Google wants real-time comms in the browser

Google has announced the open sourcing of its WebRTC framework for real time browser-based video and audio communications. The technology, which Google acquired when it bought Global IP Solutions last year, has been released under a royalty-free BSD license.

According to a blog post from Mountain View, the framework allows developers to build real time voice and video chat applications using simple HTML and JavaScript APIs. The post added that “until now, real-time communications required the use of proprietary signal processing technology that was mostly delivered through plug-ins and client downloads.”

Google said its intention was to “make the browser the home for innovation in real time communications.” With this in mind, the company said it would be working closely with other browser developers such as Mozilla and Opera to “implement this technology for use by the broader web community.” In addition, Google said it had collectively engaged with standards communities such as IETF and W3C working groups to “define and implement a set of standards for real time communications.”

While Mozilla and Opera might have been keen to join the party, its widely believed that neither Microsoft nor Apple will be including WebRTC in their browser offerings. A further potential speedbump comes in the form of controversy regarding theVP8 video codec on which WebRTC is based. Google acquired this codec early in 2010, when it purchased On2 Technologies but technology license pool MPEG LA claims Google’s technology violates third party patents that it owns – and is threatening to chase royalties. Members of the MPEG LA patent pool include Apple, Microsoft and Ericsson.

The bid to roll out a royalty-free, real time communications framework comes on the back of Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Skype, which offers voice and video functionality outside the browser. Google, for its part, says that it expects “more innovations in the coming months…and we will continue to develop key technologies and features that enable open, real time communications on the web.”

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