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Zoom on Web: WebAssembly SIMD, WebTransport, and WebCodecs

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At the recent live event, Google V8 product manager Thomas Nattestad explained some of the proposed additions to the web to support Zoom and other video conferencing features within the web browser.

Nattestad explains that WebRTC was standardized nearly ten years ago and provides a full-stack solution for video conferencing in all evergreen browsers. Unfortunately, WebRTC has limitations, and many services like Zoom would benefit from low-level access to various APIs.

Three emerging APIs intend to support the features of today's video conferencing solutions within web browsers. These APIs are not yet finalized and are still under active design.

WebAssembly SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) provides a portable, performant subset of SIMD operations available across most modern architectures. Compute-intensive applications like audio/video codecs and image processors typically leverage SIMD outside of web browsers. An example within Zoom is replacing the user's real background with a virtual background.

Chrome 84 introduces an origin trial for SIMD, allowing developers to test features with production users without shipping them to all Chrome users.

WebTransport is a WICG proposal with some similarities to WebSockets but supports multiple, cancellable streams compared to a single stream within a WebSocket. WebTransport provides bidirectional transport through both unreliable datagrams and reliable streams-based mechanisms.

Finally, the emerging WebCodecs API provides direct access for developers to leverage codecs already available in browsers to encode or recode streams and signals. Previously, developers would need to ship the codec as part of their JavaScript or WebAssembly codebase if they wanted to have control over the codec experience.

While browser-based video conferencing solutions do not have full feature parity with desktop clients, these APIs have the potential to eliminate obstacles in creating browser-based video clients of the same quality as desktop clients.

Watch the full Zoom on Web video for more information about these emerging APIs for browser-based videoconferencing.

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