Firefox, Chrome Browsers Demo WebRTC Comms

The Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers are now offering the ability for their respective users to communicate for the first time via video chats, without the need for plug-ins.

The development, which has been in the works since last Autumn using WebRTC technologies, means users of either browser will be able to talk with each other via online video without having to take the time to install plug-ins or configure their chats.

Web Communication

The early success of the project was announced in a 4 February post by Maire Reavy, Firefox’s media product lead, and Serge Lachapelle, Google’s Chrome product manager, on The Chromium Blog.

“In order to succeed, a Web-based communications platform needs to work across browsers,” wrote Reavy and Lachapelle. “Thanks to the work and participation of the W3C and IETF communities in developing the platform, Chrome and Firefox can now communicate by using standard technologies such as the Opus and VP8 codecs for audio and video, DTLS-SRTP for encryption and ICE for networking.”

WebRTC was used for the project because it delivers high-quality voice, high-definition (HD) video and low-delay communication to Web browsers, according to the post.

“From the very beginning, this joint WebRTC effort was embraced by the open Web community, including engineers from the Chrome and Firefox teams,” wrote Reavy and Lachapelle. “The common goal was to help developers offer rich, secure communications, integrated directly into their Web applications.”

The new capabilities are not yet built into the latest Chrome and Firefox browsers, but can be tested out by users and developers. To try the new capabilities, users must use the desktop Chrome 25 Beta and Firefox Nightly for Desktop. “In Firefox, you’ll need to go to about:config and set the media.peerconnection.enabled pref to ‘true.’ Then head over to the WebRTC demo site and start calling,” according to the post.

Developers who want to know more about including these Chrome to Firefox communications capabilities can get the source code for the AppRTC demo, as well as get access to a library that makes writing cross-browser WebRTC apps easy, according to the post.

WebRTC Demo

The connection between the two browsers is made possible by the WebRTC RTCPeerConnection protocol, according to a 4 February post on the Mozilla Hacks Blog by Firefox’s Reavy and Robert Nyman, editor of Mozilla Hacks.

RTCPeerConnection interoperability “means that developers can now create Firefox WebRTC applications that make direct audio/video calls to Chrome WebRTC applications without having to install a third-party plug-in,” they wrote. “Because the functionality is now baked into the browser, users can avoid problems with first-time installs and buggy plug-ins, and developers can deploy their apps much more easily and universally.”

A demonstration call using the technology is featured on YouTube between representatives of Firefox and Chrome.

WebRTC capabilities were first added to the Chrome browser in July 2012 as part of Chrome 21 with the inclusion of a new getUserMedia API that allowed users to grant Web apps access to cameras and microphones without a plug-in. The getUserMedia API was the first step in WebRTC, which is a real-time communications standard that aims to allow high-quality video and audio communication on the Web.

In January, Google announced that it is working to add voice command capabilities to a beta version of its Chrome browser. The nascent new feature is included in the latest Chrome 25 browser beta release. The new beta voice capabilities in Chrome come through the inclusion of the Web Speech API for developers.

Chrome leads Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser in global share, according to the latest December 2012 statistics from Chrome holds 29.4 percent of the market, compared with IE’s 27.8 percent share. Mozilla Firefox trailed with 20.1 percent, followed by Apple Safari at 14.8 percent and Opera at 2.5 percent.

The Chrome browser, which celebrated its fourth birthday in September 2012, took on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and the rest.

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Originally published on eWeek.

Todd R. Weiss

Freelance Technology Reporter for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

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