With Firefox Hello, Mozilla is trying to remove the proprietary shackles from online voice and video chat.
The new service lets Firefox Beta users chat with anyone regardless of what browser the other person is using. As long as that browser supports WebRTC—as both Chrome and Opera natively do—the recipient can get a callback link and start chatting with no login or extra steps required.
Firefox users do get some extra benefits, though. In addition to being able to initiate calls, users who have Firefox accounts can contact each other with one click instead of having to share a callback link.
Mozilla partnered with TokBox, a live chat platform provider, on the service. As CNET reports, Mozilla has been testing the chat service since September, but previously required users to sign up for it. Mozilla is now promoting the feature more heavily under the Firefox Hello name, and will be rolling it out to all Firefox Beta users over the next few weeks.
Why this matters: Mozilla has always been a proponent of openness and interoperability, with initiatives like WebGL gaming that works in any browser. But Firefox Hello is more than just a feelgood alternative to services like Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s Facetime and Google Hangouts; it’s a way to communicate that doesn’t require the recipient to jump through any hoops. If you’ve ever tried to video chat with a far-flung relative and don’t know what software or services they use, there’s real utility in a chat option that doesn’t particularly care.
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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.