Google reduces Chrome's reliance on Flash

Flash will slowly fade from Google's Chrome desktop browser, as the web-giant tests technology that will eliminate plug-ins traditionally needed for webcam and microphone use.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Google is continuing its trend of eliminating Flash from its ecosystem, extending its efforts to the latest beta version of Chrome.

On Google's Chrome blog, Google software engineer Robert Toscano went through the latest changes to the desktop browser — including the ability to use webcams and microphones without the need of a Flash plug-in.

Toscano wrote that the change was due to the browser adopting WebRTC — a "new real-time communications standard that aims to allow high-quality video and audio communication on the web". The development of the standard is also supported by Mozilla and Opera, although it is technically a Google project. The web giant has stated that it will not charge royalties for its use. Last week, at Google I/O 2012, Google test lead for WebRTC Justin Uberti outlined, in detail, how the standard works and how it could change web use.

Implementing WebRTC means that users won't have to rely on Flash for Google Hangouts, video chat in Google Talk or even direct uploads from YouTube's recording feature.

However, the RTC part of the name — real-time communication — reflects the fact that it also brings Kinect-style video gesturing to the web browser, rather than just being another video player replacement.

Toscano points to Stinkdigital, which has already used the technology to create a playable xylophone. The virtual instrument is overlaid in the user's webcam feed, and is played by detecting users' hands movements in front of the camera.

According to Uberti, Google expects WebRTC to be implemented in Opera and Firefox by the end of the year, and expects it to be adopted in mobile browsers shortly after.

Google's move away from its dependence on Flash is in line with Adobe halting support for Flash in future versions of Android, starting with Android Jelly Bean.

In addition to plug-in-less video, the next version of Chrome will also bring Google's Cloud Print feature to the fore. Options to send documents to cloud-connected printers, Google Drive, mobile devices or, where applicable, a FedEx office, have been given prominence in the print dialog box of the new beta.

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