You know an application or service has made it when its name becomes a verb. Video and voice-over IP (VoIP) service Skype, like mobile messaging services WhatsApp and BBM, is just such an application. Now its owner, Microsoft, is releasing a web-based version of the hugely popular service, which means users will be able to place and receive calls via their web browser rather than needing a dedicated app.
Microsoft announced the new Skype for Web late last week and says it has released a beta version of the service that will be released to a small number of Skype’s more than 300 million users at first. Skype for Web will work from Skype’s existing website.
The service will be supported in all major web browsers, including Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer, Google’s Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari browser. Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), a standard for in-browser two-way communication adopted by Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Opera, underpins Skype for Web.
Why does this matter? Well aside from making Skype more flexible and easier to integrate with other services it means devices like Google’s low-cost Chromebook notebooks, which can only install apps from the Chrome Web Store, will finally be able to make use of the service. That’s not to say intrepid Chromebook owners haven’t found workarounds in order to use Skype, but Skype for Web will make it easier for the layman.
Skype is already integrated into Facebook chat, which supports video calls to other Facebook users, but that has meant Chromebook users are forced to use the social network’s chat functionality for video calling, which is far from elegant.
Expect to hear more about the rollout of Skype for Web in coming weeks and don’t be surprised if you see Skype popping up in other apps and products in coming months.