Windows 10 users can now make Skype calls from Microsoft Edge, no plug-in required.
Microsoft announced a new preview of Skype video calling on its Microsoft Edge browser (version 10.0.10586 and up) on Friday that does away with plug-ins and other helper software. Making a break from Internet Explorer's checkered past, Microsoft replaced IE with the newer, Web-standards-compliant Edge as the default browser for Windows 10. (IE11 is still available for enterprises running legacy Web apps.)
The new capability comes courtesy of built-in support for the Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC) standard in Edge. It enables users to conduct Skype voice, video and group video calls on Skype for Web, Outlook.com, Office Online and OneDrive natively in their browsers without a plug-in or additional software, including the bundled Skype app for Windows 10.
Essentially, Edge users can now make one-to-one and group calls (voice and video) with one another without loading the Skype client software. They can also call users of the latest Skype apps for Windows and Mac directly, according to the company.
Power users may find that the preview of Skype video calling on Microsoft Edge falls a little short. For instance, features like calling landlines and mobile numbers require a plug-in. Likewise, Edge will prompt users to install a plug-in if they attempt to share their screens or call contacts that are running older Skype clients.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is looking forward to the day when all it takes is a Web browser to connect with other Skype users.
"Today's launch is exciting news and is the first step towards fulfilling the commitment we've made to support WebRTC in Skype and Skype for Business," blogged Microsoft's Skype team on April 15. "But we want to bring seamless calling to everyone, not just people using Microsoft Edge. To make this a reality, we will continue to work on enabling audio and video interoperability with Chrome and Firefox browsers, once they both support the H.264 video codec."
Consumers and business users have a love-hate relationship with browser plug-ins.
On one hand, they can help expand a Web browser's functionality, automating certain tasks and improving productivity. On the other hand, they have been a popular target for attackers who prey on vulnerabilities in popular plug-ins, particularly Adobe Flash and Java.
In recent years, browser vendors have been dialing back their support of browser helpers. In fact, Microsoft launched Edge alongside Windows 10 last summer without plug-in support, a situation the company began to reverse last month but in a controlled manner.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Oracle finally called it quits in January. "With modern browser vendors working to restrict and reduce plugin support in their products, developers of applications that rely on the Java browser plugin need to consider alternative options such as migrating from Java Applets (which rely on a browser plugin) to the plugin-free Java Web Start technology," announced the company in a Jan. 27 statement.