The first release of Firefox with support for WebRTC is right around the corner and Mozilla is encouraging web developers to go ahead and start experimenting with what Mozilla refers to as “the real future of communications.”
WebRTC is a proposed standard — currently being refined by the W3C — with the goal of providing a web-based set of tools that any device can use to share audio, video and data in real time. It’s still in the early stages, but WebRTC has the potential to supplant Skype, Flash and many device-native apps with web-based alternatives that work in your browser.
WebRTC support is already baked into Firefox for Android. Both the getUserMedia API and the PeerConnection API — key components of WebRTC and the cornerstones of web-based voice chat — are already supported though you’ll need to enable them in the preferences. See the Mozilla hacks blog for more details.
The same APIs are also now part of desktop Firefox in both the Nightly and Aurora channels. Expect both to make the transition from Nightly to final release as part of Firefox 22 (due some 10 weeks from now).
As Adam Roach, who works on Mozilla’s WebRTC team, writes, with these tools landing and some impressive demos from both the Firefox and Chrome WebRTC teams, “it’s tempting to view WebRTC as ‘almost done,’ and easy to imagine that we’re just sanding down the rough edges right now. As much as I’d love that to be the case, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
That’s part of why Mozilla is asking developers to start experimenting with WebRTC — to help discover what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be better.
“As long as you’re in a position to deal with minor disruptions and changes; if you can handle things not quite working as described; if you are ready to roll up your sleeves and influence the direction WebRTC is going, then we’re ready for you,” writes Roach.
But it isn’t just experimenters that Mozilla is interested in, “for those of you looking to deploy paid services, reliable channels to manage your customer relationships, mission critical applications: we want your feedback too,” says Roach. He goes on to caution that developers should “temper your launch plans.”
Still, while it’s perhaps too early to launch a serious business built around WebRTC, you won’t have to wait long. According to Roach, WebRTC will be “a stable platform that’s well and truly open for business some time next year.”