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Google WebRTC: Can It Replace Skype? 199

Posted by Roblimo
from the the-battle-of-the-computer-industry-giants-heats-up dept.
mikejuk writes "Google WebRTC, all open source, is part of the web revolution that allows one browser to talk directly to another without the need for a server getting involved. WebRTC is an API that used the new P2P web API to allow developers to implement audio and video communications using direct P2P links between browsers. This really is a game changer." And, while this feature doesn't seem to have gotten a lot of attention so far, Google Voice can call landline and cell phones for a small fee, just like Skype.
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Google WebRTC: Can It Replace Skype?

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  • Am i so stupid??? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stanlyb (1839382)
    Tell me that such a thing as direct p2p connection between two anonymous computers in the wild, and even web-browser, is simply said IMPOSSIBLE without a third party, which is managing the tunnel between them. I simply don't see how this could work. No, no and no.
    • Re:Am i so stupid??? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jamu (852752) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:06PM (#36322104)
      I'd imagine that Google will be the third party that allows the two peers to negotiate their p2p connection.
      • by Albanach (527650)

        Given they released the source, I'd expect anyone could be the third party. Mozilla, Opera or others.

        Third parties could presumably offer other services, such as POTS connections letting folk make cheap phone calls from their browser.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drb226 (1938360)
      Just subtract "anonymous" and it's a lot less impossible. The internet is kinda based around this thing called an IP address...
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:02PM (#36322038)

    MS has not announced how exactly they will change Skype, but you can bet it will involve monetization in all forms. Don't expect any of the currently free Skype services to continue. Asterisk already lost Skype support.

    This is a great opportunity for Google to roll out a multi-platform competitor.

    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:05PM (#36322084) Homepage Journal
      It's also a great opportunity for Apple to (finally) open the specifications for FaceTime, as they said they would when they introduced it.
    • What are you basing this on? Microsoft has a lot of completely free software and services. Why would Skype be so different? If anything. Microsoft has a lot more money to throw around than Skype's previous owners did, right?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        They will do what they have always done, apple support will be a distant second and linux support if it exists will be in name only. See silverlight, and no moonlight is not anything other than support in name only. Even if they could make more money by having wider support, when it comes to Microsoft all will be sacrificed at the alter of the desktop monopoly.

        • Ok, so they may make it MS only. I could see that happening. But that's not monetizing it/charging for it. If anything, the evil-est thing I can see them doing right now is making it basically functional on Windows only. Maybe they'll make it work on the xbox, too, and I could see them offering things like Linksys did (standalone phones, I have one ... works somewhat well).

          I would be happy if they made it work on Linux well. Here's to hoping.

          • Ok, so they may make it MS only. I could see that happening. But that's not monetizing it/charging for it.

            It is monetizing it, just not directly. They sell Windows, and if Skype only runs on Windows, they sell more Windows licenses to people who might otherwise be on Mac, Android/Linux.

            Google has one chance to thwart this with Gtalk/Gvoice combination, and that chance is now! If they don't step up, someone else will, and who wants FacePhone from Facebook.

          • Do you have *any* example of stuff where MS is in a very dominant position (as Skype is), and keeps its stuff, good, free, and multiplatform ?

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      I predict licensing fees out the ass.
    • by westlake (615356)

      Don't expect any of the currently free Skype services to continue. Asterisk already lost Skype support.

      Asterisk is nominally open-source.

      But as an enterprise application it is for all practical purposes a wholly owned subsidiary of Digium.

      While Skype for Asterisk was a bit deeper than what Skype Connect (formerly Skype for SIP) offers for other telephony platforms, it's a "stronger business proposition" for Skype to offer more customers Connect than to support a proprietary product for a specific vendor...

      "I don't think Skype for Asterisk was compelling enough, nor did it generate enough money for Skype to continue to support it,"

      Skype Connect currently works with telephony systems for Avaya, ShoreTel, and Cisco, among others. Digium will be validating Skype Connect next month...so Asterisk customers will continue to have some Skype support.

      Skype Ends Support For Open-Source Digium Asterisk VOIP PBX [eweek.com]

  • Another in a long series of (mostly failed) attempts by Google to successfully branch out beyond search & ads.

    • Huh? To name a few Google apps that are successful: Google Earth, Chrome, Gmail, & Picasa.
      • by drb226 (1938360)
        Nah, what failures all of those were. Just like the failure of AppEngine, Google Translate, Android...the list of failures goes on and on... /sarcasm
      • by winkydink (650484) *

        How much revenue do they bring in?

        • how much revenue does those "live" stuff bring to MS ? and IE ? and a whole lot of other stuff that are not the windows/office combo ?

          it's all irrelevant, as long as those loss leaders bring costumers to revenue/profit generating products.

          • it's all irrelevant, as long as those loss leaders bring costumers to revenue/profit generating products.

            I bet they also appreciate the customers who work outside of the theatrical clothing field.

        • That depends, do we get to count income tied to the extra ad impressions created by users of those services?

          It's kind of like the "give away razors to sell blades" logic, except most google services are razors, and google *users* are the blades.

        • You cannot compare the revenue from Picasa to Search Ads.
          That is like comparing the revenues from the oil industry to candle makers.

          I am pretty sure Google does fine with the ads on gMail. The revenues are sufficient enough that there is no reason to abandon gMail because its revenues are way less than their search business.

          Some business divisions make money and others make more.
          As long as it makes money, there is no reason to abandon the lesser money making machines.

          • The revenues are sufficient enough . . .

            You do realize that 'sufficient' means 'enough', yes?

            • by grcumb (781340)

              The revenues are sufficient enough . . .

              You do realize that 'sufficient' means 'enough', yes?

              Apparently not sufficiently enough, evidently.

        • by Tr3vin (1220548)
          There is more to releasing a product than brining in revenue. It is in the best interests of the major technology companies to stay in the users' minds. The positive associations do a lot of good. Google offers a lot of services where they don't get much revenue to trick you into using the ones where they do. It functions similarly to Microsoft and Sony selling their consoles at a loss just to gain users. You often have to spend money to make money.
        • Only a fool treats revenue as the sole indicator of success. How much revenue does Wikipedia bring in?

          • Perhaps the standard of 'success' differs between for-profit corporations and non-profits.
            Despite ubuntu's being the most popular distro, canonical is at the moment something of a failure, and insofar as ubuntu is canonical's flagship product, ubuntu too is at the moment a (commercial) failure.
  • Google Voice (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:04PM (#36322070)
    Unless something has changed, Google Voice isn't VoIP, and doesn't charge to call landlines or cell phones because it uses your own phone minutes to call them.
    • Google Talk includes VOIP functionality, Google Voice is a different product.
      • Right, but TFS said Google Voice, not Google Talk.
        • Google Voice integrates with GChat and Google Talk, it's all essentially one service, and my Google Voice number is what people see when I call via the Gmail chat application, so Google Voice is VOIP.

          • Re:Google Voice (Score:4, Informative)

            by Bob Loblaw (545027) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @03:03PM (#36324218)

            Sadly, Google Voice is not available to non-US users. Also, even if you lived in the US and obtained a Google Voice account, it is not usable when abroad. I am in that situation now unfortunately. If I use a VPN to connect out of the US, the Call option shows up in the GMail interface but not otherwise. It is kind of bizarre for them to limit this since computer to computer GTalk is not limited and it wouldn't seem to use up any more resources.

            • This completely ignores what point I was making. That the article says Google Voice, the root comment "Google Voice isn't VOIP" - this is simply false. It is VOIP. Your comment is correct, but is not in relation to the comment I was making about the root comment being wrong that Google Voice isn't VOIP.

    • Google Voice is VoIP when initiated on your computer via Gmail, and is still free up through the end of this year at least. On a (typical) mobile phone you're right, it's merely a call negotiator, not a VoIP service.
      • by slyrat (1143997)

        Google Voice is VoIP when initiated on your computer via Gmail, and is still free up through the end of this year at least. On a (typical) mobile phone you're right, it's merely a call negotiator, not a VoIP service.

        You are thinking of the Google talk with ability to make calls. This is different from google voice, or at least I thought so. I guess they could be the same back end but I always put them in two different categories since they were on two different sites. From google voice you can call anyone for free (within the US at least), you just have it connect to one of the phones you have it linked to and then the target phone. I think that a lot of people currently confuse google voice (previously grand central)

        • It uses your Google Voice number. You can even receive calls. In the Voice settings page, Google Chat is listed as a linked phone so you can configure it like any other. It even works with third party chat clients that support XMPP voice calls like Pidgin.

          • by slyrat (1143997)

            It uses your Google Voice number. You can even receive calls. In the Voice settings page, Google Chat is listed as a linked phone so you can configure it like any other. It even works with third party chat clients that support XMPP voice calls like Pidgin.

            Oh neat, I had no idea. Thanks for the information.

    • by clarkn0va (807617)

      VoIP=Voice over Internet Protocol

      So are you saying that Google Voice isn't Voice, or that it doesn't work on the Internet Protocol?

      • by TopSpin (753)

        So are you saying that Google Voice isn't Voice, or that it doesn't work on the Internet Protocol?

        There is a great deal of ambiguity in these discussions. The parent is stating the Google Voice, when used via a mobile device through the Google Voice app, is not VoIP. This is a correct statement. When you place a call to a non-Google Voice number (land line, cell number, etc.) from your mobile device using the Google Voice feature you are actually calling a generic number. Google places another call to the to desired number and the two calls are connected. Thus, your device is using conventional cel

    • by hitmark (640295)

      For a while one could use Gizmo as a Google Voice endpoint. But then Gizmo was bought by Google and since then have stopped accepting new accounts.

    • by PinchDuck (199974)

      It doesn't use any minutes in North America. I've integrated by Sprint and GV numbers, used GV to integrate with Sipgate, and can make and receive phone calls from my home on a Siemens Gigaset handset for free using my cell number. Since I work from home, this has been a huge cost savings for me.

      If you call outside of North America, then yes, your Google Voice account gets charged, but inside North America the service is free.

    • by Jonner (189691)

      Unless something has changed, Google Voice isn't VoIP, and doesn't charge to call landlines or cell phones because it uses your own phone minutes to call them.

      This is describing changes to Google Voice. Presumably, VoIP features will be added to the service.

    • by Trufagus (1803250)

      Google Talk is the (rough) equivelent of Skype, not Google Voice, which is fortunate because GV is only available in the U.S..

      Also, Google Talk can call North American landlines for free through the end of 2011.

  • Adobe's RTMFP has had this ability for years now, and they've since developed it further to include peer-to-peer rebroadcasting.

    Except... it requires Flash, which is a dirty word around these parts.

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      The issue is that it requires flash, and is only implemented in flash. If you want to use it, you have to write your application in flash. Similarly, Skype only works with the Skype client, and if you want to use their P2P voice network, you have to use their software. The difference here is that its an open specification. Anyone is free to implement it however they choose, and are not constrained to one company's support of a closed binary application.
    • by Jonner (189691)

      Adobe's RTMFP has had this ability for years now, and they've since developed it further to include peer-to-peer rebroadcasting.

      Except... it requires Flash, which is a dirty word around these parts.

      You're totally missing the point. There are many peer to peer protocols that have been used for voice and video chat. Most prominent is the RTP standard which is used by various systems, including with SIP and Google Talk's Jingle. The issue is not the lack of a protocol, but the fact that none is implemented in browsers. If RTMFP were a W3C standard and implemented in browsers, it might be a fine choice. You could probably make a replacement for Skype using Flash, but that would just be replacing one propr

  • Actually, the feature that shows up with the Google Chat stuff on the left side of my Gmail includes a link "Call Phone", that lets you call any number in Canada or the States. It works great for me _and_ it's completely free for 2011.

    Now all slashdotters go make a fake gmail address, login through a proxy server and start harassing your ex-boss/annoying coworker/the cute girl who turned you down for a date. Looks very difficult to trace.

  • At least for domestic calls, Google Voice is free. Either that or Google likes me enough to never charge me when I call landlines from my computer.

  • Yo Dawg, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clarkn0va (807617) <.apt.get. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:15PM (#36322200) Homepage

    I heard you like an OS in your OS, so I put an app in your app so you can experience the reinvention of every app while you surf the web.

    I'm not sure I like this trend of taking every piece of software functionality, making it work inside a browser, and then treating it like it's something new. I feel like I'm back in the 90s, where every new song on the radio was some old song sung by a new person.

    • by rvw (755107)

      I heard you like an OS in your OS, so I put an app in your app so you can experience the reinvention of every app while you surf the web.

      I'm not sure I like this trend of taking every piece of software functionality, making it work inside a browser, and then treating it like it's something new. I feel like I'm back in the 90s, where every new song on the radio was some old song sung by a new person.

      Now MS has bought Skype, it's not all about technology, but also about a technology that is widespread. This has the potential to be that technology and to replace Skype.

      • by clarkn0va (807617)

        Now MS has bought Skype, it's not all about technology, but also about a technology that is widespread. This has the potential to be that technology and to replace Skype.

        Maybe so, but making it browser dependent is an unnecessary handicap in my perspective, an artificial limitation.

    • by Art3x (973401)
      Wasn't just in the 90's, dawg: http://www.everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/ [everythingisaremix.info]
  • But they broke things with the Linux google-talkplugin 2.0.6.0-1 a month ago, both in Chrome and FF, and it's still not fixed. And I get about as many dropped calls as I did before with AT&T. I guess reliability will improve over time...

  • Like Skype? (Score:4, Informative)

    by X.25 (255792) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:21PM (#36322260)

    Thanks for visiting Google Voice. We're not yet open for users outside the US, but are planning to expand our service to additional countries in the future.

    Sorry. Not even close to Skype.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      I think that is what people overlook about Skype.

      1. IM
      2. Video
      3. voice
      4. phonecalls to home or mobile phone, globally
      5. phonecalls from home or mobile phone, globally
      6. groups of the above

      1, 2, 3 and 6 is most often talked about, while 4 and 5 is what has made Skype so popular. This in particular as you can do it from anywhere in the world if you can log onto the Skype service. And the rates are local rates.

      • by imamac (1083405)
        7. File sharing
        • by hitmark (640295)

          Knew i was likely missing something.

          The core is that people think it is just another IM system. but with the integration of calling to and from landline and mobile phones, at local call rates no less, it is something much much more.

    • by rvw (755107)

      Thanks for visiting Google Voice. We're not yet open for users outside the US, but are planning to expand our service to additional countries in the future.

      Sorry. Not even close to Skype.

      Google is probably very busy making those plans reality now Skype is bought by MS. Don't be surprised if they have worldwide coverage by the end of the year.

  • by molo (94384) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:22PM (#36322268) Journal

    from the WebRTC FAQ [google.com]:

    Includes and abstracts key NAT and firewall traversal technology using STUN, ICE, TURN, RTP-over-TCP and support for proxies.

    Does anyone know how well this works in practice? It seems that some external server will be needed for coordination, making this very much less P2P than it would otherwise be.

    -molo

    • by Tester (591)

      ICE with TURN work really well.. TURN means using a relay.. And Google said that with Google Talk, less than 5% of calls use the relay, that means that NAT traversal is successful 95% if the time. With a relay,. you get very close to 100%.

    • by Jonner (189691)

      from the WebRTC FAQ [google.com]:

      Includes and abstracts key NAT and firewall traversal technology using STUN, ICE, TURN, RTP-over-TCP and support for proxies.

      Does anyone know how well this works in practice? It seems that some external server will be needed for coordination, making this very much less P2P than it would otherwise be.

      -molo

      Unfortunately, the same is true for any peer to peer protocol. NAT breaks the Internet and there will never be a perfect workaround.

      • Unfortunately, the same is true for any peer to peer protocol. NAT breaks the Internet and there will never be a perfect workaround.

        Never say never. NAT will mostly die out with IPv6 given that each person could have many directly routable IP addresses and there will still be lots left over. You switch over for free right now with a tunnel broker if you want.

        The auxiliary security aspect of NAT will keep it around for a while I think. But there are better options and a simple firewall rule on the router can replicate the same thing if you only want outgoing connections.

        • by Jonner (189691)

          Unfortunately, the same is true for any peer to peer protocol. NAT breaks the Internet and there will never be a perfect workaround.

          Never say never. NAT will mostly die out with IPv6 given that each person could have many directly routable IP addresses and there will still be lots left over. You switch over for free right now with a tunnel broker if you want.

          The auxiliary security aspect of NAT will keep it around for a while I think. But there are better options and a simple firewall rule on the router can replicate the same thing if you only want outgoing connections.

          What I mean is that there will never be a perfect workaround as long as NAT is used. Of course, I hope that once IPv6 becomes mainstream, NAT will die out, but I'm not sure that'll happen as some seem attached to it. I will be playing around with IPv6 soon and talking to my ISP about getting it from them.

          One of the reasons I'm not certain that NAT will die out quickly even when IPv6 is mainstream is that so many people have the false impression that NAT itself has security benefits. The truth is that implem

  • by m50d (797211) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:25PM (#36322314) Homepage Journal
    And since the big reason for using skype is to stay in touch internationally, that's a much bigger barrier than you might think.
  • For this to even be a great success, the application needs to be `verbable` (I know verbable as a word does not exist in the English dictionary).

    That is, it needs to be put into a sentence as: 'skyped' is to skype, 'googgled' is to google, and so on...So we need a verb for the application. Suggestions welcome.

    My suggestion 'Mirror' so that we can say bogaboga mirrored in from Helsinki. How about that?

    • by nschubach (922175)

      I don't use Skype all that much, but when someone wants to communicate with me via Skype, they've never said "I want to skype you." It's always just "I'll call you on Skype."

      • by bogaboga (793279)

        I have heard a lot of..."Our correspondent, or contributor , skyped in earlier from Stockholm."

        I must admit that I have also heard yr format too. I hope you agree that a good sounding name is also critical to early/easy adoption. I think it's one reason why DOS command names were easier to remember as compared to their Linux/Unix counterparts.

        Compare how to change file name united.txt to hope.txt
        Linux/Unix: mv united.txt hope.txt
        MS DOS: rename united.txt hope.txt

        Surely, it's easier on MS DOS as compared to

  • The WebRTC code that was released is missing many important bits that are required to compete against Skype. The most important is probably a bandwidth management engine, the code that's currently public just sends at a pre-configured bitrate. That means it can only do low resolution video with a shitty quality.

    That said, Google Talk in GMail and Android have a dynamic bitrate stuff, and I expect they will be released at some point. I should also mention that Farsight2/Farstream using in Empathy and Pidgin are currently gaining the same kind of bandwidth management that Google is doing. So we should get at least two independent open implementations soon.

  • Slashdot confirms: "It's a game changer".
    • Slashdot confirms: "It's a game changer".

      "A game changer" ostensibly this means "a blow hard" -- In reference to the 8 & 16 bit era of cartridge based video games and the strange behaviors of those who attempted to "changed the game".

  • Skype is P2P VoIP too. This is old technology rehashed one more time. It works OK--I mean there's a reason why Skype's so popular--but if you really want useful open-source VoIP look to SIP implementations.

    Steven

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Is there a good HOWTO out there for SIP? There's lots of information out there, but none of it is nicely organized. I'm looking for a nice short overview of what I need to do to ditch my land line. Do I need anything besides a linux box and with a sound card? Can I use my POTS phone transparently if I have a voice modem? Is Asterisk something I need to run at home, or is it what SIP providers run?

      Once upon a time, pretty much anything you could want to do with a Linux box was documented step, by step

      • by b0bby (201198)

        If you're willing to pay a SIP provider ~$4/mo, I think you just need a softphone for your Linux box. If you want to setup asterisk yourself, look at nerdvittles.com, they have an easy step-by-step install. Works well in a VM for me, though I'm just playing with it. They include a lot of the security stuff that noobs like me would overlook; I'm still hesitant to open it up to the wide world, though.

  • Although P2P is pretty cool, I do feel like having a server in the middle generally helps things.

    Sure there is uPNP, but I don't even like using it with bittorrent.

    Skype does open a port on your machine, but I think in general don't you use a middle server that connects the two sides ( likely behind firewalls ) together?

    What I'd rather see is a more general purpose API that connects to networks, sound, and video. We are definitely getting there, but we can essentially replace Flash with a few more APIs and

  • I'm sorry, but a huge, huge problem over the last two decades is this whole mentality of can XYZ's proprietary approach replace ABC's proprietary approach.

    I don't want protocols that are implemented in a single app by a single vendor. What I want is to be able to use the chat app of MY CHOICE and talk to any other use of any other chat program, so that they can use the chat program of THEIR CHOICE.

    So, in my ideal world, people on aim can send texts, audio chats, video, files, etc to people on Google Voice,

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      Perhaps I should clarify one point. Before anyone brings it up, I know that, for the most part, the protocols themselves are "open" enough that, e.g. Pidgin can login to any of the different chat servers. The problem is, that I have to have a seperate account and login to every different chat server.

      I want to login to a single chat server of my choice, and still be able to get presence info, chat via text ,voice, or video, and transfer files, with anyone on any other server.

  • P2P built in the browser...

    I am the only one seeing this as the next big platform for file sharing ? one that doesn't require an external client like bittorrent does ?

    other advantage, the possibility of using SSL long before starting a search/download would completly block bittorrent monitoring companies from reporting users media associations, if done right.

    who want's to start codding ?

  • As the CTO of our small company, it bothers me that we use Skype internally. It is very convenient and productive to be able to have snap meetings and group discussions mid-day without having to go through the pain of calling everybody, etc.

    But what bothers me is that all this information is going through a 3rd party's servers and I'm pretty paranoid. Ideally, I'd want a service that was cross platform, convenient, and provided a nice mix of calling, video sharing, and text chats across all platforms. Skype

  • by John Sokol (109591) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @02:34PM (#36323870) Homepage Journal

    Yup, your heard me, Global IP Solutions that was aquired last year by google was maker of the Engine that Skype was using.

    Looks like they parted ways back in 2007 with Skype 3.2.

    Looks like Skype really shot them selves in the foot on this one, Google just opensourced it with a BSD style license and soon Skype will be history.
    Which may explain why they sold off to Microsoft reciently.

    You can read more on my blog post.
    http://videotechnology.blogspot.com/2011/06/webrtc-bringing-real-time.html [blogspot.com]

  • This really is a game changer.

    The game changer is the "app." It installs on any device with Internet access. It doesn't need the browser. It doesn't need the "brand-name" OS.

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