People pining for Skype video calls directly in the browser have something to look forward to today, provided they use Outlook.com for their email. On Tuesday, Skype announced a preview of web support for its audio, video and instant messaging services in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome. The service is integrated directly with Outlook.com, making it easier to make and receive Skype calls directly from your inbox.
Skype is rolling out the new service Tuesday in the U.K., with the U.S. and Germany to follow in the coming weeks. Worldwide availability is expected over the next four to five months.
Being based in the U.S., I can’t test Skype over the web just yet, although I’d like to since I use a browser-based Chromebook Pixel as my full time computer. In the meantime then, I’ll have to be satisfied with this Skype demonstration video:
Note that in order to get Skype in Outlook.com you’ll have to install a browser plug-in. That tells me that Microsoft likely isn’t using the WebRTC protocol to enable Skype in the browser even though last year it signaled support for it. Firefox and Chrome already support WebRTC, which natively allows for audio and video calls in browsers without any plug-in required.
It would be nice to see Microsoft eventually open up Skype to browsers without requiring Outlook.com. I doubt it will; at least not for a long while. Kudos to Microsoft from a business perspective, however: it’s a smart play to make the company’s email service more attractive to the millions that already use Skype around the world..