WebSockets: HTML5’s Latest Disruptive Communications Tool

Filed in Uncategorized by on June 13, 2013 0 Comments

What do you know about WebSockets? If you are an MNO, an OTT, an enterprise or an application developer – let’s just say if your business touches the mobile industry in any way – you should know at least this: WebSockets represent another HTML5  feature that will change how the Web is used, and it will impact the mobile ecosystem on a variety of fronts.

Today, the Web cannot really offer real-time communications or applications. Stock tickers, social media and chat/messaging are all delivered in near-real time using methods such as long polling or Comet, or through third-party plug-ins like Flash.

WebSockets, however, enable real-time, bidirectional communications on one transmission control protocol connection. WebSockets will increase performance for Web developers, reduce data consumption for consumers, spur the growth of new real-time communications services, and potentially put slower-moving communications service providers at a further disadvantage versus swift startups that are building services from scratch.

Interesting use cases for WebSockets are bubbling up. For example, Web-based customer service and support applications will be greatly improved thanks to significantly lower latency. This is becoming particularly more important as more consumers seek to use mobile devices as their customer service interface. With real-time connections, new value and business cases will be created for connected devices, such as medical equipment, smart homes and buildings, security systems, and connected cars.

WebSockets will enable social networks to update streams in real time and will allow new players to deliver real-time chat/messaging, photo sharing and more. OTT service providers will seek to use WebSockets to their advantage to redefine and even enhance real-time communications services they offer today. What’s more, WebSockets capabilities are also likely to spur new players to enter the communications marketplace, as it reduces costs and opens up new services capabilities.

The widespread adoption of WebSockets by developers and consumers will be swift. Unlike WebRTC, which is limited to the capabilities of the Web browsers used by consumers, WebSockets capabilities can be used in mobile apps. Austrian researcher Robert Koch published a report in March 2013 on WebSockets and security, and he noted that 14 Android apps are already deploying WebSockets capabilities. In it, he noted, “Companies may not use WebSockets in web applications as its users need to have a modern browser supporting WebSockets, whereas in mobile applications you are able to deliver the browser engine or library with your application.”

Some early adopters of WebSockets give a sense of some of the interesting applications, such as these Android apps now using WebSockets:

  • Groupme-Now part of Skype, Groupme allows users to chat with people who are using the app.
  • Grooveshark-Lets users control your Grooveshark music player on a PC.
  • Schoener Fernsehen-Enables TV to be watched on online, and includes real-time chat.
  • Twoo-Location-aware app that allows users to get to know new people, and offers a power chat function.
  • Livestream-Enables live blogging.
  • Loxone-Provides control of smart home.

As of early June, Apple has not enabled any WebSockets capabilities.

MNOs will benefit from WebSockets market adoption since Web applications and services using it will reduce the data consumption on their networks versus near-real-time applications that don’t use WebSockets. As MNOs migrate into an all-IP environment, they, too, can use WebSockets to their advantage in offering real-time communications services and applications. However, WebSockets capabilities will give current OTT communications service providers real-time capabilities on par with legacy telecommunications providers. WebSockets will also likely spawn new players and use cases, particularly in mobile apps.

The disruptive nature of WebSockets is apparent. So what do you think – Will WebSockets become a transformative force throughout the mobile industry, or just the latest toy grabbing our attention . . . at least until the next big thing comes along?

 

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Mark Beccue is a former Senior Market Analyst at Syniverse.

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