Future Firefox to Bring PDF, WebCam Streams to the Browser

By | September 14, 2015

Firefox 18 is out the door, which means Mozilla has bumped up all the pre-release channels, showcasing features coming soon to a final release near you.

If you’d like to try out a pre-release version of Firefox, head on over to Mozilla’s channel download pageand grab either the Beta or Aurora releases. (The former is a bit more stable, but both are pre-release software so proceed with caution.)

The Beta channel contains Firefox 19, which is six weeks away from release and features a few modest improvements, including a baked-in PDF viewer based on PDF.js. It may not mean the end of those annoying (and untrue) buttons that say “you need Adobe Acrobat to view this file,” but at least you don’t, well, need Acrobat just to view a PDF.

The Aurora channel has been bumped up to Firefox 20, which contains a far more interesting new feature — support for capturing local camera and microphone streams with the getUserMedia API.

Here’s how Mozilla describes getUserMedia:

[getUserMedia] is a new HTML5 DOM API that allows the browser to capture local camera and/or microphone streams directly, and not through third party plugins. This means JavaScript developers can now quickly and easily write code to access the user’s camera or microphones (with the user’s permission, of course) without having to install anything because the support is already inside the browser.

There’s a demo page you can try out over on Mozilla’s GitHub page.

The getUserMedia API is just the first of several components that make up WebRTC, a set of APIs which enable real-time, interactive, peer-to-peer audio/video calls and data sharing. Two other pieces of the WebRTC puzzle — PeerConnection and DataChannels — can be found in the Firefox Nightly channel, for those who really enjoy living on the edge (you’ll still need to enable them in about:config, set themedia.peerconnection.enabled option to true).

Firefox’s six week release cycle means that — barring unforeseen problems — the PDF viewer will arrive in final form sometime in early March, with the getUserMedia tools coming in mid April.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *