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Skype For Web Beta Coming, Half-Baked For Chromebooks

Skype for Web is now in beta, and bringing all of the desktop application's capabilities to your favorite web browser. Skype for Web will work on Internet Explorer 10 and up, as well as the latest versions of Chrome (on Windows), Firefox, and Safari 6 (and newer). All you'll need to do to enable Skype capabilities in your browser is log in to Skype.com and install a "small plug-in."

One platform that is glaringly absent from the above list is the Chrome OS version of the Chrome web browser. To put it bluntly, that's a bummer, because one of the features missing from Chromebooks is Skype capabilities (yeah, we know, you can do Google Hangouts), and as Chrome OS is built specifically to take advantage of web-based products and tools, "Skype for Web" would seem to be perfect for it.

The question here is why Chrome OS was snubbed, and although it's tempting to connect the dots -- Microsoft owns Skype, Chromebooks are pounding Windows PC market share -- the reality is that Microsoft is actively working toward a plug-in-free Skype future, which ostensibly would allow Chromebooks to run Skype for Web, too.

Microsoft and Google, actually, are both involved in the W3C ORTC Community Group, which is developing the Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC) API for WebRTC to enable communications on web browsers without the need for a plug-in. (See previous coverage.) Although at this point it seems that the group is working primarily with Internet Explorer, the fact that Google is on board should indicate that this isn't merely a Microsoft joint, as it were.

So what of Chromebook functionality for the time being? Mary Jo Foley wrote that Chromebooks will indeed be able to use Skype for Web's IM capabilities, but there's not yet a plug-in for voice and video calls on the Chrome OS browser. That's (sort of) good news for Chromebook users.

In a blog post, Skype's Jonathan Watson said that the Skype for Web beta will be rolling out to a "small number of existing and new users" at first, with wider availability coming within months. If you get tapped to participate, you'll get a notice when you log in to your account on Skype.com.

As you might expect, though, there are already known issues with the beta; on Macs, running Skype for Web apparently drags on the battery too much, and on all browsers, outgoing calls seem to be slower to connect than through the desktop application.

We've reached out to Skype for additional clarification regarding Chromebook functionality.

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