Google’s WebRTC to Unhook Real-Time Chat from Proprietary Technology; Are Skype, FaceTime Scared?

June 23, 2011
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What does the combination of Google and WebRTC produce? An audio-video chat system that will give Skype and FaceTime a run for their money.

In 2010, Google acquired Global IP Solutions (GIPS), which specialized in videoconferencing and Internet telephony. Using the technology that GIPS developed as a base, Google created the open WebRTC project to allow the developer community to create royalty-free, opensource software out of it and to stimulate the creation of Web standards for its use. The projected is supported by three major browser developers: Google, Mozilla, and Opera.

WebRTC’s open framework will allow browsers to implement Real Time Communications (read: voice and video chat) using JavaScript APIs and HTML 5.

Google is currently integrating WebRTC technology into its own Google Chrome browser. The integration will expectedly make Chrome support real-time chat features akin to what Skype is currently providing.

Of all Google’s projects, GMail looks like it will benefit the most from the WebRTC project, as GMail currently uses a proprietary plugin for its audio-video chat features. The chat feature within GMail has been around for quite some time, but as Google’s other communication projects (especially Google VoIP and Google Voice) start to mature, the importance of the WebRTC project’s benefit for GMail becomes paramount.

More than just working on WebRTC for GMail, Google is also hoping that the WebRTC project will give birth to Web standards for videoconferencing and peer-to-peer communication, as well as standards for the the required network communication protocols. With collaboration from two other big-time browser developers Mozilla and Opera, and from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), that hope will most likely bear fruit.

If the WebRTC succeeds in that regard, developers can easily create Web sites or Web applications that can rival Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime.

Will Android be left behind in all these? Of course not. Android, foremost among all other mobile platforms, will eventually assimilate WebRTC technology. Long before Google acquired GIPS, the system already had a VideoEngine for Android and other mobile platforms. This means that the ability for cross-device operation already exists and does not use proprietary technology–unlike Skype or FaceTime. And, since the WebRTC project is under a BSD-style open-source license, any programmer or developer can write her or his own Skype-like or FaceTime-like app without owing Google a cent. This also means that developers can modify the existing code to their liking without worrying about intellectual property woes.

It will not be long before WebRTC’s footprints will start appearing on Android smartphones and tablets. Will this new framework finally put an end to Skype and FaceTime?

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