It’s Not Witchcraft #1: How Video Calls Work—In Five Minutes

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Hello, and welcome to the It’s Not Witchcraft Series! Here, we fight that natural Ghanaian urge to call mind-blowing technology witchcraft. Although it does seem like voodoo magic sometimes. Instead, we get into how the technology works in way that doesn’t require a science degree to understand. On this week’s read, we are going to answer a very important question the King of Ghanaian Rap himself, Sarkodie asked.

How The F*** Are we Able To Talk On the Phone?

—Sarkodie (Brown Paper Bag).

So, How Do Video Calls Work?

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To understand how video calls work, first of all, we need to know what the internet is. Yes, the internet does mean memes and banter and pornography and Donald Trump’s Twitter account. But beyond all of that, there is a basic technical structure. Let’s oversimplify a bit.

When you connect a USB drive into your computer, you are able to access the folders on that USB drive. When you connect your computer to another computer, you can access the folders on that computer. That’s the internet. It’s the connection of computers all over the world.

The tweet that you’re reading on your phone, the pictures that you’re thirsting over on Instagram, they are all sent from one person’s computer (phone counts) to a public computer (server), which you can also go into and browse it’s folders. Obviously, there’s a lot of other stuff at work, but for our purposes, at least we’ve clarified that it’s not witchcraft.

Peer To Peer Connection

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

So, a video call is very similar to you taking a video with your phone, copying it onto a USB, and giving that USB to a friend. Then your friend plays the video and records one back for you.

In real life though, a peer to peer connection is established between your two devices. So, no need for the USB. Your video goes straight to their device and their video comes straight to yours. The reason that there is no lag, and you get their video as soon as their camera has taken it is because of WebRTC. It enables real-time communication. We’re not going to go into that right now, but you can look it up if you want to do some extra reading.

Did we manage to convince you that video calls are not witchcraft? What else do you want us to cover that seems like it’s definitely witchcraft? Leave a comment below.



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