Google has released the source code for a technology that it hopes developers will use to embed real-time video and voice chat functionality in their Web applications.
Google acquired the technology, called WebRTC (Web Real Time Communication), when it purchased VoIP (Voice over IP) software developer Global IP Solutions in 2010, for approximately US$68.2 million. The company said it would open source the technology early last month.
Today, Internet audio and video chat services from companies such as Skype are chiefly proprietary, accessible through plug-ins and client downloads. Last month, Microsoft agreed to purchase Skype for $8.5 billion.
Google wants third-party developers to use the voice and video engines to create chat applications that can be run directly from within a browser. Global IP Solutions has built WebRTC-based mobile clients for Android, Windows Mobile and the iPhone. Ericsson Labs built a videoconference prototype with the technology as well.
The move to open source WebRTC echoes a similar move Google made when it acquired video compression provider On2 Technologies in 2010. Google subsequently released On2's VP8 video codec as open source to provide a royalty-free alternative to the widely used H.264 standard.
Google is working with other browser developers, such as Mozilla and Opera, in hopes they will support the technology in their browsers. The company is also participating in W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) projects for creating real-time communication Web standards. WebRTC is based on the W3C's Web Applications 1.0 API.
The source code is available under a royalty-free BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution)-style license.
Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.