The days of needing an app, add-on, or extension to make video calls in your browser are numbered. Google and Mozilla, the respective makers of Chrome and Firefox, just demonstrated a new development in HTML5's WebRTC protocol that lets people talk to each other using two different browsers and no third-party apps.
Currently only available in Chrome 25 beta and Firefox Nightly, the change in WebRTC comes thanks to the development work of several groups. These include members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), as well as engineers at Google and Mozilla.
Serge Lachapelle, Chrome product manager, and Maire Reavy, Firefox Media product lead, wrote in a joint blog post that the point of WebRTC is, "to provide a common platform for all user devices to communicate and share audio, video and data in real-time." They added that, "[t]his is a first step toward that vision of interoperability and true, open, real-time communication on the web."
As noted in a second joint blog post by Lachapelle and Reavy, to start playing around with the WebRTC demo site, you must first change settings in Firefox Nightly's about:config. Go to about:config, then set media.peerconnection.enabled preference to "true".
Interested developers can check out the code published in Mozilla's blog.
One interested party that's probably not as excited as Mozilla and Google are is Microsoft, which has been developing its own real-time communication protocol called CU-RTC-Web (Customizable, Ubiquitous Real-Time Communication). So far, Google has remained silent on CU-RTC-Web, but Mozilla told CNET's Stephen Shankland in no uncertain terms that they were not impressed.
When asked if it would be easier to adopt CU-RTC-Web than to rework the necessary standards at IETF to get WebRTC fully working, Todd Simpson, Mozilla's chief of innovation, said, "We do not believe so. WebRTC has growing support and awareness."