Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC) is transforming the way we communicate online. Fuelled, in part, by the remote communication needs of the Covid-19 pandemic, use of WebRTC solutions have grown significantly in the last few years.
Enterprises are increasingly finding new ways to use the technology to help them provide the best customer service, as well as improved internal communications.
But, as usage expands and grows, so does the importance of testing and monitoring WebRTC infrastructure to manage performance.
What Does WebRTC Enable?
First, a brief recap of the power of WebRTC. WebRTC is an open source project that gives developers the tools to embed live communications streams like voice, video and chat directly into any web page, with relative ease.
In the past, this communication would have to be relayed through another intermediary service – such as Skype – with data first passing through their server.
Alternative methods that allowed for developers to build direct channels of communication involved complicated, time-consuming coding using C/C++ language.
This is being used for anything from embedding live chat/video or voice calling into websites for customer service, to enabling easier file-sharing within businesses, to opening up access to telemedicine.
And, of course, as an open source project, WebRTC is constantly evolving and improving, with new use cases being found every day.
But, now that you’ve designed your brilliant new WebRTC service, what’s next?
WebRTC testing is the crucial next step to simulate real users’ use of your service from anywhere around the world. As streamlined as the technology may make the development process, it can never be perfect first time, and testing and debugging at scale is always challenging.
In addition to the potential flaws and bugs that would occur in any new application or tool, some of the particular issues that can arise in WebRTC include:
- The Development of WebRTC Technology – One of the key strengths of WebRTC – that it is open-source, constantly evolving and improving – also raises potential issues. As new features and improvements are made, this may lead to breakages in existing solutions.
- Changes to Browsers – Similarly, another key benefit – that WebRTC solutions can be embedded directly into a web page – also means that there are crucial elements of the technology that you don’t control. Regular testing of your WebRTC application ensures that browser updates aren’t causing issues.
- Network Sensitivity – WebRTC solutions are somewhat reliant on high-speed broadband and good network conditions. Different conditions will mean the performance of your solution will vary across users. Testing across a range of network conditions is essential to optimize for a variety of users.
- Multiple Users – the nature of WebRTC means that two or more users, in different locations, will need to be synchronized, be it in a video call, live broadcast, file-sharing scenario or other use. So think of the above issues and multiply them…
With This in Mind, WebRTC Testing Should Include:
- A WebRTC stress test – to simulate load, size and stress on your network.
- Regression testing – to test and re-test your WebRTC solution as you adapt and develop it.
- Performance testing – to measure key WebRTC metrics.
- Network testing – to test your WebRTC application across different network conditions and optimize for all users.
So far, so straightforward, you might say. Testing during the development of a tool is a given (although it is useful to be able to access a readymade WebRTC testing tool that can automate all this for you).
What comes next? Once your tool is live, how do you ensure optimum performance, track the aspects of the service that are most used, and troubleshoot issues that come up?
Once your tool is live, you still need regular WebRTC testing to test new features, troubleshoot and more. But, the really interesting part of an application being used by real people is all that real-use data. Ongoing passive WebRTC monitoring is a way to continually monitor the real-world use of your WebRTC tool, uncovering the true experience of real users. This is beneficial for several reasons:
Speeding Up the Time Taken to Debug.
When a developer starts to investigate a bug, they typically need to run tests to replicate the bug and gain data to find a fix. What if they had access to the granular detail of days’ worth of real sessions at their fingertips?
A WebRTC monitoring tool, such as WatchRTC, provides this. It allows you to drill down into individual sessions and users, including metrics like bitrate, packet loss and jitter, as well as a history of activities and calls to the API. This wealth of data allows developers to short-cut the troubleshooting process and resolve issues faster.
Insights Into How Users Really Use Your WebRTC Tool.
How real people use your tool may be very different to how you thought it would be used. The most popular features are the time spent using it, the number of people joining sessions and the quality of connections.
All of these factors have an implication on the performance of your WebRTC tool and can be used to inform future developments.
Passive WebRTC monitoring collects data across real sessions and gives you a bird’s eye view of the usage and how real people are interacting with your service.
Gain Early Alerts on Potential Issues.
With all of this high-level data on how your service is being used, WebRTC monitoring allows you to set thresholds and alerts on usage and quality, that will give you early warning on any issues or unusual activity.
Uncovering the True User Experience.
WebRTC monitoring is used to monitor right down to a user level, without compromising privacy. Watch RTC, for instance, doesn’t record media or store private information but does allow a drill down into the precise network conditions at an individual level, giving a powerful picture of a user’s experience.
With all the above capabilities and more, you might think WebRTC monitoring is a heavy drain on your precious network resources, but with the likes of WatchRTC, that isn’t the case. It runs efficiently in the background so it doesn’t affect the efficiency of your WebRTC service.
Most importantly, by plugging into a readymade tool designed for WebRTC monitoring, you won’t need to divert precious developer resources towards designing and building your own WebRTC testing and monitoring.
If you want your developers to focus on improving your WebRTC service so that it provides a better experience for users – be they customers or staff – getting serious about both WebRTC testing and WebRTC monitoring is a no-brainer.