Kurento is an Open Source Software WebRTC media server

Videoconferencing in the social graph: a completely new story

Videoconferencing and, her sister, video telephony, are like a pulsar star: they appear and disappear from the “killer application” spectrum periodically, but never arrive to be one of the essential services users can’t live without. Some recent initiatives such as Apple’s FaceTime have come back to the old concept of face-to-face communications. This is indeed suggesting thanks to the improvement on mobile bandwidths all around the world, which enables higher video quality. However, at the end of the day users rarely require such services and only turn to them on very special events. This makes that FaceTime will probably be, once again, one of that services that could be something but at the end aren’t.

However, more recently, videoconferencing is coming to a novel concept that incorporates additional ingredients, which deserve more detailed attention. I’m taking about services that, like ooVoo or Google Hangout, introduce the notion of groups into the videoconference flow. Well understood, a group is not just a set of people. Group here is a wider concept, which must make sense into the social graph of the user. So, somehow the group exists by itself as a social notion, and the conference takes place into this group where the particulars members of a particular conference are dynamical members of that group, avoiding the burden of having to invite people, one by one, into the conference.

Perhaps the description above it’s too abstract, but let’s introduce some possible services based on it to make the light to come again. Imagine social based mobile service where a user creates a conference channel available to her social network graph. Her online friends could receive the flow but, additionally, could send feedback on real time. This is the kind of service many teenagers would love to have for sharing a party or a concert.

However, the real power of this novel scheme is shown when the social links take the form of professional links. A doctor who can share a second diagnostic with a set of selected colleagues, a policeman who can send a live stream showing a complex security scenario or even a student who can request and receive help from a closed group of colleagues and teachers. In all these situations video makes much more sense and is more useful than simple audio or simple text. It is just a question of time that video conferencing comes to be an important actor in the context of professional relationships.

However, ooVoo and other similar services do not fulfill the requirements of such kind of applications. First of all because of privacy issues, which may be very relevant in some cases (a doctor should not send private health information about his patients to external services without having a strong guarantee about privacy). Secondly, because these types of applications always have additional specific requirements. Probably doctors would require to exchange documents in addition to the video stream, policemen would require GPS locations, etc.

For these reasons Kurento do not offer closed services. We do offer open SDKs which can be used to develop group conference services where the application logic can be seamlessly added to the video stream exchange. In other words, Kurento lets you choose what is the social meaning of your group and what is the specific logic of the videoconferencing application, both on the server and on the client (web and mobile) side. We just provide conversational video capabilities on top of which you can deploy the applications you wish.

Do you want to know more about this? On the next post we will show you how Kurento is a revolutionary solution capable of building complex group video conferencing applications never seen before.