Mozilla's TowTruck project brings real-time collaboration to websites

Summary:A project fresh out of Mozilla Labs should let website owners add customisable Skype-like real-time voice and chat capabilities.


Mozilla has taken the wraps off an early version of TowTruck, a Mozilla Labs project that aims to bring Skype-like collaboration to websites using new real-time capabilities shipping with Firefox and Chrome.

Mozilla Labs yesterday unveiled a proof of concept version of TowTruck that will enable real-time authoring, chat and voice on any webpage simply by adding the TowTruck JavaScript snippet to the site.

Sites with TowTruck enabled would feature a TowTruck icon, which users can click to bring up their user profile. A unique link generated by TowTruck can then be shared with another person to initiate a text or voice dialogue. It currently supports text-based collaboration, but also has options such as a calling icon and a microphone for WebRTC-based Audio Chat in the pipeline.

TowTruck however does not yet support voice calls, or Live Audio chat features, an "experimental feature" that is the product of the WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications) standard, whose participants include Mozilla, Google and Opera.

Mozilla notes however that Live Audio is supported in its Firefox Nightly build (for developers) and it believes the latest release of Chrome too.

"Sometime in 2013 support for this should be available in new (non-experimental) versions of Firefox, Chrome, and both Firefox and Chrome for Android," Mozilla notes on its Github Live Chat page.

The TowTruck project is working towards broader collaboration capabilities, according to its roadmap, including three-user chat, colours for different participants, the ability to create archives of TowTruck sessions, adding 'sticky' notes to collaboration documents and an excerpt tool.

The features could, for example, be used by a company's customer support team, or parties collaborating on a project. However, some features will be left to website owners to configure: enabling calls to directly be routed to a customer support team would be a matter for website owners to sort out, for example.

Google and Mozilla showed off WebRTC video conferencing capabilities in Firefox and Chrome earlier this year, which aim to provide real-time collaboration capabilities within web apps without the need for plugins.  

Topics: Developer, Enterprise Software, Networking


Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, s... Full Bio

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