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How To Test Firefox Hello, Mozilla's New WebRTC Video Call Service

Wow! Mozilla's new Firefox 34 includes a great new WebRTC-based feature called "Firefox Hello" that lets you call people without requiring them to have an account with Firefox. You simply send them a URL via email, chat or some other method - and they can start calling you from within Firefox.

Here's all you need to do to try it yourself. First, you need Firefox 34, of course. Once you have upgraded or installed the software, you should see a "Hello" button over on the far right side of the browser's top bar:

Firefox hello button

If you don't see this button, as I didn't, you may have to perform the following steps, as documented in a Firefox help page:

1. Open the "Customize" section of the browser to add the "Hello" button to your menu bar:

Firefox customize

2. Drag the "Hello" button to the browser bar or to the drop-down menu.

Now, in my case, that still didn't work and I had to use the additional trick mentioned in the help article of going to https://about:config and changing "loop.throttled" to "false" (simply by clicking on that setting). After restarting Firefox I was then able to go into the Customize window and add the Hello button to the browser.

Initiating A Call

Once the Hello button was visible I just had to click on it to get a URL that I could pass along to someone:

Firefox hello url

I posted it, somewhat ironically, into a Skype chat where a number of us who are "early adopters" of VoIP tech hang out... and Dick Schiferli (of Pamela fame) soon clicked the link. The call request window appeared in the lower part of my Firefox window:

Firefox hello request

The first time we tried Dick was signed in to a Firefox account but I was not. We got an error and the call couldn't connect:

Firefox hello call failure

Now, I don't know if this was a transient error caused by so many people trying it out... or if this was an issue with the "guest" access, but a few minutes later when I was also signed in Dick and I had no problem connecting:

Firefox hello call in browser

And there we were talking!

Cross-Platform Testing

In a good test of cross-platform interop, Dick was using Firefox on Microsoft Windows 8 and I was using Firefox on Mac OS X. The quality both in terms of voice and audio was great. We did notice one interesting difference between the platforms. On OS X I had an arrow that let me "pop out" the Hello window into a separate window that I could then resize and move around my screen:

Firefox hello pop out

There was no way for either of us to simply click a button and make the conversation go "full screen", but with this pop-out window I was able to resize it to take over most of my iMac's screen.

Missing Chat...

Interestingly, one of the things I found missing from our experience was any form of integrated chat. I wanted to share with Dick a link to a screenshot of what I was seeing on my computer and wound up sharing that link through a Skype chat.

I don't know that I need chat... but I found it curious that I would just expect chat to be available. Given that Skype and Google+ Hangouts both offer this, my expectation does make a bit of sense.

Further Testing...

Given that I just created my Firefox account today, I couldn't test the use of contacts as documented in the Mozilla blog post about the beta of Firefox Hello. I look forward to doing so. I also want to go back and try it again when I am not signed in to verify that guest access does indeed work.

All in all I was quite impressed with the ease and quality of this first public release of Firefox Hello!

More info about Firefox Hello and Firefox 34 in general:


An audio commentary about this topic is available on SoundCloud:


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