Where are the Peer-to-Peer web apps?

Perhaps the reason we have not seen single-page html applications that connect directly to peers without an intermediate server is that browsers cannot easily listen on a local port. They can open outgoing connections all day long, but WebRTC may be the first web standard that allows the browser to listen on a port. If there are others, please let me know.

Of course, the WebRTC spec looks overly complicated for the incredibly simple thing I want to do. I just want the browser to be able to listen on a port like any other process on the machine can. Sure, there are security implications, but these exist for everything the browser exposes to web applications, and there's an entire class of Peer-to-Peer web apps that simply cannot easily be written using current web technologies.

There are many examples of a Peer-to-Peer experience being delivered to users using a client-server architecture. ChatRoulette, Omegle, and even more recently, products like Google Hangouts. These applications must be implemented by using servers in the middle to connect the peers, making scaling them much harder than it would be if browsers could just listen.

There is an opportunity to explore a generic Client-Agent-Peer architecture, where Clients (Browsers) talk to an Agent server using HTTP to configure the state of the Agent, which would then be contacted by the Peer on behalf of the Client when the Browser is not online. When the Browser is online, the Agent can refer the Peer directly to the Client. When the Browser is offline, the Agent can handle the request itself using a cached copy of the material the Browser was sharing, or it can just decline to fulfill the request.

Reverse HTTP was my attempt to push out the simplest thing that could possibly work to get browsers to talk to each other. It didn't really go anywhere in terms of being implemented in actual browsers. Coincidentally, someone else had the same idea around the same time, and implemented Reverse HTTP in terms of actual HTTP Requests encoded in Responses, and vice versa. This makes it possible to write a pure javascript client rather than needing the browser to support the Upgrade protocol itself.

Really, though, it would be very nice if all of the hacks and tricks and workarounds weren't necessary, and I could just listen on a port with javascript. I'll keep dreaming.