I find myself asking this question as I work with WebRTC and go up against the limitations that it has in comparison to what some people are calling “the traditional developers” way of doing things, with Flash. I’ve done a lot of reading, playing, implementing and testing WebRTC because it’s becoming a common question with clients that have talked to the “new developers” that say they can do just about anything now in WebRTC. I get it, there are many times when all you have is a hammer, in turn, everything looks like a nail. Flash was that for a while and it was frustrating to those that knew it’s downfalls and limitations and hated the dependency on it as it’s a plugin that has to be installed.
I can certainly remember the many times that Flash got shoehorned into a project where it really would have made so much more sense to not do it in Flash. A CMS is a great example of that.. but with enough knowledge and experience in it, you can make a CMS that is highly interactive and fluid in a very short time. Adobe’s online store was another great example as it was horribly unfriendly from a user’s perspective. Woe to you if you clicked the back button.. That said, you didn’t have to worry about browser capabilities and it all just worked for the most part and there were many that worked hard to mitigate the main limitations that it did have, and many succeeded. The ROI was definitely there, and still is in my opinion for some things. Once you add in the fact that it plays all kinds of video, audio and does live streaming.. well, it’s hard to resist not thinking that all you need is a hammer to make money.
When I see and hear statements like “traditional developers”, I can’t help but cringe a bit as I can see that somebody that has walked into WebRTC and has had a hate on for Flash for so long would love to be able to tout this new tech. Ignorance breeds name calling. In reality though, in quite a few cases it’s so far inferior to the experience and technology that Flash can offer at this time that it’s not even funny. While it is growing, I find the craziest limitation in the fact that there is practically no support for cross browser communication, let alone that you have to have the very latest of two browsers installed. Doesn’t work at all on iOS… isn’t that the problem with Flash? It’s like going back to 2006 or something when you need Flash Player 6.1 or whatever to get h.263 live video with your webcam to show up. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Robert Reinhardt put a demo on for that in New York at Flash Forward, I was hooked and here I am now.
WebRTC is very cool, I believe that and think it and will continue to work with it to make sure I can offer the best option for what our clients ask of us. That said, I think it’s important to put out there that there is a long ways to go with it. The limitations in place now aren’t something I really need to state without essentially sounding pedantic about it. There are many people working on improving it and making it easier to work with (simplewebrtc is a great example) and it’s really encouraging to stay up with that and ride on the forefront of the technology. At the same time, I don’t think there is a downside to being able to be an expert in both Flash and WebRTC, as “hating” on one or the other is just limiting as a developer, skillset and company and doesn’t do the client any favors. I would say that it’s a bonus of being a traditional developer, rather than a hindrance.
The answer to my question, I think, is that while we are making progress, WebRTC is not an option for a lot of ideas out there right now. In time though, if the codec can get decided on and all browser manufacturers adopt it, then sure. Should be good. Either that or we all just use Chrome and ditch all those other inferior browsers 🙂