Skype Has A New Competitor And It’s Called ‘Google Chrome’!

by Gaurav Kheterpal on June 23, 2011

One has to feel for Microsoft. It ended up paying a fortune to gobble up Skype and since then, nothing has gone as per plan. Skype outages have become a norm rather than an exception. Skype protocol has been cracked through reverse engineering and published as an open source project.

However, Microsoft would still find solace in the fact that Skype is the ‘Big Daddy of Internet Telephony‘ despite a plethora of other similar web-based calling services. The bad news – it will soon be challenged by Google Chrome that will have voice and video chat functionality built right in, removing the need for third-party plugins and downloads.

To make things even more interesting, Google has made WebRTC open source and it can be used in other browsers such as Firefox and Opera for free. So, essentially anyone can now build a VoIP-enabled web application that would work just as well on all leading browsers. Does Skype need to feel threatened? Though it’s still early days, the prospects of ‘In-browser VoIP’ seem fascinating.

WebRTC was originally introduced back in May and originated from Google’s 2010 acquisition of Global IP Solutions (GIPS). The project is backed by Google, Mozilla, and Opera and aims to provide real-time communication (RTC) with JavaScript APIs. It uses two audio codecs that it inherited via the GIPS acquisition. Video is handled via the open-source VP8 codec.

It’s interesting to note that Gmail already offers audio/ video calling capabilities. Now, Google is pitching hard to get WebRTC adopted as a Web standard, potentially making it a universal platform for Web-based real-time communications. In-browser VoIP can open up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities for third-party integration and development of all kinds of new chat services and apps. It eliminates the need to install browser plug-ins and desktop applications for audio/ video conversation.

“Our goal is to enable Chrome with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs,” Henrik Andreasson, Google GIPS programmer wrote in a Chromium Developer blog post. “We are working hard to provide full RTC support in Chrome all the way from WebKit down to the native audio and video parts. When we are done, any web developer shall be able to create RTC applications, like the Google Talk client in Gmail, without using any plugins but only WebRTC components that runs in the sandbox.”

Google has always been an active proponent of the do-it-the-web-way and the WebRTC project is yet another testimony to that approach. Of course, it’s still early days and it remains to be seen whether Google can match (or better) the Skype-like user experience through WebRTC. Google says it won’t charge for use of the technology. The WebRTC code can be accessed here.

Do you think In-browser VoIP can match the user experience and performance of Skype and other VoIP-enabled applications? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment below this post.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby: RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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