Skype brings voice and video chats right to your browser

Installed apps are becoming a thing of the past. Microsoft is just one of a raft of technology companies gradually moving to the cloud and the latest display of this is a new beta version of Skype for Web.

The messaging tool has been designed to be used in a web browser without the need for plugins, extensions or other software. At least that is the aim. During the beta stages you'll still have to install a small plugin.

Work being carried out by the Internet Explorer developers should bring plugin-free Real-Time Communications (RTC) to browsers in the near future, and Skype for Web will be able to take advantage of this. The beta is not being made available to everyone straight away, so you'll need to check your account to see if you can try it out.

Head over to the Skype website, sign into your account, and you may find that you are invited to test out the web version.

If you have been chosen, you will be able to access your chats and contacts on any computer, and start voice and video chats from your browser with a quick click. It's an idea that is similar to the way Outlook.com users were given the chance to use Skype from their inbox, but now Skype for Web is available as a separate entity.

Just a few days ago, Microsoft revealed that its enterprise communication tool Lync is to be rebranded Skype for Business in the coming months, and it's not yet clear whether the web treatment will transition to the business tool in the same way.

As this is a beta, problems are to be expected, and Microsoft points out a few known issues. For now compatibility is limited to Internet Explorer 10 and above, Safari 6 and above, and the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome.

You may find that outgoing calls take longer to ring, and Mac users are likely to notice problems with battery consumption.