Google Taking On Skype: Video Chat in Chrome

Google is now implementing its open-source audio and video chat software into the Chrome browser, enabling users to chat in real-time without having to load up a secondary client like Skype. Called WebRTC, the software was originally introduced back in May and originated from Google's 2010 acquisition of Internet telephony and videoconferencing specialist Global IP Solutions (GIPS).

"Until now, real time communications required the use of proprietary signal processing technology that was mostly delivered through plug-ins and client downloads," wrote Google engineering director Rian Liebenberg and product manager Jan Linden. "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."

Google's new WebRTC uses two audio codecs obtained through the GIPS acquisition including iSAC for high-bandwidth connections and iLBC for narrow bandwidth connections. For the video portion, Google has thrown in its open-source VP8 codec which was also previously obtained from another acquisition. By releasing the tech as a complete open-source package, Google is looking to expand is audio/video capabilities beyond Gmail, to become a web standard for real-time communications. That means other browsers like Firefox and Opera will have access to WebRTC as well.

"Our goal is to enable Chrome with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs," Google's Henrik Andreasson said on Friday. "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."

So what does this mean for Skype? As CNET points out, if Google and its allies succeed in making WebRTC a standard that's supported by other browsers, then website and/or web-application builders could integrate the technology, thus easily creating a rival service with just a Web application. Browsers also wouldn't need a proprietary plug-in like the one Google uses for its VoIP service within Gmail.

"We’ve collectively engaged with the standards communities such as IETF and W3C working groups to define and implement a set of standards for real time communications," Liebenberg and Linden said. " We expect more innovations in the coming months by various community members and we will continue to develop key technologies and features that enable open, real time communications on the web."

This should prove interesting to say the least. We also bet this tech will eventually find its way into Google TV.

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