Microsoft made a relatively unprecedented move today that the company had been working on for some time within the Skype family. Today, the rumors were put to bed regarding a potential ‘Skype for Web’ system, which was not only announced, but launched in beta testing simultaneously. Eager users to take advantage of the web version are required to download a plugin currently, but the long-term plan is to remove the need for a plugin after beta testing is complete, and the final product goes live.
However, that final product is still months away, according to the company. Right now the beta is available to a select group of members, and what the company is working toward is a gradual release – introducing more, and more users as time goes on. That being said, the company said that it expects the new Skype for Web to function on all major browsers. That means Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari will all see functionality that supports this in-house video chat service.
Ultimately, the product will be executed using the Web Real-Time Communication standard or WebRTC. Essentially what WebRTC is, is an open-source style project that allows users, and developers to communicate in real-time with voice or video, by just using a compatible browser.
The possibilities are endless for Microsoft and Skype. The potential threat they could pose to services like Google Hangouts, which require a plugin to use, could be momentous and could really change the way communication happens on a computer long-term, if unifying browser and video chat – is something that can happen. Even though this is not a merger, this could in many ways, do the same type of damage to services like Hangouts if the services are integrated well in the process.
For users who are interested in signing up, they should go to the Skype website and sign up for an invitation. The company has said that while they are introducing it slowly to users, that overtime the invitations will increase and pick up steam in reaching users as a whole. This is a clear indication though that Microsoft is not afraid of any change. Each day it seems the company is changing, evolving, or introducing something new completely to change the products they are offering for the better.