Last week Twilio announced new video calling features powered by WebRTC. As someone who’s been working with WebRTC for around 3 years, this came as no surprise - they were already utilising WebRTC for audio calling and were probably doing the most (I’m sorry I’m going to use a telco term) “minutes” of audio calling of all of the PaaS. Why wouldn’t they add Video calling, it’s a no brainer? However I expected it in the next 6 months sometime, not now.
I use the term PaaS loosely here; as no-one really classified Twilio as one of the WebRTC PaaS until last week when they announced video calling and mobile support.
This is a big thing. If anyone tells you otherwise they’re lying or they’re scared about how it’s going to affect their own PaaS. Let me tell you why; put simply, it brings the WebRTC technology to more “web” developers. Twilio is the biggest communications provider from a web point of view; I couldn’t tell you of a web developer I know that doesn’t know about Twilio and hasn’t at least used them for some kind of hacky app. How many of those developers use Twilio in their production apps? I can tell you it’s under 5%; at least in my experience.
This is a big thing. If anyone tells you otherwise they’re lying or they’re scared
So why’s this a good thing if the use of Twilio is so low?
Put simply, it gets the technology and it’s capabilities into the wider developers mindset; it gets them thinking about how they could use the technology and what benefit it could have to their apps and products. Up until now, WebRTC has been this cool thing that people used briefly 3 years ago when they heard about it at conferences; tried to use with their friends and failed. That was our mistake as WebRTC evangelists. We made it look too simple. We didn’t talk about the need for STUN and TURN etc - which inevitably led to failure and developers having a bitter taste in their mouth.
That was our mistake as WebRTC evangelists. We made it look too simple.
With Twilio adding support for WebRTC; I can tell you that bitter taste will disappear, and quickly - if Twilio are happy to promote a product around WebRTC then it must be ready for use, right? Well that’s how it looks from a web developer’s perspective; and that’s the market WebRTC has been missing out on so far - ironic huh?
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had big players in the market release products using WebRTC (Facebook being one of them), but no-one outside of the world of WebRTC cares that it’s powered by WebRTC; they probably don’t even know it’s powered by WebRTC. While it’s great for us as evangelists to be able to say “WebRTC is production ready; look, Facebook are using it!”, general developers looking to add these kinds of communications to their apps and products don’t know. Twilio changes that.
I have to say here that Nimble Ape are currently working with the Respoke team at Digium so we are affiliated with them but this doesn’t affect our view of the PaaS market. Right now that disclaimer is out of the way; what will this do for other PaaS? Should they be scared of the competition Twilio brings?
In short; no.
I’ll tell you why; developers are always looking for the best product/API for use on their app or product. It goes back to what I said earlier; many people use Twilio but then don’t go on to use it in their production apps. There are many reasons for this; and can be entirely down to circumstances around that business etc rather than anything against Twilio and it’s APIs.
Back when Twilio announced SMS in the UK; I was with a company already using an SMS provider via an HTTP API; did we move away from that provider to Twilio? Short answer = no. I know of developers who have wanted to add voice communications to their apps but have gone down another route after trying Twilio as a proof of concept. There are reasons for this, be it down to cost or wanting to have more customisation or whatever.
This is why other PaaS shouldn’t worry, yet. Now, Twilio always has excellent APIs and, if anything, this announcement will bump up features and priorities across the board. This is why the Twilio announcement is awesome. One, it’s getting the message out about the WebRTC technology to a much wider base of developers than other PaaS providers have been able to do, but secondly and most importantly, it makes every other provider sit upright and take stock of what they offer and how they can improve those offerings to combat Twilio.
Other PaaS shouldn’t worry, yet.
On a final note, last week I wrote about how web conferences were scared of WebRTC and how we needed to get WebRTC back infront of the target audience of “web” developers. I can only hope that with a big name such as Twilio, and with all of their Developer Evangelists across the globe, this task has just become a lot easier.