Back in June of 2014, my friend Billy Chia attended “WebRTC Expo” in Atlanta; afterwards he wrote an article titled Developers, not Dial Tone, basically asking where all the developers were at the event. It was a really interesting article about the lack of developers and the huge number of vendors and telcos at the event, you should read it.
This week I attended the “WebRTC Global Summit” in London and spoke on a panel about how people can make the most of WebRTC; with Tsahi, Svein, Andy, Victor and Pamela. It was a real privilege to be on the stage with some of the best minds in WebRTC right now. But I came away from the conference feeling rather odd about the whole thing; a few people asked me what I thought of the conference and I couldn’t really put it into words. After a days consideration, I’ve realised what was causing my odd feeling.
Here’s the crux of it: WebRTC conferences should not be stand-alone events. The issue is that there are so many different parties interested in WebRTC as a technology, including developers, users, telcos (phone companies) and vendors, to name a few. With such differences in what they’re all looking to get out of the event, it’s no wonder these events feel so “weird”.
WebRTC conferences should not be stand-alone events
At WebRTC Expo last year, there was a lack of developers and so naturally the talks were aimed at the present audience and led to the awkward question “Where are all the developers?!”. This time round, thanks to the TADHack Mini event the weekend before WebRTC Global Summit, the question about developers vanished. During our Panel Pamela asked the audience what category they fell under; a whopping 75% of the audience classed themselves as developers.
So going back to my declaration that WebRTC conferences shouldn’t be stand alone events; as a Web or Mobile developer would you go to an event to listen to subjects like
RCS? No? You don’t know what those are I hear you say? Well yes, it’s just the same from a telco point of view - they’re looking for how they can utilise this technology; not what the latest developments are in Chrome and Firefox.
While on the panel, I said something along the lines of “It’s a Web technology, if telcos want to be part of it, they need to get on with it and do things the web way”; a sentiment I firmly believe. But on the other hand, we have Web conferences going on all around the world with zero WebRTC content in them. I expect it’s probably the case with other arenas too.
This is why we have these mish-mashed conferences run by people like Informa and TMC - no-one else will run the WebRTC topic in their respective arenas and people are crying out for more WebRTC content and so they give people “what they want”; a conference about WebRTC, where the end result just frustrates people.
It’s a Web technology, if telcos want to be part of it, they need to get on with it and do things the web way.
I’m used to attending open-source conferences that are run for the love of the topic; and if there’s a small profit at the end of the event, organisers are usually happy - I LOVE these types of events; they are usually the best kind. Businesses like Informa and TMC operate solely around conferences, that’s how they make money and pay their employees - so it’s no surprise that big vendor sponsors get two or three talks over the course of a two day conference.
A great example of a great event is the Kranky Geek event that happened on the second day of WebRTC Global Summit in the afternoon. The room was packed, leaving very few still at the main WebRTC Global Summit event. Kranky Geek is a developer oriented event, giving developers what they want to hear.
The room was packed, leaving very few still at the main WebRTC Global Summit event.
I argue that athough Billy’s article was right in the sense that there were no developers at a WebRTC event, it didn’t dive into the reason for it; it’s not the fault of these events in the slightest, they are merely filling a gap in the market the best they can in a way that makes a profit. The reason these events happen in the first place is because of the lack of Web conferences willing to give WebRTC a slot in their schedule.
I’m hoping that now we have big players in the market such as Facebook and Twilio, who are using WebRTC openly, this will only change for the better. Mini conferences like Kranky Geek and Hackathons like TADHack are showing it’s time to pick the topic up again, right now.
If you’re looking for some help knowing what you can do with WebRTC, maybe Nimble Ape can give you a hand, contact us and let us know.