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WebRTC: Simple Video Chat Can Work for Your Law Practice

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By William Peacock, Esq. on August 14, 2013 10:17 AM

This geek just fell in love.

Google Hangouts requires a Google account, and a learning curve. Skype (now a happy member of the Microsoft family) requires its own login and learning curve. Facetime is Apple-only. Basically anything outside of Chatroulette (not linking to that dirty, dirty site, I promise) requires some sort of login and in some cases, downloaded software.

WebRTC, an open source project developed by Google and supported by Mozilla (the Firefox folks), is Web chat without any extra software, and is compatible with the newest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Chrome Beta for Android.

What does it do? It's video chat, in a browser, with no logins and no complications. Here's how to use it:

Step 1: Follow the Link.

Want to start a video chat? Go to appRTC.appspot.com. It'll ask to use your camera and microphone. Say yes.

Step 2: Copy the Link.

See that "Waiting for Someone to Join" message at the bottom? Send that secure link address (in Chrome, right click and choose "copy link address," or in Firefox, choose "copy link location") to your friend (via email, IM, whatever). They click, allow camera access, and boom -- video and audio chat is on.

No logins. No tracking (as far as we can tell ... they're always watching). No need for your client, or co-counsel, or the called-in-sick employee, to install software.

Other Use: Mirror

Just saying -- if you have no friends to chat with, you can still click the link, allow camera and microphone access, and then just stare at yourself. It's a makeshift mirror!

The Promise: Cross-Platform?

If you're part of the 24.53 percent of users who ardently stick to Internet Explorer, or the 8.59 percent who use Safari, WebRTC doesn't work yet. IE may never add support, as doing so would enable competition with Skype.

But for the 63.21 percent of users on desktop Chrome and Firefox, or the 3.77 percent of mobile users using Chrome, this is, by far, the easiest way to start a web chat. If Apple or a third party adds support, either to the mobile Safari browser (on iPhones and iPads) or if someone creates a WebRTC compatible mobile app, then this could become the simplest way to video-chat from your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

For now, if your client, co-worker, or other chat recipient uses Chrome or Firefox, you'd be hard-pressed to find an easier way to set up a video meeting on short notice.

And, of course, it could come in handy in the courtroom.

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