RTC (Real-Time Communication) at scale

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2021-09-25 02:30:06

I recently did an internship at Facebook where I was part of the RTC (Real-Time Communications) org, responsible for the products and infrastructure powering voice/video calling across Facebook’s family of apps (such as Messenger and Instagram). My team was responsible for the P2P and multiway calling protocols, including lower-level services written in C++ and platform integrating with partner teams in PHP.

This post discusses and analyzes different protocols and technologies used in real-time communication systems by social media platforms. Real-time communication typically involves both a signaling and media stack. During signaling, actions are performed, such as ringing and hanging up, which often need to be relayed to users in an efficient manner. Similarly, media involves the encoding, relay and encryption of a stream of data, which includes audio and/or video. This post primarily focuses on a high-level overview of the different stacks, along with open-source protocols defined for use in this context. In addition, this post discusses different algorithms that are applied for media streaming, in the context of codecs and the perspective of performance.

The objective of this post it to raise familiarity with the challenges associated with real-time communications, and how different companies tackled problems related to it. In particular, this post focuses on the signaling and media streaming aspects, and not on underlying infrastructure details such as ensuring durability or reliability of hardware.

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