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Monday, January 19, 2015

And then there were four: Telenor Appear.in joins the telco-owned WebRTC-as-a-service marketplace

A very quick place-marker blog post - hope to get more details and have more thought later in the week.

Telenor's appear.in WebRTC video-calling service has just launched its API play - and one that's very easily embeddable by order websites and developers, for free. Details are on this blog post

At the moment it's intended as a very quick/easy basic capability with minimal friction. In terms of monetisation / business model it's a little unclear, but both the YouTube analogy and Tim Panton's discovery of an advertising bias among the appear.in team members might point the way. I'm also curious about the potential for a "free on the web, but pay for a mobile API" approach, which could also be a route forward.

Either way, we now have 4 telcos with "live" WebRTC platform plays, of very different styles:

  • Telefonica Tokbox, the oldest and most-mature, which is heavily focused on both mobile enablement and (increasingly) vertical-specific variants
  • NTT Skyway, which is probably the closest conceptually to appear.in's at the moment
  • AT&T's newly-announced WebRTC API, which is the most telco-like, integrating with its core network call-control & numbering, with a more traditional "telephony" metaphor
  • Now, Telenor Digital's appear.in API
Plus various other telcos have been doing the rounds at  numerous WebRTC conferences but have yet to launch anything (product or platform). Orange, Telecom Italia and Deutsche Telekom are all clearly interested in WebRTC, as are others that are less-visible - I was sitting next to some China Mobile folk at the AT&T Developer Summit, for example.

More generally, it seems like the intent here is less about telco-to-telco competition but more about Telenor Digital putting a stake in the ground in the much wider WebRTC API & Platform space, with the 20 or so other players jockeying for position. In my WebRTC report I examine that space in a lot of depth - I think there are 5 or more orthogonal dimensions by which to dissect it. This is clearly video- rather than voice-centric, and (for now) appears completely decoupled from Telenor's own network - it is what I used to call "telco-OTT", or a pure web API. It will be interesting to see how it evolved.

Anyway, in the spirit of investigation, I've added an appear.in window below, with my reserved room-name of /disruptiveanalysis. I'm probably not going to be online on this page that much (and there's no other notification mechanism), but it's certainly easy. I do also have an appear.in app on my phone though, but don't use it that much as I'm not a huge personal fan of video-calling. As a non-developer all I needed to do was click the HTML tag on blogger & paste in a line of code - and then add the /iframe as it didn't have a "close" tag. I've also changed the window-size to match my blog template.
Impressively simple.


Tsahi Levent-Levi said...


I don't see this as a marketplace play from appear.in's part.
Embedding a window within a website is far from a solution for developers or anything that is even remotely similar to TokBox, Skyway or the AT&T offering.

To me this is just the trend of open APIs becoming a mandatory bolt on to any company/service.

Dean Bubley said...

Hi Tsahi

At the moment, yes.

But I see this as a first step - just as AT&T is clearly going to evolve its offer in various directions. Let's see what comes next.

There is another important aspect to this - Telenor is actually turning a product into an API & then potentially into a broader platform, which traditionally has been the only route to creating successful platforms.

To me, it's the first stage of a developer solution rather than a "big bang".