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Firefox 41 Adds WebRTC-Based Instant Messaging

September 23, 2015

The impact of Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) has long been considered, and we're starting to see with increasing rapidity how many places are putting such systems to use. Now, widespread use of WebRTC got one step closer to fruition as Mozilla brought out instant messaging systems that draw on WebRTC with the release of Firefox 41.

More specifically, Firefox 41 now incorporates portions of Firefox Hello, Mozilla's instant messaging platform. With this addition, Firefox is now the first browser around, reports note, that has instant messaging capability built right into it. With the new tool in place comes others to accompany it, like the ability to add a photo to a profile, and uses Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) to limit the negative impact that may come from a compromised key.

Image via Shutterstock

Additionally, the release brought with it some extra Input Method Editor (IME) support for those still running Windows Vista, along with better rendering performance in terms of box shadows. Windows 7 users, meanwhile, get some help on that front as well as the Windows Advanced Rasterisation Platform (WARP) is unavailable thanks to a new Mozilla solution that supersedes Direct X, which WARP was an element of.

These, however, are comparatively small additions when added against the instant messaging tool. Since it's built directly into the browser proper, it could have a serious impact on use of Skype and Google Hangouts. While Microsoft has been actively working to make Skype function in more of a WebRTC-style fashion—it's even developed its own real time communications tools for such a thing—and Google has been doing similar, the potential convenience factor involved in a messaging tool built into the browser could be enough to keep users out of the other camps.

We've already heard some starting to wonder about the kind of impact that WebRTC could have in the customer service vein, especially when it's connected to things like click-to-call functionality and the like. With more and more shopping being done online, having a way to quickly connect businesses to customers is a vital point; what if more businesses started telling online customers to “just say Hello”, or the like, and put Firefox Hello to work as a weapon of choice in customer service? That might not only mean bad news for Skype and Google Hangouts, it might also mean bad news for any company offering up click-to-call functionality. While click-to-call might still have a place, click to IM with Hello might do even better, particularly from customers who want access to different channels anyway.

There's a lot of potential fallout from Firefox Hello, with a lot of different ways this could work out. This could end badly for a lot of firms, or this could be just a greater part of a wider communications landscape. The time to take advantage of this opportunity, meanwhile, is now.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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