grencez.dev

WebRTC text chat without a signalling or TURN server

Date: 2020-06-14

Demo: main.html

View main.html and main.js on GitHub.

Even though WebRTC is touted as peer-to-peer for the web, most tutorials say you also need a STUN server, a signalling server, and a TURN server. Well you do need a STUN server to figure out your own connection info, but plenty of them are available for anyone to use (e.g., the demo above usesstun:stun.l.google.com:19302). But what about signalling and TURN?

Signalling is essential for usability. For example, open the demo page. Before actually connecting with each other, you have to give your friend a WebRTC offer and they have to give you back a WebRTC answer. The most basic signalling server would provide a channel for this exchange, where you might both connect to it with the same key (e.g., meeting code). Signalling is also where a server can collect/present persistent data. True P2P applications only need a rendezvous point, so I’m somewhat surprised that there isn’t a standard for it (at least not for WebRTC). To that end, I’ll rewrite this demo to use a swapping rendezvous server in a future article.

TURN is a fallback for when the P2P connections fail. Personally, I’d prefer some apps to just fail, but I can imagine that most companies favor reliability.