Google Building Skype-like App in the Browser

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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Google Building Skype-like App in the Browser

Look out out Skype, Google Chrome is looking to add voice & video capabilities to the Google Chrome browser. Shortly after releasing WebRTC audio and video chat software as open-source, Google has begun to integrate WebRTC into Google Chrome. They're leveraging Global IP Solutions (GIPS) for the VoIP and video codec pieces. As you know, GIPS used to be the packet loss concealment and VoIP codec used by Skype before Skype dropped them in 2006. Google acquired GIPS in May of 2010.

Gmail currently has audio and video capabilities but it requires the use of a proprietary plug-in, so it can benefit from this as well. With open source WebRTC, Google hopes "to make the browser the home for innovation in real time communications". They added, "With WebRTC, we are open sourcing the voice and video engine technologies from our acquisition of GIPS, giving developers access to state of the art signal processing technology, under a royalty free BSD style license. This will allow developers to create voice and video chat applications via simple HTML and JavaScript APIs." They're looking to add Firefox and Opera support, so this won't be exclusive to Google Chrome. No doubt they're hoping this could be extended to mobile phones as well.

Importantly, they're also going to leverage the VP8 codec, a highly efficient video compression technology that was developed by On2 Technologies. Google acquired On2 last year and made it available as part of the WebM Project. It is the video codec included in the WebRTC (open video) project.

Still, I have my reservations of a browser-based VoIP and video client. Yes, it makes it easier to be cross-platform, but sometimes a browser interface just doesn't cut it when it comes to the user experience. I often prefer a standalone client over a browser app for other applications as well. But with Google investing in Chrome OS, a browser-based operating system, it makes sense Google is trying to make everything run in a browser.

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