Microsoft Edges bets on browser-only Skype

Plug-ins checking out for chatty types

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Microsoft has added Object RTC to the latest insider preview of Windows 10. The move paves the way for Skype users using Microsoft’s Edge browser to make voice or video calls without faffing around with browser plug-ins.

Object Real-Time Communications uses components built into the Microsoft Edge browser to control audio and video streams on a client computer. It also manages the transport layer carrying the streams over the network. Microsoft says ORTC makes it easy for these streams to work with existing telephone networks.

According to the software giant, ORTC works with its own-brands: Skype, Skype for Business and Outlook.com. Moreover, the technology will also work with other non-Microsoft WebRTC services.

Rival browsers; Chrome, Safari and Firefox, all support WebRTC standards but, for now, no-one is saying when or if a plug-less version of Skype is coming for those browsers.

However Microsoft’s Edge Team writes on the company’s Windows blog: “Our goal is to build an implementation that is interoperable across the web today as well as with the real-time communications industry in the long term.” Which suggests it will be everywhere.

Even for Microsoft users it’s not a seamless Skype-anywhere without browser plug-ins service yet. The Windows 10 preview build 10547 includes an ORTC API. Microsoft says it expects the technology to leave the preview stage and turn up in Window proper later this year.

Although they were originally hailed as a way of adding flexibility, browser plug-ins have become something of a pain-in-the-neck in recent years. They slow browsers down and can impose ridiculous memory and resource overheads.

The popular browsers are all expected to drop plug-in support in the near future, ORTC is a important step on the path to making that happen. ®

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