What the CU-RTC-Web vs. WebRTC debate means for developers

About six months ago, Microsoft released an alternative proposal to the W3C WebRTC 1.0 Working Draft[2], dubbed CU-RTC-Web[1]. Like all W3C groups, the WebRTC Working Group enlists membership from a majority of the industry, including names like Nokia, Cisco, Google, and Mozilla. The most important question raised by the Microsoft proposal is how the Working Group would react to criticism of its draft proposal, and whether Microsoft would accept the published APIs of the Working Group, even if CU-RTC-Web is not adopted. So what exactly does this mean for the development community?

The Microsoft draft outlines a low-level API that allows developers more direct access to the underlying network and media delivery components. It exposes objects representing network sockets and gives explicit application control over the media transport[3]. In contrast, the WebRTC API abstracts these details with a text-based interface that passes encoded strings between the two participants in the call. With the WebRTC draft, developers are responsible for passing the strings between communicating browsers, but not explicitly configuring media transport for a video chat.

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TokShow: You can do it, put your back-end into it

Our goal for the back end of the TokShow application was to make it as simple as possible while supporting a couple thousand people.

The biggest concern for performance was moving a new fan on stage. When that happens, everyone in the TokShow needs to hit the server to get the connection ID of the next fan. We thought the ‘aha’ moment of a fan meeting the artist for the first time would be a major part of the experience, so making the transition smooth and simultaneous for all of the viewers was critical.

To keep things simple, we used PHP and MySQL on the server. There is very little state saved for the application. We basically need to know:

  1. Who is on stage
  2. Who is in the line
  3. Whether the show has started yet
  4. What time the show is scheduled to start.

We had one PHP file to wrap our reads and writes to the server, and that’s about it. For our TokShows we needed only one PHP server, which also hosted the database.

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