WebRTC basics

This page is not complete.

Once you understand the WebRTC architecture, you can read this article, which takes you through the creation of a cross-browser RTC app. By the end of it you should have working peer-to-peer data channels and media transfer.

Semi-old content, from RTCPeerConnection

The material here comes from RTCPeerConnection; it may remain here, or it may go elsewhere. But it didn't belong on that page. While I work on sorting that page out, it will sit here, until I know where it belongs for real.

Basic usage

Basic RTCPeerConnection usage involves negotiating a connection between your local machine and a remote one by generating Session Description Protocol to exchange between the two. The caller starts the process by sending an offer to the remote device, which responds by either accepting or rejecting the connection request.

Both parties (the caller and the called party) need to set up their own RTCPeerConnection instances to represent their end of the peer-to-peer connection:

var pc = new RTCPeerConnection();
pc.onaddstream = function(obj) {
  var vid = document.createElement("video");
  vid.srcObject = obj.stream;

// Helper functions
function endCall() {
  var videos = document.getElementsByTagName("video");
  for (var i = 0; i < videos.length; i++) {

  pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#close()">close</a>();

function error(err) {

Initializing the call

If you are the one initiating the call, you would use navigator.getUserMedia() to get a video stream, then add the stream to the RTCPeerConnection. Once that's been done, call RTCPeerConnection.createOffer() to create an offer, configure the offer, then send it to the server through which the connection is being mediated.

// Get a list of friends from a server
// User selects a friend to start a peer connection with
navigator.getUserMedia({video: true}, function(stream) {
  // Adding a local stream won't trigger the onaddstream callback,
  // so call it manually.
  pc.onaddstream = e => video.src = URL.createObjectURL(e.stream);
  pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#addStream()">addStream</a>(stream);

  pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#createOffer()">createOffer</a>(function(offer) {
    pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#setLocalDescription()">setLocalDescription</a>(offer, function() {
      // send the offer to a server to be forwarded to the friend you're calling.
    }, error);
  }, error);

Answering a call

On the opposite end, the friend will receive the offer from the server using whatever protocol is being used to do so. Once the offer arrives, navigator.getUserMedia() is once again used to create the stream, which is added to the RTCPeerConnection. An RTCSessionDescription object is created and set up as the remote description by calling RTCPeerConnection.setRemoteDescription().

Then an answer is created using RTCPeerConnection.createAnswer() and sent back to the server, which forwards it to the caller.

var offer = getOfferFromFriend();
navigator.getUserMedia({video: true}, function(stream) {
  pc.onaddstream = e => video.src = URL.createObjectURL(e.stream);
  pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#addStream()">addStream</a>(stream);

  pc.setRemoteDescription(new RTCSessionDescription(offer), function() {
    pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#createAnswer()">createAnswer</a>(function(answer) {
      pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#setLocalDescription()">setLocalDescription</a>(answer, function() {
        // send the answer to a server to be forwarded back to the caller (you)
      }, error);
    }, error);
  }, error);

Handling the answer

Back on the original machine, the response is received. Once that happens, call RTCPeerConnection.setRemoteDescription() to set the response as the remote end of the connection.

// pc was set up earlier when we made the original offer
var offer = getResponseFromFriend();
pc.<a href="dom/webrtc_api/webrtc_basics#createAnswer()">setRemoteDescription</a>(new RTCSessionDescription(offer), function() { }, error);

Old content follows!

Everything below this point is potentially obsolete. It is still here pending review and possible integration into other parts of the documentation where still valid.

Don't use the samples on this page. See the article Signaling and video calling for a working, up-to-date example of using WebRTC media.


Due to recent changes in the API there are many old examples that require fixing:

The currently working example is:

Implementation may be inferred from the specification.

This remainder of this page contains outdated information as noted on bugzilla.


As you can imagine, with such an early API, you must use the browser prefixes and shim it to a common variable.

var RTCPeerConnection = window.mozRTCPeerConnection || window.webkitRTCPeerConnection;
var IceCandidate = window.mozRTCIceCandidate || window.RTCIceCandidate;
var SessionDescription = window.mozRTCSessionDescription || window.RTCSessionDescription;
navigator.getUserMedia = navigator.getUserMedia || navigator.mozGetUserMedia || navigator.webkitGetUserMedia;


This is the starting point to creating a connection with a peer. It accepts configuration options about ICE servers to use to establish a connection.

var pc = new RTCPeerConnection(configuration);


The RTCConfiguration object contains information about which TURN and/or STUN servers to use for ICE. This is required to ensure most users can actually create a connection by avoiding restrictions in NAT and firewalls.

var configuration = {
    iceServers: [
        {urls: "stun:"},
        {urls: "stun:stun.l.google.com:19302"},
        {urls: "turn:numb.viagenie.ca", credential: "webrtcdemo", username: "louis%40mozilla.com"}

Google runs a public STUN server that we can use. I also created an account at http://numb.viagenie.ca/ for a free TURN server to access. You may want to do the same and replace with your own credentials.



After creating the PeerConnection and passing in the available STUN and TURN servers, an event will be fired once the ICE framework has found some “candidates” that will allow you to connect with a peer. This is known as an ICE Candidate and will execute a callback function on PeerConnection#onicecandidate.

pc.onicecandidate = function (e) {
    // candidate exists in e.candidate
    if (!e.candidate) return;
    send("icecandidate", JSON.stringify(e.candidate));

When the callback is executed, we must use the signal channel to send the Candidate to the peer. On Chrome, multiple ICE candidates are usually found, we only need one so I typically send the first one then remove the handler. Firefox includes the Candidate in the Offer SDP.

Signal Channel

Now that we have an ICE candidate, we need to send that to our peer so they know how to connect with us. However this leaves us with a chicken and egg situation; we want PeerConnection to send data to a peer but before that we need to send them metadata…

This is where the signal channel comes in. It’s any method of data transport that allows two peers to exchange information. In this article, we’re going to use FireBase because it’s incredibly easy to setup and doesn't require any hosting or server-code.

For now just imagine two methods exist: send() will take a key and assign data to it and recv() will call a handler when a key has a value.

The structure of the database will look like this:

    "": {
        "candidate:": …
        "offer": …
        "answer": … 

Connections are divided by a roomId and will store 4 pieces of information, the ICE candidate from the offerer, the ICE candidate from the answerer, the offer SDP and the answer SDP.


An Offer SDP (Session Description Protocol) is metadata that describes to the other peer the format to expect (video, formats, codecs, encryption, resolution, size, etc etc).

An exchange requires an offer from a peer, then the other peer must receive the offer and provide back an answer.

pc.createOffer(function (offer) {
    pc.setLocalDescription(offer, function() {
        send("offer", JSON.stringify(pc.localDescription);
    }, errorHandler);
}, errorHandler, options);


If there was an issue generating an offer, this method will be executed with error details as the first argument.

var errorHandler = function (err) {

Options for the offer SDP.

var options = {
    offerToReceiveAudio: true,
    offerToReceiveVideo: true

offerToReceiveAudio/Video tells the other peer that you would like to receive video or audio from them. This is not needed for DataChannels.

Once the offer has been generated we must set the local SDP to the new offer and send it through the signal channel to the other peer and await their Answer SDP.


An Answer SDP is just like an offer but a response; sort of like answering the phone. We can only generate an answer once we have received an offer.

recv("offer", function (offer) {
    offer = new SessionDescription(JSON.parse(offer))

    pc.createAnswer(function (answer) {
        pc.setLocalDescription(answer, function() {
            send("answer", JSON.stringify(pc.localDescription));
        }, errorHandler);
    }, errorHandler);


I will first explain how to use PeerConnection for the DataChannels API and transferring arbitrary data between peers.

Note: At the time of this article, interoperability between Chrome and Firefox is not possible with DataChannels. Chrome supports a similar but private protocol and will be supporting the standard protocol soon.

var channel = pc.createDataChannel(channelName, channelOptions);

The offerer should be the peer who creates the channel. The answerer will receive the channel in the callback ondatachannel on PeerConnection. You must call createDataChannel() once before creating the offer.


This is a string that acts as a label for your channel name. Warning: Make sure your channel name has no spaces or Chrome will fail on createAnswer().


var channelOptions = {};

Currently these options are not well supported on Chrome so you can leave this empty for now. Check the RFC for more information about the options.

Channel Events and Methods


Executed when the connection is established.


Executed if there is an error creating the connection. First argument is an error object.

channel.onerror = function (err) {
    console.error("Channel Error:", err);
channel.onmessage = function (e) {
    console.log("Got message:", e.data);

The heart of the connection. When you receive a message, this method will execute. The first argument is an event object which contains the data, time received and other information.


Executed if the other peer closes the connection.

Binding the Events

If you were the creator of the channel (meaning the offerer), you can bind events directly to the DataChannel you created with createChannel. If you are the answerer, you must use the ondatachannel callback on PeerConnection to access the same channel.

pc.ondatachannel = function (e) {
    e.channel.onmessage = function () { … };

The channel is available in the event object passed into the handler as e.channel.

channel.send("Hi Peer!");

This method allows you to send data directly to the peer! Amazing. You must send either String, Blob, ArrayBuffer or ArrayBufferView, so be sure to stringify objects.


Close the channel once the connection should end. It is recommended to do this on page unload.


Now we will cover transmitting media such as audio and video. To display the video and audio you must include a <video> tag on the document with the attribute autoplay.

Get User Media

<video id="preview" autoplay></video>
var video = document.getElementById("preview");
navigator.getUserMedia(constraints, function (stream) {
    video.src = URL.createObjectURL(stream);
}, errorHandler);


Constraints on what media types you want to return from the user.

var constraints = {
    video: true,
    audio: true

If you just want an audio chat, remove the video member.


Executed if there is an error returning the requested media.

Media Events and Methods


Add the stream from getUserMedia to the PeerConnection.

<video id="otherPeer" autoplay></video>
var otherPeer = document.getElementById("otherPeer");
pc.onaddstream = function (e) {
    otherPeer.src = URL.createObjectURL(e.stream);

Executed when the connection has been setup and the other peer has added the stream to the peer connection with addStream. You need another <video> tag to display the other peer's media.

The first argument is an event object with the other peer's media stream.


© 2016 Mozilla Contributors
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License v2.5 or later.

Advanced Draft Guide NeedsUpdate WebRTC