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Latest version of Firefox brings plugin-free video calls and 3D gaming

We're still a little way away from a completely browser-based version of a fully functional Photoshop application or an AAA-level video game, but the latest version of Mozilla's Firefox browser puts the pieces in place to enable just that.

Firefox 22, just released, not only implements support for WebGL, Emscripten, and asm.js to accomplish these feats, but its new support for WebRTC gives the browser access to the webcam and microphone, making Skype-like video calls possible without the need for plugins like Adobe Flash.

A subset of the widely used JavaScript language, asm.js works in conjunction with the Emscripten compiler to produce web apps that can nearly equal the speed of natively running programs.

To demonstrate the technologies, Mozilla teamed up with major game-engine developer Epic, porting its Unreal Engine 3 — used by major game titles — to asm.js. The organisation has also published a 3D first-person shooter game called BananaBread to demonstrate the potential of browser-based gaming.

First seen in the Opera web browser, WebRTC's getUserMedia function enables a web browser to access the computer's webcam and microphone. Previously, this was only possible through the services of plugins such as Adobe's Flash or Microsoft's Silverlight.

You can watch some amusing demos of the technology at Opera's Shiny Demos page. Mozilla also demonstrated cross-browser support for web-based video calling between Firefox and Chrome last February using the specification's RTCPeerConnection function.

To get your fresh copy of Firefox 22, head to the Firefox download page, or just choose Help > About Firefox from the browser's main menu and then restart the program.