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New Video Chats Validate WebRTC's Potential

by Kevin Bartley

Three WebRTC-based video platforms were recently released for large scale use. We took a look at all of them to see how they measure up.

Published: October 8, 2013

I've written plenty about WebRTC and we've sent our employees to several WebRTC expos, and I believe it will be an integral part of the future of realtime communications. So I'm glad to see that WebRTC is gaining real traction with video chat developers. Three WebRTC-based video platforms were recently released for large scale use, and I took a look at all of them to see how they measure up.

Priologic's Tawk 

Tawk won the "Best All Around Award" at the WebRTC Expo and Conference in Atlanta this summer. Priologic says their aim is to offer frictionless, free, anonymous, secure WebRTC based video chat. The company initially developed Tawk's embedding capabilities with Wordpress in mind. But Priologic felt it was ultimately worthwhile to extend this feature to the rest of the web.

Up to four people can chat simultaneously in a Tawk room. As far as video quality, Tawk seemed to be a bit sharper and clearer than Skype. But what I found most impressive about Tawk was its ability to be embedded into a webpage with a simple line of html code:

<iframe src='https://tawk.com/embed/onsip/'

style='width:100%;height:600px;overflow:hidden;border-width:0px'>

This feature validates the basic premise of WebRTC. Priologic has completely bypassed the need for plug-ins by working the video chat directly into the source code of a web page. WebRTC was built to implement this sort of seamless in-browser media exchange.

Tawk in action 

Bistri

Bistri offers video calling, instant messaging, file transfer, and storage space in one single screen. It has developed a simple API for embedding capability into any website. Gartner "Cool Vendor" Report 2013 says "Bistri offers the most complete suite of communication tools using the new WebRTC technology inside a web browser."

Bistri offers users the option of video chatting in SD, HD, or Share Screen. When we tested SD, the video and audio quality were better than G Chat and on par with Skype. Everything me and my chat parnter discussed came across clearly without any lag or disruption. HD was noticeably clearer than Skype. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the Share Screen function to load. Overall, Bistri seemed to offer a promising start to a fully functioning WebRTC video chat application.

WebRTC based Bistri in action

Opentok by Tokbox

OpenTok is a enterprise-grade WebRTC video platform for businesses and developers. Besides supporting WebRTC's native P2P standard, it also provides a wide range of application and management capabilities in the Cloud. Its cloud-scaling infrastructure ("Mantis") offers multi-party calling, bandwidth throttling and scaling, along with dynamic traffic shaping for audio and video quality.

The demo chat that I tested was comparable to Skype in quality. The underlying mechanism and the basic interface of the chat were fully functional. Tokbox is interesting because its API can be harnessed by developers to build their own websites and apps.

Overall, these WebRTC video chats represent a crucial litmus test for a technology that has been hyped for years. Tawk's ability to embed WebRTC video chats into webpages is precisely what WebRTC was envisioned for. By proving that WebRTC video chats can do all the things that plugin based chats can do, these three companies are helping to validate WebRTC's potential.