Plugin-free video chat via WebRTC arrives in Chrome and Firefox

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WebRTC, the real-time communication framework that enables voice and video chat in the browser without the need for any plug-ins, is becoming more widely available to consumers. This week’s release of Chrome 23 comes with WebRTC on board, according to a post published Tuesday on the WebRTC blog. It reads, in part:

“It’s the biggest milestone yet… web developers can now offer Chrome users the ability to have live, high quality audio and video communication as part of their web experience.”

Google (s GOOG) has been a big champion of WebRTC, open sourcing key components of the technology and more recently adding it to the beta version of its Chrome web browser. By adding WebRTC to the stable version of Chrome, which will be downloaded by millions of consumers, Google signaled that the technology is getting ready for prime time.

WebRTC also got another boost this week when Mozilla announced that it started to include the framework in the nightly and Aurora (pre-beta) builds of its Firefox web browser. And the technology got some real-world validation when the freshly-acquired video chat platform provider Tokbox released OpenTok on WebRTC, enabling develpers to build WebRTC-based video chat applications that connect users on supported browsers with consumers using iOS (S AAPL) devices. And web video chat provider Bistri added to the momentum by rolling out WebRTC-based video calling.

However, WebRTC still has some challenges to overcome before it becomes a universally adopted real-time standard. Among the challenges is the selection of codecs. Google and Firefox would love to see WebM become the default codec of browser-based video communication, but Microsoft (s MSFT) is favoring a different approach that would leave it up to the individual developer to choose a codec, and Apple (s AAPL) has been completely absent from the table.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  Tsahi Levent-Levi.

13 Comments

YWorld

There’s so much potential with open source browser-to-browser conferencing that it’s hard to not take notice.

In a blog post, Yworld.com announced they’re backing WebRTC as the platform to build their free P2P video conferencing. For them, they say a big reason to go with WebRTC is it allows them to keep ads out of video chats.

Sarah Buhr

We’re implementing this technology at UberConference for those who would like the ability to use their browser for their conference calls. Really cool project! Check it out at http://www.uberconference.com

Sarah Buhr

We’re implementing this technology at UberConference for those who would like the ability to use their browser for their conference calls. Really cool project!

Roy Appfan

Without Apple and Microsoft’s blessing, WebRTC will be short lived.

Apple has Facetime and Microsoft has Skype. Google Talk is useless so that Google has to open source WebRTC to leverage developers to compete against Microsoft and Apple.

I am a fan of Apple.

mjgraves

Skype is already working on leveraging Webrtc within its software.

Caspy7

When Apple first announced Facetime and said it would be an open standard I was quite excited for the potential. I was looking forward to seeing the third-party market begin to bloom with apps on Windows, iOS & Android leveraging creative ideas & conference modes. But none of that happened (Facetime isn’t really open for one).
I’m often impressed by Apple’s creations, but sometimes their closed or overly controlling approach can serve to stifle or hamstring broader efforts. (It’s of interest that so many people have iPhones and have never even used Facetime.)
I’m not giving my personal guarantee of success, but calling it dead on arrival seems a bit of a stretch.
There are other efforts who, without Apple & Microsoft’s blessing, have proven disruptive and successful. As mjgraves mentioned, MS is not absent from the WebRTC party.
If the value proposition is compelling enough I think this has a good shot.
“No Ma, you don’t need to install anything. Just go to this link and I’ll meet you there.”

Roy Appfan

Time will tell that WebRTC will be indeed short lived… Please talk with Skype engineers and you will have a sense that Microsoft is working on its own version; At the end of the day, user care more about product experience rather than the so-called open source or no plug-in technology.

Hundreds of millions users installed Skype, Evernote and Dropbox. None of them need Chrome.

Tsahi Levent-Levi

Apple is irrelevant in the big picture here, and Microsoft is joining the fray even if a bit later.
For mobile devices, WebRTC is going to end up being wrapped inside SDKs that will be integrated in apps – the fact that Apple does or doesn’t add it to the browser isn’t going to hinder integration – just look at TokBox’ announcement this week about an iOS SDK for WebRTC.

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