WebRTC World Feature Article

September 09, 2014

Firefox 33 Beta Lands with Array of New Features

The arrival of a new version of Firefox often brings with it new features and new design choices. While not all of these are well-received, at least at first—I personally didn't much care for having my button choices reduced to just four off to the upper right, at least until I got used to it—many of these options are exciting and useful new traits to have on hand. The beta version of Firefox 33, meanwhile, seems to have plenty going on here, including some new features for some peripheral devices as well.

While the more recent full release of Firefox 32 was focused on brass-tacks matters like security and performance, Firefox 33's beta version seems to be more about the bells and whistles, so to speak. Major gains have been made to the desktop version, particularly an experimental Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) feature that users can try out. Adding the feature directly into Firefox allows for direct connectivity right from the browser window, meaning that things like free voice and video calling can immediately be had without the need to get in things like extra plug-ins or new downloads. This is still an experimental platform, of course, but it's offering up quite a bit of value for the user, and represents the end result of several months of testing before hitting the beta level.

But as impressive as this is, this isn't the end, but rather just the beginning, for Firefox users. Firefox on Android will get some new features as well, including the ability to send video content from Web pages on mobile devices to larger screens elsewhere thanks to a “send to device” option that works with Chromecast and Roku devices. Video content, meanwhile, can be controlled within the device itself thanks to the Media Control Bar, a mechanism that will allow users to play, pause and even close outright video right in Firefox for Android.

That's a fairly sizable quantity of extra features, and this quantity will likely be welcome for the user base. Between the ability to route video from mobile devices to larger screens and the ability to bring in WebRTC for what may be the first time for many users, this particular update looks to have a lot of action involved that will mean plenty of exciting new uses. It will be exciting to see what users make of these new developments, however, especially that new round of WebRTC connectivity. WebRTC has had quite a bit of promise connected with it for some time now, but people haven't exactly had the option to see how it works under everyday conditions. That's a development that may be poised for change in the near term, and seeing how users interact with it, hearing the users' response to this beta version and how it may change the future look and feel of the system, should in itself pose an exciting development in its own right.

While this particular update is important in its own right, its true importance is likely to be seen over the course of the next several weeks and even months. We could be looking at the start of WebRTC's fullest impact, and that may well change much of communications as we know the field today.

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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