Phoning Firefox: Browser now makes Web calls

Boosts speeds of specially-optimized JavaScript for faster in-browser games and apps

Mozilla today shipped Firefox 22, enabling the in-browser audio-video calling standard WebRTC and switching on a new JavaScript module that promises to speed up Web apps.

The update also included patches for 17 security vulnerabilities, seven of them marked "critical."

Mozilla highlighted several of the changes in Firefox 22, notably the default support for WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications), an open-source API (application programming interface) that Web applications can call for in-browser audio and video communications without requiring specialized plug-ins like Adobe's Flash.

WebRTC traces its roots to Google, which acquired the VP8 video codec in 2010 from a company called On2, open-sourced the technology and pushed for its adoption as a standard by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). Mozilla engineers have been also working on the project to implement WebRTC in Firefox.

Google's Chrome supports WebRTC, and Opera Software developers are also involved in the initiative. In February, Google and Mozilla announced that their browsers were interoperable, letting users of Chrome and Firefox communicate with each other.

Mozilla has also made WebRTC a foundation of its mobile phone strategy, which relies on Firefox OS, a lightweight browser-based operating system that will power low-cost phones from several carrier and handset partners, the latter to include FoxConn, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer best known as an assembler of Apple's iPhones and iPads.

Firefox 22 also comes with a new JavaScript subset, dubbed "asm.js," that promises to significantly boost the execution of JavaScript code and Web apps written in the popular scripting language.

Mozilla calls its asm.js module "OdinMonkey," a tip to the name "SpiderMonkey" used for its current JavaScript engine. According to Mozilla, developers who use cross-compilers that produce code -- Emscripten for example -- can generate optimized JavaScript with near-native code performance.

"Native code" refers to programs designed for a specific processor's or processor family's instruction set. Windows 8, for example, is native code for the Intel x86 and x64 instruction sets.

Mozilla's OdinMonkey is an answer of sorts to Google's Native Client, a technology that lets developers turn applications written in C and C++ -- software originally intended to run in, say, Windows -- into ones that execute entirely within desktop Chrome and Chrome OS.

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