Last week at the WebRTC World conference in San Jose, California, Twilio unveiled a Network Traversal Service that enables developers to build their own WebRTC signaling solution without also having to implement a media relay solution.
Twilio's service, which is distributed across five continents and designed to be highly available, supports both STUN and TURN, which are used to deal with firewalls and NATs that are especially common in enterprise environments. In such environments, the source of WebRTC's greatest cost-saving attribute, peer-to-peer connectivity, becomes more complicated. The STUN and TURN protocols enable this connectivity to take place with the assistance of a third-party server.
Twilio Client, the company's core platform, enables developers to build browser-based and mobile WebRTC applications and bundles network traversal as part of its core functionality. But as the WebRTC ecosystem grows and matures, Twilio saw an opportunity to provide a standalone offering around network traversal for developers who are building solutions from the ground up.
In a blog post, the company explained, "We originally developed STUN and TURN as a component of Twilio Client, as part of our drive to make our Twilio Client product the best global WebRTC platform out there. Once we built it, we felt that developers building their own real-time communications service would benefit from this service so we wanted to ‘unbundle’ it and make it available as a standalone service."
Pricing for Twilio's Network Traversal Service is based on the amount of data relayed, and the company says most developers "should find it much more cost effective than building a similar service yourself."
Unbundling: A Coming Platform Trend?
Because it enables real-time communication at incredibly low cost, WebRTC has seen rapid adoption in a variety of communications applications. As such, it's no surprise that more and more developers are looking to implement more sophisticated WebRTC-based solutions that they have greater control over.
While a company like Twilio, which offers one of the most popular end-to-end WebRTC solutions, could have chosen to keep the core infrastructure behind its solution to itself, it instead opted to take some of that infrastructure and turn it into a service that can serve segments of the market that aren't realistically going to use Twilio Client.
In doing so, Twilio has highlighted the fact that many platform companies that have invested heavily in building out important capabilities in support of their platforms may be able to develop new growth opportunities by unbundling some of the components of their platforms and offering them as services of their own.