You should use WebRTC for your 1-on-1 video meetings

Did you know that Firefox 33 (currently in Beta) lets you make a Skype-like video call directly from one running Firefox instance to another without requiring an account with a central service (such as Skype or Vidyo)?

This feature is built on top of Firefox’s WebRTC support, and it’s kind of amazing.

It’s pretty easy to use: just click on the toolbar button that looks like a phone handset or a speech bubble (which one you see depends which version of Firefox you have) and you’ll be given a URL with a call.mozilla.com domain name. [Update: depending on which beta version you have, you might need to set the loop.enabled preference in about:config, and possibly customize your toolbar to make the handset/bubble icon visible.] Send that URL to somebody else — via email, or IRC, or some other means — and when they visit that URL in Firefox 33 (or later) it will initiate a video call with you.

I’ve started using it for 1-on-1 meetings with other Mozilla employees and it works well. It’s nice to finally have an open source implementation of video calling. Give it a try!

15 Responses to You should use WebRTC for your 1-on-1 video meetings

  1. Sadly, when non-PulseAudio Skype was end-of-lifed, I wound up having to rely on fragile WebRTC via https://appear.in/ instead.

    I like the idea of Loop, but I’m still trying to make time to narrow down the problem enough to file a bug. So far, all I know is:

    1. Skype has better audio quality than Firefox, which has better audio quality than Chrome.

    2. As long as I can put up with a very finicky audio stream, appear.in works. (Inbound audio breaks up very readly but I haven’t heard friends complaining about my outbound audio, so I’m hoping that’s just a bug that’s present in their Stable-channel WebRTC implementations but not my Aurora-channel one.)

    3. Trying the same NAT-traversed WebRTC call via Loop rather than appear.in causes me to receive maybe 1 second of audio from them before Firefox reports that it failed to establish a connection.

    I haven’t yet had time to set up an Aurora-to-Aurora call or to get familiar enough with packet sniffers to figure out how the on-wire traffic differs between the two.

  2. How can it be “video-calling”, when the user has to send a URL first and then wait for the other party to visit this URL?

    As you mentioned, it might be useful for scheduled meetings, but other than that, I don’t see the advantage.

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      > How can it be “video-calling”, when the user has to send a URL first and then wait for the other party to visit this URL?

      My definition of “video-calling” is “talking to someone through a device in such a way that both parties can see and hear the other”. Like a phone, but with video. Perhaps you have a different definition.

      > As you mentioned, it might be useful for scheduled meetings, but other than that, I don’t see the advantage.

      It’s also terrible at slicing bananas. But then, the title of the post is “You should use WebRTC for your 1-on-1 video meetings”.

  3. I think Loop is disabled by default in Firefox 33 Beta. You must enable loop.enabled on about:config first and restart Firefox

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      I’m using 33 on two of my machines and that pref was enabled without me doing anything.

      • In a relatively fresh, Beta-only profile the Loop icon is in the customization palette. Clicking it shows the small doorhanger with the link and status elements but nothing happens. The Browser console logs “Error: Loop is not enabled” whenever you open the doorhanger from the Loop icon.

      • Loop was enabled in the early 33 betas so we could get more testing and feedback, but it has now been disabled, as we’re not releasing it in 33.

  4. We don’t have loop support on Firefox for Android, do we?

  5. How does it work on NAT? Does it rely on a relay server?

  6. I think the _recipient_ may be able to be on an earlier version of Firefox than 33. I made a call to my wife, and I think she was using 32 at the time. That makes sense, because surely any WebRTC-supporting browser can deal with the page that call.mozilla.com serves? It’s just the UI for generating links which is in 33+.

    Gerv

  7. The problem is that it is only 1 to 1..Three or more people can’t use it,which is frustrating. That’s why we still have to use G+.

  8. Robert O'Callahan

    I find Loop is actually better then Vidyo for 1:1 meetings. That’s partly because at some point Vidyo stopped being able to use the camera on my laptop. But Loop works pretty well — and most of my calls are between NZ and the USA.