Fire up the updaters, Mozilla has released yet another new version of Firefox into the world. Version 22 includes a handful of new features, bug fixes, and enhancements, as we’ve come to expect, but it also includes full support for WebRTC enabled by default. WebRTC stands for “Web Real Time Communication”, and aims to be yet another nail in the coffin of Flash and Java Applets.
When I was in graduate school I took most of my classes over the Internet. For one class in particular, the ability to log into the Flash-based group video chat application was essential. As soon as the application launched, the fans on my laptop kicked in, and my CPU stayed busy for the remainder of the class. Flash has performed poorly for several years, and has always seemed particularly buggy. If I understand WebRTC correctly, applications like the group video chat I used for class could be built entirely with open standards and run inside the browser without external plugins, a clear win for the open web.
WebRTC is peer to peer based, and supports video as well as data transmissions. Future developments in this area are exciting, especially when we consider gigabit residential Internet access, or internal corporate communications. While the most obvious use is video chat, the capabilities extend beyond that. According to the WebRTC project site:
WebRTC offers web application developers the ability to write rich, realtime multimedia applications (think video chat) on the web, without requiring plugins, downloads or installs. It’s purpose is to help build a strong RTC platform that works across multiple web browsers, across multiple platforms.
Mozilla has updated their BananaBread first-person shooter demo game to include WebRTC for multiplayer gaming directly in the browser. I took the game for a quick spin and was impressed by the speed and responsiveness of the controls. Now that games, video chat, and rich, immersive experiences can all be had in the browser using open standards, I’m having trouble thinking of a reason to keep Flash around.
Firefox v.22 includes a few other new features as well:
- Windows: Firefox now follows display scaling options to render text larger on high-res displays
- Mac OS X: Download progress in Dock application icon
- HTML5 audio/video playback rate can now be changed
- Social services management implemented in Add-ons Manager
- asm.js optimizations OdinMonkey enabled for major performance improvements
- Improved WebGL rendering performance through asynchronous canvas updates
- New HTML5 <data> and <time> elements
- New Web Notifications API implemented
Mozilla continues to be a champion for the open web, and the latest Firefox release looks to be a solid update. Go get it if you haven’t already.
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