Firefox’s built-in video chat component, Firefox Hello, appears to be destined for the scrap heap. Developers of the popular browser plan to remove Hello from the browser as early as Firefox 49, which is scheduled for release in mid-September.
Mozilla hasn’t made an official announcement about the change but developers are discussing the feature removal on a Firefox bug tracking thread, as first noticed by web developer Sören Hentzschel (German language link).
The removal of Hello will first show up in early test builds of Firefox Aurora for Android 50 and Nightly builds of version 51, according to the thread on bugzilla. Then beta builds of Firefox 49 will lose it. That plan appears to be already in progress. At this writing, the latest Firefox Nightly build did not have Hello built-in; Firefox Beta 49 was not yet available.
Firefox Hello is based on WebRTC, an open source technology for browser-based video and voice chat. Hello first rolled out in late 2014 as part of Firefox 34. Mozilla added instant messaging capabilities to the feature in September 2015.
Hello underwent another shift in December, when Mozilla decided to make it a system add-on. That meant the feature could be developed and updated independent of the browser, but it was still a built-in component that users could not remove.
The impact on you at home: For now, the end of Hello has very little impact on users. If you’re currently a regular Firefox Hello you won’t see any changes until September when the feature is unofficially scheduled to disappear. Even though Hello is going away, it’s unlikely that Mozilla would remove WebRTC as a core capability of the browser. In other words, you should still be able to use WebRTC on third-party sites and add-ons—you just won’t see it as a built-in feature of Firefox.
Why is it going away?
We’ve dropped a line to Mozilla to see if they have anything to say about Firefox Hello getting dumped. It’s possible that the WebRTC feature is being removed due to lack of interest from users. Other features have had a similar fate in recent months such as tab groups and complete themes. Mozilla said it wanted to remove those two features in order to develop and roll out new features more quickly without being bogged down by updating unpopular components. It’s possible Hello is being cut for the same reason.