Firefox’s built-in video chat component, Firefox Hello, is destined for the scrap heap. Mozilla plans to remove Hello from its browser as early as Firefox 49, which is scheduled for release in mid-September.
“Our original vision in 2014 was for Firefox Hello to be a tool for sharing and collaboration on the Web,” Nick Nguyen, Mozilla’s vice president of Firefox product, told PCWorld in a written statement. “Since then, our engineering priorities have shifted and as a result, we’ve refocused resources to higher priority initiatives.”
Web developer Sören Hentzschel (German language link) first noticed Mozilla developers discussing the feature removal on this Firefox bug tracking thread.
The removal of Hello will first show up in early test builds of Firefox Aurora for Android 50 and Nightly builds of version 51, according to the thread on bugzilla. Then beta builds of Firefox 49 will lose it. That plan is already in progress. At this writing, the latest Firefox Nightly build did not have Hello built-in. Firefox Beta 49 was not yet available.
Firefox Hello is based on WebRTC, an open-source technology for browser-based video and voice chat. Hello first rolled out in late 2014 as part of Firefox 34. Mozilla added instant messaging capabilities to the feature in September 2015.
Hello underwent another shift in December, when Mozilla decided to make it a system add-on. That meant the feature could be developed and updated independent of the browser, but it was still a built-in component that users could not remove.
The impact on you at home: For now, the end of Hello has very little impact on users. If you’re currently a regular Firefox Hello user you won’t see any changes until September, when the feature is scheduled to disappear. Even though Hello is going away, Nguyen said WebRTC will remain as a core capability of the browser. In other words, you will still be able to use WebRTC on third-party sites and with add-ons—you just won’t see it as a built-in feature of Firefox. Nguyen also told us that Hello will not become a standalone add-on.
Why is it going away?
To hear Nguyen tell it, the end of Hello is all about changing priorities for the Firefox team, which might be a nice way to say that Hello is being dumped due to lack of interest from users. That’s just speculation, but other features have suffered a similar fate in recent months. Tab groups and complete themes were removed from Firefox in late 2015 due to low usage. Mozilla said at the time that it decided to remove the features in order to develop and roll out new versions of Firefox more quickly without being bogged down by updating unpopular components. It’s possible (perhaps even likely) that Hello is being cut for the same reason.
This article was updated at 12:37 Pacific time on August 2, 2016 with comment from Mozilla.