Your modern web browser is fabulous for consuming data: text, audio, and video; all natively. However, for the web’s promise of real-time audio/video communication with others, you will need a browser plugin (e.g. Flash) or a different application altogether (e.g. Skype).
The recent trend in application development is to create applications as a service and access via the web browser. Users demand functionality found in traditional, native applications for example, drag & drop found in Windows and OS X applications. The latest HTML 5 specifications meet many of these requirements, however, there still remains a gap in functionality.
To enable native RTC functionality in browsers, Google Engineers have been busy developing and integrating an API into their Chrome web browser that allows developers to natively add peer-to-peer video conferencing, file sharing, and screen share functionality without plugins. Additionally, there is work by W3C to standardize this API. Both Firefox, and Opera already support experimental versions of WebRTC; however, Microsoft has no plans to support this API and instead plans to introduce its own competing API. It will be interesting to see how this turns out, but given Google’s clout over browser standards, WebRTC has a good chance of ultimately becoming the RTC standard for browsers.
The possibilities for building, rich, collaborative, web applications, are significantly enhanced by this API, and is yet another step in establishing the web browser as one of the most powerful tools available to you.