Even in the year 2014, getting started with VoIP remains a mystery to the average consumer. Making a VoIP call from any device is still not as easy as making a normal phone call. However the pieces are slowly falling into place. The effort to standardize real-time communication on the Internet was kickstarted in 2011 when Google released WebRTC as an open source project.
WebRTC is under active development and Chrome and Firefox – the two most commonly used web browsers – now support the API. Google has already integrated WebRTC into its popular messaging app Hangouts, thus eliminating the need for a plug-in as was the case earlier. Although Firefox has also supported WebRTC for a long while, the browser had not yet launched any specific implementation.
That looks set to change with the latest update to the desktop and Android versions of Firefox. For now the feature is limited to the beta channel which means that it is likely that there will be quite a few bugs. However the feature is live for those who wish to try to out, though it requires some effort to find it. Users will have to go in to customize mode and drag the speech icon onto the toolbar before it can be used. A link is then generated which can be given to anyone in order to start a voice or video call.
Implementing a way for users to talk to each other with just a browser requires more than just incorporating WebRTC within the browser code. In this instance, Mozilla has partnered with TokBox to provide much of the back end infrastructure which powers the calls. Firefox users can now make a voice/video called to any browser, no matter where it is located thanks to WebRTC and VoIP. It does not matter if the other person is using Chrome or Firefox since both browsers have WebRTC capabilities.
This move by Mozilla is great news for the future of WebRTC and VoIP in general. As more web browsers start incorporating the latest APIs, developers are more likely to take advantage of the built in capabilities. Although free VoIP calling is restricted to users of these two browsers for now, we could soon be looking at a future when calls can be made from anywhere to anyone. Real-time communication need no longer be restricted to just mobile phones or tablets, any electronic device with a browser will do.