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Chrome and Firefox phone in to P2P in-browser video chat standard

Elliot Bentley
firefox-and-chrome1

Browser devs show off the power of WebRTC, a “Skype-killing” new standard, in a cross-browser video call.

Google and
Mozilla have shown off a new browser-based peer-to-peer video chat
capability developed as the result of a joint effort between their
engineers.

The native P2P video functionality is part of the new WebRTC
standard which, though still in development, has advanced to the
point to allow communication between browsers by different
vendors.

To celebrate, twin blog posts were released by the Chromium team
and on Firefox Hacks, titled “Hello
Firefox, this is Chrome calling!”
and
“Hello Chrome, it’s Firefox calling!”
. Both include a slightly
goofy video demonstrating WebRTC in action in a conversation
between Mozilla’s Chief Innovation Officer, Todd Simpson, and
Google’s Director of Product Management, Hugh Finnan.

WebRTC

Currently, only desktop Chrome 25
Beta
and Firefox Nightly
for Desktop
currently support the video chat demo, the source code
of which is available on
Google Code
.

It’s a warm and fuzzy publicity coup for both organisations, but
also a testament to the groundbreaking capabilities being baked
into modern browsers and the successful adoption of open web
standards. On the Chromium blog, Lachapelle writes:

In order to succeed, a web-based communications platform needs
to work across browsers. 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.

The WebRTC standard has been shown off before: Last November,

Mozilla demonstrated a similar demo
that incorporated Firefox’s
social API, allowing immediate sharing of links and files with
another person (albeit not between different types of
browser).

However, the standard defines more than just video calls: the
Data
Channel API
within the WebRTC specification allows data of any
kind to be transferred directly between browsers, not just audio
and video.

Hacker News user Huon Wilson wrote of the potential of Data
Channels
: “This gives multiplayer games, file transfers,
realtime chat and collaborative editors (let your imagination run
wild…) and the only thing a server is required for is
establishing the connection (and saving state).”

These are still far off in the future, although the idea of a
native browser-based “Skype-killer” has just become one step closer
to reality.

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