2014 has been a very interesting year in the real time development space. WebRTC has started to take off, with some major announcements confirming that it’s more than hype. The WebRTCHacks team showed that Google Hangouts is based on a modified version of WebRTC through network analysis, Microsoft announced a web version of Skype using WebRTC, and the video codec debates in WebRTC finally reached a resolution of sorts.
Outside of WebRTC, many other things also happened. Socket.io version 1 was released, and Google acquired Firebase. New versions of the Raspberry Pi abounded, and new IoT devices continued to emerge.
Since AgilityFeat is a team of real time developers, we’ve been closely monitoring all these advances through our weekly newsletter RealTimeWeekly. Membership has been growing and we expect 2015 will be another interesting year in the real time space.
Based on the “votes” of our readers (via their clicks on newsletter articles), we provide this summary of the most interesting content and blog posts from 2014. If you’re not already a subscriber to RealTimeWeekly, go sign up so you don’t have to wait until the end of 2015 to see another list like this!
I would say that 2014 has been a tumultuous teenage year for WebRTC. We’ve learned a lot about what WebRTC will look like when it grows up. Tsahi showed us how to do screen sharing and gave us ideas for how to use the oft-forgotten Data Channel.
Early in the year, there was still a lot of uncertainty around WebRTC. Irwin Lazar pointed out on NoJitter that while adoption in unified communications is growing, the video codecs were holding things up. Rachel Ramsey summed up themes of the Enterprise Connect conference with speakers reminding each other that WebRTC is a technology, not a solution, and the real value will be in the applications we build around it. “It’s not just hype” became a regular refrain among WebRTC proponents, and as I heard Cisco’s Cullen Jennings say at Enterprise Connect “Someone in your company should at least be playing with this!”
There remained a lot of “buts” about WebRTC though, and David Michels pulled no punches laying them out when he wrote that “WebRTC is for Losers”. The video codecs and browser inequalities loomed large, and others like Alan Percy were also pointing out the Good and the Bad of WebRTC. Dean Bubley wondered if we were just expecting too much from WebRTC.
Which made the end of the year interesting. While there still isn’t WebRTC support in IE and Safari, there is finally consensus on video codecs! Vendors, browser companies and developers alike celebrated this resolution, even if it’s not perfect. WebRTC even made the print edition of the Economist in 2014, which has to be a sign of something.
With a maturing of the ideas around WebRTC, comes more tutorials and knowledge sharing. Alan Quayle’s summary from WebRTC Paris showed a shift by some to less hype and more implementation details. And that was evident across the web in 2014 too, as there were a number of great posts helping to explain WebRTC better:
WebRTC Signaling: Here be Dragons (Justin DuJardin, Sococo)
A WebRTC Security Primer (Andrew Prokop, SIP Adventures)
A Free WebRTC Report and a Whitepaper (Tsahi Levent-Levi, BlogGeek.me)
Introduction to WebRTC Signaling (Andrew Prokop, Avaya Blog)
Video: What the hell is WebRTC? An Introductory Talk (Dag-Inge Aas, appear.in)
WebRTC Made Simple (Tommy Fisher, Carbon Five)
What is the Difference Between a Signaling Protocol and a Transport Protocol? (Tsahi Levent-Levi, BlogGeek.me)
The Future of the Real-Time Web
Besides WebRTC, there’s a lot more to real time web development. The use of socket and real time messaging technology has become widespread and is changing the way we build applications. There were a number of excellent conference talks this year that highlight those trends and the technologies you should be thinking about:
Video: Choosing your Realtime Web App Tech Stack (Phil Leggetter, FutureInsights conference)
Video: Evolving REST for an IoT World (Todd Montgomery, Kaazing)
Video: The Future of Real-Time (Guillermo Rauch)
Video: The Real-time Web in 2014 & Beyond (Phil Leggetter, Pusher)
There were many interesting posts around WebSockets in 2014, including high volume messaging, debugging remote machines, and WebSockets and AngularJS.
The next most hyped thing in 2014 after WebRTC may have been Firebase. Google’s acquisition of Firebase certainly fueled that. There were many popular Firebase tutorials out there as well, such as building AngularJS and Firebase apps and how to use Firebase for the Internet of Things.
IoT and Node.js
Speaking of the Internet of Things, there were many popular posts about IoT topics too. Including this wireless IoT platform and why Node.js is ideal for the internet of things.
Node.js in general is a popular topic among real time developers, so these 15 Node.js frameworks were of interest to our readers, as were “Real Time Web Development with Metor and Node.js” and “Real Time Analytics with Node.js and socket.io”.
Analytics and Big Data
Speaking of analytics, not everything in real time development is a glamorous chat application or buzzing drone copters and internet of things. Sometime we just need to use it for business, and that’s where Real Time Data Dashboards and Streaming Big Data with Hadoop come in. In that space, D3.js charting and PubNub Data Streams are also important tools to consider.
When Big Data is also real-time things get complex. We had several interesting posts from big companies on how they deal with this. Twilio’s engineering team wrote an interesting summary of how they cutover their messaging services with no downtime. Twitter uses a framework called Tsar for “counting billions of daily events in real-time”, which made for an interesting presentation on InfoQ. John Ryding also put together a good read on merge and fill operations for creating eventual consistency in real-time web applications.
The One Post to Rule Them All
I just watched the last installment of the Hobbit movies, so with apologies for the overused LOTR reference, I’ve still got Tolkien on my mind. It’s also the holidays, so we had a number of recent popular posts in our newsletter about Pi projects, and I also just came across this one about using a Pi as a Minecraft Server.
But there was one post this year which I have to give the RealTimeWeekly Editor’s Choice award to. It’s a cool project that combines WebRTC, hardware control using a Tessel microcontroller, a rover, Node.js, video recording, Twilio, socket.io, and even a child’s SnapCircuit set. It has almost everything!
2014 has been a great year, but I’m excited about the future of the real-time web and what it will bring in 2015. Keep sending me your blog posts, and I’ll keep sharing them in RealTimeWeekly. And don’t forget to sign up for the RealTimeWeekly newsletter and follow RealTimeWeekly on Twitter so that you don’t miss out on all the great real time developments in 2015 and beyond!