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Skype voice and video calls now work plugin-free on Microsoft’s Edge browser

TechCrunch TechCrunch 15/04/2016 Sarah Perez

Microsoft is making Skype in the browser plugin-free, the company announced this morning. But before you get too excited, be aware that this new experience only works in Microsoft Edge for now. Other browsers, including IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari, will continue to require plugins as before.

Skype for Web, the browser-based version of the online communications software rolled out publicly last year, will benefit from the new functionality, as will other online properties where Skype is supported, Microsoft says.

This includes Outlook.com, Office Online, and OneDrive, all of which, along with Skype for Web, will now support real-time, plugin-free voice, video and group calling when you’re using Microsoft Edge.

This will make using Skype feel more like a part of the service you’re already using, as opposed to some standalone product – but it could also help Skype acquire more users, too. The company has been more recently working on ways to allow anyone to join a Skype chat, even if they don’t have an account. Skype for Web was one easy way to connect these invitees to your chat session, but installing browser plugins could slow down that experience. Now when those users are on Edge, they can just click a link and start chatting.

The Edge browser ships with Windows 10, and is designed as a more modern replacement for its legacy browser IE. The browser has done away with support for older technology like ActiveX and Browser Helper Objects, and instead focuses on newer features like Cortana integration, the ability to write directly on web pages, a distraction-free reading mode, and more.

In the case of supporting plugin-free Skype in Edge, Microsoft says it’s taking advantage of the ORTC media engine that was embedded in the browser last fall. This is what allows developers to build experiences that include the ability to talk to Skype users as well as other WebRTC-compatible communication services, Microsoft said at the time.

However, Microsoft says it wants to bring a similar plugin-free audio and video calling experience to other browsers as well, including Chrome and Firefox. But for this to take place, the browsers will have to support the H.264 video codec. (This is still in development, according to Chromium.org’s issue tracker).

In addition, Skype one-to-one calls from Microsoft Edge to the latest versions of Skype for Windows or Mac will also be plugin-free as a part of this update, Microsoft notes.

That being said, the plugin-free experience doesn’t cover 100 percent of the scenarios in which you might use Skype for the time being. For example, Screen Sharing and calling landlines and mobile phones will still ask you to install a plugin. Similarly, if the recipient doesn’t use the latest version of Skype on their desktop or mobile, you’ll also need the plugin.

In the meantime, you can preview using plugin-free Skype on Microsoft’s Edge browser on Windows 10 version 10.0.10586 and above.

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