Six months after announcing plans for a plugin-free version of Skype on the web, Microsoft is rolling it out in a limited capacity.
Microsoft Edge users can now conduct Skype calls and video chats on Skype.com, Outlook.com, Office Online, and OneDrive without installing any additional software. Still, this preview release is just the start of Microsoft’s attempts to liberate Skype from plugins, and several restrictions apply.
For instance, a plugin is still necessary to conduct group calls between Skype web and desktop versions. Those non-web users will also need the latest version of Skype installed, or else it’s back to the plugin for you. Screen sharing and calls to landlines or mobile phones will still require a plugin as well. In other words, the best way to conduct plugin-free calls (either one-to-one or in groups) is between any two Microsoft Edge users.
And while Microsoft is using the WebRTC standard to enable plugin-free Skype calls, other WebRTC-enabled browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are not supported. Microsoft says it will work on extending support to these browsers once they both support the H.264 video codec. (In a separate post on Microsoft’s Edge developer blog, the company notes that Firefox has shipped support for H.264, and Chrome is testing it in its pre-release Canary build for developers, so hopefully the wait won’t be too long.)
The impact on you at home: In practice, this preview release isn’t going to be very useful, as there are too many situations in which you’ll ultimately need a plugin. (And because Edge doesn’t support plugins, that means you need an entirely different browser.) Still, the preview release is a solid first step toward making Skype easily accessible in any browser, without having to install anything or fall back to the desktop version.