Google Releases Voice and Video Chat Technology As Open Source

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 02, 2011

Among major technology companies, Google open sources many of its own projects at a prolific rate, and now the company has announced that it is open sourcing WebRTC, an open technology for voice and video on the web. The code and API are available here. WebRTC is a free, open project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs. According to Google: "This first release of WebRTC is mainly targeted at the browser community. It enables browser vendors to integrate the components required for rich communication into their web browsers."

According to a Google blog post:

"Until now, real time communications required the use of proprietary signal processing technology that was mostly delivered through plug-ins and client downloads. With WebRTC, we are open sourcing the voice and video engine technologies from our acquisition of GIPS, giving developers access to state of the art signal processing technology, under a royalty free BSD style license. This will allow developers to create voice and video chat applications via simple HTML and JavaScript APIs."

What might this mean for browser users and developers? Google has said that it intends to work closely with Mozilla and Opera, in particular, to get them to implement WebRTC for voice and video chat applications. Google acquired GIPS (Global IP Solutions) last year for $68.2 million.

Google has open sourced similar tools recently, with the VP8 video codec being a particularly notable example. Developers can join a WebRTC Working Group from the W3C. According to The Register:

"WebRTC includes the wideband and super-wideband iSAC voice codec developed by Global IP Solutions, the free narrowband voice codec from Global IP, and the same VP8 codec that's included with WebM. The framework also supports the G.711 and G.722 voice codecs, and it includes various other audio technologies, including acoustic echo cancellation, automatic gain control, noise reduction, and noise suppression."

Google's moves focused on voice and video chat applications that work directly within browsers are particularly notable because they're arriving just as Microsoft acquires Skype in an $8.5 billion buyout--the biggest one Microsoft has ever made. As Microsoft deploys Skype technology in its Office suite and elsewhere, it will be good to see free, open source alternatives arriving, and Mozilla and Opera are already on board to build such alternatives.