The WebRTC API can be used to provide peer-to-peer communications directly between apps running in the browser. This could be the end of Live Messenger, Skype and the rest...
The browser is the OS. Who can argue with this. Now Google thinks that we don't need anything more than a browser for real time communications as well. So throw away that chat client, sorry IM client, VoIP client, phone, video chat etc. Google's WebRTC does it all for you.
As you probably guessed this is an HTML5 based technology and the idea is that it can be used without plugins or the need to download anything at all. It also makes use of the proposed peer-to-peer connection API. This allows one browser to talk to another without a server have to get involved in the interaction. As reported in an earlier news item - Can my browser speak to your browser? - this particular API has the power to change the game completely and Google's use of it to implement a communications API is just the start of the sea change.
The idea is that its all open source and will become in time a W3C standard. Of course Google's VP8 codec is included as part of the package but you can use alternatives.
What can you do with WebRTC?
Obviously you can use it to add video or audio chatting to your web or mobile applications but you could also design a custom chat or communications app using it. Google's own Google Talk is in the process of being converted to use WebRTC. In principle a WebRTC application could replicate the facilities in Live Messenger, Skype, ICQ, AIM and so on.
So should you rush out and start building apps?
WebRTC web site
Can my browser speak to your browser?