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Whats the latest on Microsoft, Lync, Skype and WebRTC / ORTC / Plugin-less Voice and Video

This question is coming up a lot lately, it’s been a hot topic in UC for a while. For those not following the detail, WebRTC/ORTC are the technologies that will allow a plugin less Real Time Media (Lync/Skype style) experience in the browser without any plugins.

The Quick Answers

I want to develop a browser based app with embedded Voice/Video/Desktop Sharing using Lync as a platform, how can I do that?

Today Lync Online/Lync Server has a UCWA (Unified Communications Web API). This supports the Lync Mobile and Web clients with a full feature set, but the Public API only exposes Instant Messaging and Presence to developers. Microsoft have committed to supporting Voice and Video with a JavaScript wrapper for UCWA in the future,  See the Lync Conference Keynote from 35 minutes for a demo.

Available today: UCWA API that supports Instant Messaging and Presence does not require a plugin.

Future Version adds Voice and Video support, will require a plugin.

Does Lync Support WebRTC?

Not today, the WebRTC / ORTC standard is not ratified yet, but Microsoft’s IE team and Skype Consumer team have public committed to including it in the future.

Will Lync/Skype for Business Support Plugin-less Voice and Video in the browser?

The Lync team are actively working with the IE team to support a plugin less media model in the future.

 I want to develop and app on iOS/Android and use with embedded Voice/Video/Desktop Sharing using Lync as a platform?

At 22 minutes and 35 seconds in, David Newman says in his Teched Session: “We provide you those today in JavaScript. We’ll shortly be providing some open source projects that are the same type of library but for iOS and for Android.” Also see here.

The WebRTC/ORTC Details:

WebRTC: WebRTC is a free, open project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple JavaScript APIs. The WebRTC components have been optimized to best serve this purpose. Proposed by the Web Real-Time Communications Working Group.

ORTC: Object RTC (ORTC) is a free, open project that enables mobile endpoints to talk to servers and web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via native and simple Javascript APIs. The Object RTC components are being optimized to best serve this purpose. Proposed by The ORTC CG (Object Real-time Communications Community Group), (Previously called ORCA: Object-RTC API Community Group).

ORTC is Microsoft’s favoured technology to bringing Real Time Communications to the browser.


Microsoft have committed to implementing the ORTC API for WebRTC in Internet Explorer 12

Microsoft have publically committed to building ORTC into Internet Explorer 12. Skype team have also committed to these efforts.  Favoured codecs are H.264 and Opus.

IE Roadmap site:



Lync UCWA (Unified Communications Web API)

UCWA is a REST API that exposes Lync Server 2013 Instant Messaging and Presence capabilities. This API is in the Lync Server supports the Lync Mobile clients and Lync Web App for IM/P Voice and Video.

Today the API only publically supports Instant Messaging and Presence. Microsoft have committed to UCWA having a public API for voice and video in the future.


image image


Live Demo of the UCWA API

Deep Dive into New Unified Communications Web API of Lync 2013

The Power of Lync and the Unified Communications Web API


Skype Consumer for Web

Browser based Skype consumer client, currently in beta.  Supporting Internet Explorer, Chrome on Windows, Firefox and Safari. Skype is also available in browser on, Currently using a plugin



Video Codecs:

H.264: H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10, Advanced Video Coding (MPEG-4 AVC) is a video compression format. Used today  between Skype and Lync (Skype for Business)

OpenH264: OpenH264 is an implementation of the H.264 video codec. It was released as open source by Cisco, who have paid royalties for it to the MPEG-LA. The idea behind the OpenH264 initiative is that by making it freely available, it gives H.264 more of a chance to become the mandatory to implement video codec in WebRTC.

H.265: is a video compression standard, a successor to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding

VP8: VP8 is a highly efficient video compression technology that was developed by On2 Technologies. Google acquired On2 in February, 2010.

VP9: The successor to VP8, proposed by Google for use in WebRTC.

Audio Codecs:

Opus: rfc6716 Open and royalty free audio compression format designed for internet environments, supports narrow and wideband, and is mandated by WebRTC. Skype also moving to support this codec 1,

SILK: A Skype/Microsoft Codec. Used today in Skype and between Skype and Lync (Skype for Business)

The codecs selected by Microsoft include H.264 and G.722 and at least for now preclude VP8. The inclusion of G.722 is surprising, and was either added for interconnecting to existing Lync/enterprise deployments with HD voice or to HD voice on cellular networks without the need for transcoding.

Sources/further Information:

ORTC API Update Presentation from Hookflash, Google and Microsoft

Microsoft, Google, Hookflash and others Co-Author Real-Time Communications Specification

ORTC Meeting Recordings

Performance Comparison of H.265/MPEG-HEVC, VP9, and H.264/MPEG-AVC Encoders

WebRTC Update from Google Developers

About the author

Tom Arbuthnot

A Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Certified Master, Tom Arbuthnot is Principal Solutions Architect at Microsoft Collaboration specialists Modality Systems.

Tom stays up to date with industry developments and shares news and his opinions on his blog, Microsoft Teams Podcast and email list. He is a regular speaker at events around the world.


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Tom Talks Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 Collaboration news and opinions