Right now, a bunch of nerds on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in Vancouver are making big decisions about the next big wave in web communications standards. And these decisions will have a big impact on some of the largest technology companies, for many years to come.

Real Time Communication

The IETF is hashing out some of the final details of WebRTC, the standard that will enable real time video calling in a web browser, among other things. This includes a decision on a controversial video codec standard, which has flared up in a skirmish between Cisco and Google.

WebRTC stands for Web Real Time Communication (RTC). When it's finalized and starts to be deployed over the next year it will affect nearly all of the technology giants, including Apple, Cisco, Google and Microsoft, among many others. It includes a lot of features, but the headline item will be enabling you to make real time voice and video calls from a web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox Mozilla. See ya, Skype?

Because deploying real time video and voice calling software in web browsers will have the effect of democratizing and expanding real time voice and video calling in standard web software, the politics are already red hot. Not only does this threaten proprietary platforms such as Skype and Apple's FaceTime, but it opens up the potential for a whole new generation of open collaboration tools to be built into a web browser.

For this reason, many technology firms are lining up with strong opinions — or are at least a little nervous — about WebRTC. Google and Mozilla really like it. Cisco kind of likes it. Microsoft isn't really sure it likes it at all and Apple has been pretty much silent.

The Old and the New

This week's IETF meeting is expected to decide which video codec to include in the WebRTC standard — the older, but more legacy-friendly H.264 backed by Cisco or the more aggressive, Google-favored VP8. This is symbolic of the huge technology implications that WebRTC for large technology companies as it is deployed in the next year.