🤔 How do you explain WebRTC to someone outside of the community?

Tasha Community Manager, Dailynista admin
edited August 2022 in Discussion

"So, what do you do for work?"

This can be a difficult question for developers to answer - especially when your job involves WebRTC:

  • Give a detailed answer and watch the other person's eyes glaze over.
  • Try to be as general as possible and risk insulting the other person's intelligence.
  • Or - if you're like me - keep rambling until the other person says something like, "Oh, I guess you don't know what you do either."

Of course I know what I do! What I haven't figured out yet is how to explain this in a succinct way that helps the other person understand and form follow up questions if they want to know more.

So I'm asking my fellow WebRTC pros...

How do you explain WebRTC and what you do to someone outside of this community?



  • chad
    chad Community Manager, Moderator, Dailynista admin

    Here's how I explain it to my kids. There are two different ways to do live video online nowadays: Twitch-style and Zoom-style.

    If you've watched a Twitch stream, you know it can support a zillion audience members at a time. But there's also an annoying lag between when the streamer does something and when the audience sees that thing. So if the streamer asks people to answer a question in chat, they'll have to wait a few seconds (or longer) to actually see the responses. You end up with this weird pause and it's not really as interactive as it could be. Audience members can't turn on their cameras or microphones. In industry terms, this is "live streaming" video, and you'll hear acronyms like HLS and RTMP for this kind of thing.

    WebRTC is the main acronym behind other kind: "real-time video." By now, we're all too familiar with things like Zoom and FaceTime and Google Meet, where you can actually have a conversation with a few people in real time—without that several seconds of lag. Unlike Twitch, anyone who's part of the same call can turn on their mic and camera and join in. WebRTC is the underlying set of technologies that powers that. It defines a bunch of Internet standards so that someone using Chrome on a Windows PC can talk to someone using Safari on a Mac, or someone else on an iPhone.

  • Tasha
    Tasha Community Manager, Dailynista admin

    @chad this is a great point - not all streaming is necessarily interactive.

    I like the zoom-style vs twitch-style descriptors for explaining to kids - since most are familiar with both.

  • ashley
    ashley Member, Daily Alumni

    I find that I start off with "video calls in the browser," just to keep it simple, and moving into more complexity from there given the feedback I get from that description. I end up emphasizing the browser part because everyone has had the experience of running nearly-late to a meeting and finding out by surprise that they have to install a bunch of plugins like its the mid-2000s all over again, and that's no fun.

    The problem for me is that I start to get a bit rambly when talking about the potential of WebRTC and the myriad of use cases that can be supported -- by I hope that by then, they at least have an idea of what I'm talking about.

  • Tasha
    Tasha Community Manager, Dailynista admin


    "everyone has had the experience of running nearly-late to a meeting and finding out by surprise that they have to install a bunch of plugins like its the mid-2000s all over again, and that's no fun."

    THIS ^^^^ 🎯

    saying "it's video calls in the browser" is a good place to start.

  • vr000m
    vr000m Dailynista

    A lot depends on the context of the person that you’re speaking to. I usually tailor it to them.

    for example, I was explaining this to my grandma, she’s in her 80s. She uses WhatsApp video. I said to her.

    “You book a taxi via the ola taxi app and you forget something valuable in the cab. Now to get in touch with cab, in the past you’d have to call a taxi company, that calls the driver, a fairly major operation. What if you could directly call the person driving the cab and talk to them about it, maybe they could open their camera and show you what they are looking at. Now, the taxi company may not want to expose the phone number of the person driving and you definitely do not want your number to be exposed, so they’d have to mask the number in some way. “

    She understood that while contrived this can be an issue for some people

    Quite often I explain a very niche scenario and then say if each niche scenario wanted to build something like this, they need out of a box solution, that’s what “webrtc provides”.

    long way to say — webrtc provides an out of the box solution to building voice and video experiences into a particular app. The app can be your bank, your doctor, etc.

  • Tasha
    Tasha Community Manager, Dailynista admin

    @vr000m starting with a problem the person can relate to and then explaining how the technology solves that problem is a really smart way to approach this! Now I'm looking forward to the next time someone asks me what I do for work so I can try this approach!