Plugin-free video chat via WebRTC arrives in Chrome and Firefox

WebRTC, the real-time communication framework that enables voice and video chat in the browser without the need for any plug-ins, is becoming more widely available to consumers. This week’s release of Chrome 23 comes with WebRTC on board, according to a post published Tuesday on the WebRTC blog. It reads, in part:

“It’s the biggest milestone yet… web developers can now offer Chrome users the ability to have live, high quality audio and video communication as part of their web experience.”

Google (s GOOG) has been a big champion of WebRTC, open sourcing key components of the technology and more recently adding it to the beta version of its Chrome web browser. By adding WebRTC to the stable version of Chrome, which will be downloaded by millions of consumers, Google signaled that the technology is getting ready for prime time.

WebRTC also got another boost this week when Mozilla announced that it started to include the framework in the nightly and Aurora (pre-beta) builds of its Firefox web browser. And the technology got some real-world validation when the freshly-acquired video chat platform provider Tokbox released OpenTok on WebRTC, enabling develpers to build WebRTC-based video chat applications that connect users on supported browsers with consumers using iOS (S AAPL) devices. And web video chat provider Bistri added to the momentum by rolling out WebRTC-based video calling.

However, WebRTC still has some challenges to overcome before it becomes a universally adopted real-time standard. Among the challenges is the selection of codecs. Google and Firefox would love to see WebM become the default codec of browser-based video communication, but Microsoft (s MSFT) is favoring a different approach that would leave it up to the individual developer to choose a codec, and Apple (s AAPL) has been completely absent from the table.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  Tsahi Levent-Levi.