Firefox gets access to mobile services through WebRTC
Browsers will perform tasks typically reserved for mobile phones using a new web technology that will be demonstrated by Ericsson, AT&T, and Mozilla at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona this week.
The build enables the Mozilla Firefox browser to sync with a user's existing phone number and perform many functions usually confined to a mobile device such as voice and video calls and SMS and MMS texting. What's more, it can do so without adding to a browser's bloat with add-ons or plugins.
The tech that the three companies will be showcasing at the WMC builds on Ericsson's Web Communication Gateway, Mozilla's Social API and WebRTC support in Firefox, and AT&T's API platform.
Integrating communications services with a web browser allows consumers to easily shift between devices and locations, the companies explained in a statement.
As WebRTC-based technologies gathers the support of browser and wireless carriers, browsers will be able to integrate seamlessly with a user's existing mobile number. Users will be able to initiate calls from a browser or other device. They'll even be able to access their mobile services through a browser, including getting data from their personal address book.
Applications for the technology abound. For example, you could place a video call, through your browser, to a customer service rep online and have them demonstrate the workings of a product you're interested in purchasing.
You could also easily transfer files and photos to another person by dragging them into a video chat window.
Some of those features are already available in the latest Aurora version of Firefox. According to the Mozilla blog, WebRTC features in Aurora include:
- GetUserMedia, whcih allows a developer to capture the user’s camera and microphone data (with the user’s permission) easily.
- PeerConnection, which enables audio and video calling in a secure, hassle-free way.
- DataChannels, which can be used by itself or combined with an audio/video chat to send almost any data that the browser can access.
In addition, Mozilla noted that all voice, audio and data communications are encrypted allowing for highly secure human or data communication exchanges.
Google adapts Chrome
Google, too, has been incorporating WebRTC features into its Chrome browser and has also praised the technology. “Together, PeerConnection and the getUserMedia API represent the next steps in WebRTC, a new standard which aims to allow high quality video, audio, and data communications on the Web," Google software engineer Justin Uberti wrote last October in a company blog announcing the addition of those functions to a beta version of Chrome.
As the barriers between mobile and fixed broadband services start to come down, Mozilla will be leading the way, according to Ericsson Vice President Magnus Furustam.
"We believe there is value for operators bundling mobile and fixed broadband offerings with browsers, and Firefox will be the first browser to give them this opportunity," he said in a statement.
Nevertheless, that hasn't excluded Ericsson from dabbling in WebRTC browsers itself. Last October, for instance, it introduced "Bowser," an experimental browser with WebRTC capabilities and designed to give developers a vehicle to better learn about and how best to implement it.