable the media.peerconnection.enabled preference). As such, while conversat.io is a very cool demo, WebRTC is in its infancy and working with it is sometimes frustrating — that’s where the libraries behind the demo come in.

As &yet’s Henrik Joreteg writes on the Hacks blog, “the purpose of conversat.io is two fold. First, it’s a useful communication tool…. Second, it’s a demo of the SimpleWebRTC.js library and the little signaling server that runs it, signalmaster.”

Both tools, which act as wrappers for parts of WebRTC, are designed to simplify the process of writing WebRTC apps — think jQuery for WebRTC. Both libraries are open source (MIT license) and available on GitHub for tinkering and improving.

If you’d like to learn more about SimpleWebRTC and signalmaster and see some example code, head on over to the Mozilla Hacks blog for the full details.