Firefox WebRTC Adoption

Browsers with WebRTC
Browsers with WebRTC

The Lure of WebRTC

Real-time communication involving voice, video or audio chat - along with related applications like group messaging, conference calling etc. - is one of the most popular category of services on the Internet. However, most such services are self-contained, walled gardens whose walls cannot be breached by users. Skype users can only call other users on the same service and the same applies to practically every other chat service, whether it is a web app or native software.

Enabling real-time communication within browsers without the need to download additional software or plug-ins has long been the dream for many consumers and programmers alike. In order to reach this objective, Google open sourced a project called WebRTC in 2011 which is currently being developed and standardized to provide true cross-platform RTC capabilities for end-users. Though it is a slow process, once WebRTC is integrated into all browsers, a user will be able to connect with anyone else using just a browser, camera and microphone.

Browser Support

Chrome and Firefox - two of the most popular browsers on the planet - already have support for WebRTC in their latest versions. Though they do include WebRTC support, neither browser offers a service which users can take advantage of to place audio/video calls. Nevertheless that is all set to change with Mozilla announcing that they have partnered with another company to offer a new communication service through Firefox.

In the announcement, the company warned that the feature is not yet polished and still in the experimental stage. In accordance with its experimental tag, the code is available in the nightly builds of the software. The nightly builds are generally not meant to be used by the public. Instead, developers are encouraged to test out new features through this channel. The new RTC service will be powered by the OpenTok video and audio platform, developed by a company called TokBox. TokBox has been very active within the WebRTC community, providing early support to the emerging standard.

Using WebRTC in the Future

Even though the service is not yet feature complete, it represents an important step in the road towards full WebRTC standardization. Users will be able to place an audio or video call without the need to download additional plug-ins. The company also reiterated its commitment to bringing this feature to all versions of its browser eventually regardless of the environment/device. It won’t be long before more developers integrate WebRTC capabilities into their applications so that browser-based RTC can finally become reality.

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