RTCQuicTransport Coming to an Origin Trial Near You (Chrome 73)

What?

The RTCQuicTransport is a new web platform API that allows exchanging arbitrary data with remote peers using the QUIC protocol. It’s intended for peer to peer use cases, and therefore is used with a standalone RTCIceTransport API to establish a peer-to-peer connection through ICE. The data is transported reliably and in order (see section below for details on unordered & unreliable delivery). Since it is a generic, bidirectional data transport, it can be used for gaming, file transfers, media transport, messaging, etc.

Why?

A powerful low level data transport API can enable applications (like real time communications) to do new things on the web. You can build on top of the API, creating your own solutions, pushing the limits of what can be done with peer to peer connections, for example, unlocking custom bitrate allocation knobs. In the future, further support for encoded media could even enable building your own video communication application with low level controls. WebRTC’s NV effort is to move towards lower level APIs, and experimenting early with this is valuable.

Why QUIC?

The QUIC protocol is desirable for real time communications. It is built on top of UDP, has built in encryption, congestion control and is multiplexed without head of line blocking. The RTCQuicTransport gives very similar abilities as the RTCDataChannel API, but uses QUIC rather than SCTP as its transport protocol. Because the RTCQuicTransport is a standalone API, it doesn’t have the overhead of the RTCPeerConnection API, which includes the real time media stack.

How?

General API overview

The API has 3 main abstractions, the RTCIceTransport, RTCQuicTransport and RTCQuicStream.

RTCQuicTransport diagram showing architecture of API

RTCIceTransport

ICE is a protocol to establish peer-to-peer connections over the internet and is used in WebRTC today. This object provides a standalone API to establishes an ICE connection. It is used as the packet transport for the QUIC connection, and the RTCQuicTransport takes it in its constructor.

RTCQuicTransport

Represents a QUIC connection. It is used to establish a QUIC connection and create QUIC streams. It also exposes relevant stats for the QUIC connection level.

RTCQuicStream

Used for reading and writing data to/from the remote side. Streams transport data reliably and in order. Multiple streams can be created from the same RTCQuicTransport and once data is written to a stream it fires an “onquicstream” event on the remote transport. Streams offer a way to distinguish different data on the same QUIC connection. Common examples can be sending separate files across separate streams, small chunks of data across different streams, or different types of media across separate streams. RTCQuicStreams are lightweight, are multiplexed over a QUIC connection and do not cause head of line blocking to other RTCQuicStreams.

Connection Setup

The following is an example for setting up a peer-to-peer QUIC connection. Like RTCPeerConnection, the RTCQuicTransport API requires the use of a secure signaling channel to negotiate the parameters of the connection, including its security parameters. The RTCIceTransport negotiates it’s ICE parameters (ufrag and password), as well as RTCIceCandidates.

RTCQuicTransport diagram showing architecture of API

Client perspective:

const iceTransport = new RTCIceTransport();
const quicTransport = new RTCQuicTransport(iceTransport);
// Signal parameters, key and candidates.
signalingChannel.send({
  iceParams: iceTransport.getLocalParameters(),
  quicKey: quicTransport.getKey(),
});
iceTransport.onicecandidate = e => {
  if (e.candidate) {
    signalingChannel.send({candidate: e.candidate} );
  }
}

// When remote parameters are signaled, start connection.
signalingChannel.onMessage = async ({iceParams, candidate}) => {
  if (iceParams) {
    iceTransport.start(iceParams);
    quicTransport.connect();
  } else if (candidate) {
    iceTransport.addRemoteCandidate(candidate);
  }
};

Server perspective:

const iceTransport = new RTCIceTransport();
const quicTransport = new RTCQuicTransport(iceTransport);
// Signal parameters, key and candidates.
signalingChannel.send({
  iceParams: iceTransport.getLocalParameters(),
});
iceTransport.onicecandidate = e => {
  if (e.candidate) {
    signalingChannel.send({candidate: e.candidate});
  }
}

// When remote parameters are signaled, start connection.
signalingChannel.onMessage = async ({iceParams, quicKey, candidate}) => {
  if (iceParams && quicKey) {
    iceTransport.start(iceParams);
    quicTransport.listen(quicKey);
  } else if (candidate) {
    iceTransport.addRemoteCandidate(candidate);
  }
};

Data Transfer

Data transfer can be achieved using the RTCQuicStream APIs for reading and writing:

RTCQuicStreamReadResult readInto(Uint8Array data);
void write(RTCQuicStreamWriteParameters data);
Promise<void> waitForWriteBufferedAmountBelow(unsigned long amount);
Promise<void> waitForReadable(unsigned long amount);

Buffering

The promises returned by the waitFor* methods allow buffering data when JavaScript is busy. Back pressure is applied to the send side when the read buffer becomes full on the receive side. The send side has a write buffer that can fill when back pressure has been applied, and therefore the write side has a waitForWriteBufferedAmountBelow method as well to allow waiting for room in the buffer to write. More information on writing/reading data can be found in the further developer documentation.

Unordered/Unreliable Delivery

While an RTCQuicStream only supports sending data reliably and in order, unreliable/unordered delivery can be achieved through other means. For unordered delivery, one can send small chunks of data on separate streams because data is not ordered between streams. For unreliable delivery, one can send small chunks of data with finish set to true, followed by calling reset() on the stream after a timeout. The timeout should be dependent on how many retransmissions are desired before dropping the data.

When?

The origin trial will start in the Chrome 73 version, and will be available up to and including the M75 version. After this the origin trial will end. Based upon feedback and interest we will make appropriate changes and either ship the API, continue with a new origin trial of this API, or discontinue the API.

Where?

Chrome browser in all platforms but iOS.

What else?

Feedback

One of the main goals of the origin trial is to get feedback from you, the developers. We’re interested in:

  • What does this API enable for you?
  • How does this API improve upon other data transport APIs (WebSockets or WebRTC’s RTCDataChannel)? How could it improve?
  • Performance
  • API ergonomics

Register for the origin trial

  1. Request a token for your origin.
  2. Add the token to your pages, there are two ways to provide this token on any pages in your origin:
    • Add an origin-trial <meta> tag to the head of any page. For example, this may look something like: <meta http-equiv="origin-trial" content="TOKEN_GOES_HERE">
    • If you can configure your server, you can also provide the token on pages using an Origin-Trial HTTP header. The resulting response header should look something like: Origin-Trial: TOKEN_GOES_HERE

Web Specification

The draft specification has moved ahead of the API in the origin trial including:

  • Unidirectional streams that are more closely aligned with WHATWG streams
  • Disabling retransmissions
  • (Coming soon) datagrams

We are interested in implementing the full specification and beyond (including WHATWG stream support), but want to hear your feedback first!

Security

Security in the QUIC handshake is enforced through usage of a pre shared key to establish an encrypted P2P QUIC connection. This key needs to be signaled over a secure out of band channel with confidentiality and integrity guarantees. Note that the key will be exposed to JavaScript.

Active Attack

Unlike DTLS-SRTP, which just requires integrity for signaling the certificate fingerprint, signaling the pre shared key requires integrity and confidentiality. If the PSK is compromised (say by the server in the signaling channel), an active attacker could potentially mount a man-in-the-middle attack against the QUIC handshake.

Current status

Step Status
1. Create explainer Complete
2a. RTCQuicTransport Specification In Progress
2b. RTCIceTransport Specification In Progress
3. Gather feedback & iterate on design In Progress
4. Origin trial Starts in Chrome 73!
5. Launch Not started

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