TenHands, a company that offers video collaboration as a service for web and mobile applications, just announced that it now supports WebRTC, the increasingly popular standard for making audio and video calls inside the browser without the need for a plugin. The TenHands API will now automatically use WebRTC when it detects that the user is running Chrome 24 and above.
By default, TenHands always installed its own WebRTC plugin for browsers that don’t fully support it yet, so developers don’t have to worry about interoperability. The bet TenHands is making, of course, is that it will be able to just leverage every browser’s built-in WebRTC capabilities. Given that most of the major vendors are betting on WebRTC, that’s probably not that far off, though Microsoft has its own ideas for how the standard should develop. With Skype, Microsoft obviously has a stake in this race, too, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on how the standard discussions will develop over the next few months.
As TenHands’ COO Jack Blaeser told me earlier today, he believes this is “a significant step toward democratizing video, breaking down the barriers of closed islands and reshaping the landscape of communications for the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Skype by enabling any user or application to run HD video and voice from their existing browser without discriminating to those with special hardware or software endpoints.”
In Blaeser’s view, native real-time audio and video calling will also enable “a host of exciting and new use cases.” Call centers, he says, will be able to escalate a web or mobile interaction to real-time video and voice when needed. He also believes WebRTC could play a major role in making distance learning and telemedicine simpler and spur innovation in these fields. “In the same way the browser revolutionized the way we access information 15 years ago, WebRTC promises to enable the browser to become a primary mode of video and audio communication and will reshape the billion dollar communications market.”
TenHands also notes that it is “the first software and flash-free real-time commercial video solution” to leverage Google’s WebRTC implementation, though it’s worth noting that other video platforms like Twilio, Plivo and TokBox also currently offer various WebRTC-based services, but most of them are still in beta.
TenHands was founded in 2011 and has remained somewhat under the radar since then. As WebRTC is quickly becoming a hot topic, however, that will likely change over the next few months. To celebrate the launch of the native WebRTC implementation for Chrome, the company is holding an API hackathon on February 9 where developers can compete for about $4,000 in prize money.