Skype (news, site) may want to watch its back. Shortly after releasing WebRTC, an open-source software project for audio and video chat, the great Google is beginning to build it into the Chrome browser. 

Lowering Technological Barriers

We originally guessed at the coming features when Google acquired Global IP Solutions (GIPS), a company specializing in Internet telephony and video conferencing. WebRTC ultimately originated from this move. 

Currently, WebRTC uses two audio codecs from GIPS, iSAC for high-bandwidth connections and iLBC for narrowband connections. For video, Google's open-source and royalty-free VP8 codec is used. 

"Our goal is to enable Chrome with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs," said Google programmer Henrik Andreasson. "We are working hard to provide full RTC support in Chrome all the way from WebKit down to the native audio and video parts."

Trouble for Skype? For Microsoft?

Having promised to work with Mozilla and Opera on the real-time chat project, success in establishing the open-source technology with multiple browser support would mean anyone building a site or application could utilize it. In other words, a simple web application could become ubiquitous, rivaling the entire Skype platform. 

Web apps, after all, require less maintenance to span different computing systems, including smartphones. 

Further, Skype outages have been a cause for concern. The company experienced a network outage at the end of May as well as the beginning of June, sending users into a number of hissy fits. And although Skype said the outage only affected a small number of people, comments in Twitter and LinkedIn indicate that people in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Brazil, Belarus, Croatia and other places were experiencing problems as well. Perhaps the company has a different definition of small? 

Love via Social Network

Whether or not this means bad news for the US$ 8.5 billion Microsoft recently threw down for the platform remains to be seen. Until then, Skype is still on good terms with one giant (Facebook) and continues to deepen integration with the network. 

Perks in the recent Skype 5.5 beta version for Windows also include:

  • Facebook integration
  • Improved call controls
  • Improved video calling reliability
  • Changed group conversations profile area design
  • New login window design
  • Added a ability to start video calls via URI
  • Plus several bug fixes

It's neat, but will it be enough? Check out WebRTC here and let us know what you think in the comments below.