Firefox Hello eases video chat by emphasizing permalinks over logins


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Firefox Hello, Mozilla’s attempt at simple, login-free video chat, is getting a little easier to use in Firefox 35.

Firefox Hello debuted in beta last October, and became part of the general Firefox 34 release last month. The free chat service lets Firefox users start a video chat just by sharing a link. There’s no need to log in, and no plug-ins to download. All the other person needs is a WebRTC-enabled browser such as Firefox, Chrome or Safari. 

In Firefox 35, users can assign a name to each conversation, and then return to it at any time from the Hello menu. So if you’re chatting with grandma, she can always reach you through that same link instead of having to create a separate link every time.

In case someone’s taking a while to jump in on the video chat, starting a conversation now opens a separate window that shows you in the camera view. You can now navigate away from that window, and Firefox will alert you when the other person gets online.

And while you don’t have to log in to use the service, signing in with a Firefox account lets you create a contacts list of other Firefox users. The latest update gives the option to import contacts straight from Google.

Why this matters: Firefox Hello isn’t nearly as robust as other services such as Skype and Google Hangouts—it lacks features such as a text chat window and screen sharing, for example—but it’s still useful if you want to video-chat with minimal barriers to entry. The latest update emphasizes that angle instead of trying to take the larger rivals head-on. But with Skype working on its own plug-in-free solution based on WebRTC, Mozilla may want to beef up Hello’s feature list sooner than later.

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