Archive of "IM"

Archive for the "IM" Category

Replacing SMTP with XMPP

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The idea is out: XMPP is a perfect replacement for SMTP.  SMTP (the current standard e-mail program) is outdated for a variety of reasons, such as the fact that it’s not SPAM resistant and that you can’t know for sure (easily) who sent a message.

XMPP (a.k.a. Jabber) solves a lot of this and is a fully extensible protocol that has already been adopted as a standard for IM.  The benefits are many, and there is only one major hurdle: every server on the Internet would have to change software!

Regular readers may be able to guess my (and others’) solution to that problem: backwards compatibility!  When using XMPP for primary email, one must provide a bridge back to the SMTP world.  There’s no real way around that for now.  Fortunately, it’s not too hard.  There are a few options:

  1. Write a client that supports both XMPP and SMTP (through POP3 or IMAP) and have an identical address on both networks (think
  2. Modify (/write) an SMTP-based mail server to support XMPP.
  3. Modify (/write) an XMPP server to support SMTP.

I really believe option #3 is the way to go.

What else may be required for this to become a reality?  Well, some way of keeping the traditional email experience (at least somewhat) may be required for the masses.  This means things like an inbox (for non-chat messages) and tags for message history.  Gmail actually already has this for offline messages.  There was also some work in 2004 on an XMPP client that supported something like this.

Some say that the encoding of emails must be retained.  I think this is bunk because it defeats the purpose of changing protocols and killing the old standard.  Some thought does need to go into the handling of offline payloads (especially file transfers / email attachments).  I think data: URIs may work for this, but something better may be in the works.

All it takes is one person who decides to adopt this as their primary way of functioning.  They develop some software, and it spreads from there.  I’m sticking with GTalk servers for Jabber for now (although I have the power to run my own, just because it’s easier for people who already have that address (I hate having multiple addresses).  What I’m really waiting for / looking for is a decent client for this.  Gmail has IM built in and handles this model for offline messages well, but it is not really even possible to reply to emails via Jabber, et cetera.  GTalk interfaces (including Gmail) actually don’t support any XMPP message type except chat well just yet.  We’re getting closer to something that could work though.

IM vs Telephone

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Why is it that while we all love IM systems (geeks especially loving our fair Jabber) we still use telephones? Is it that we like the voice aspect? Well, most IMs have that option. I don’t even like that option. So what is it then?

You don’t ‘turn on’ a telephone.

It’s just on. So if someone is home and you call them, you will reach them. No problem. With IM you have to wait for them to be online… what a pain.

Some systems have tried to overcome this with hardware, the Skype phone being a prime example. This works well as long as people can be made to understand that they must leave their computers on ALL the time for it to work. I can’t help wondering though, could this be similarly overcome directly from text-only IM software?

I think it can, but we will have to change the way many people think about IM. It seems that to many people, IM only works when a person is actively at their computer (which is mostly true at this point), so when someone is set to Away, etc, they do not initiate conversation, or even send a message. But what if the programs tried to ‘call’ a person the way a phone does when it rings? What if Jabber clients (or other IM programs) turned the volume up on your machine and played a really loud sound when someone initiated a chat while you were set to Away? They could then send an auto-message to the person telling them that the person they have started chatting with is away and it is trying to call them 1…2…3…4…up to a configurable number, then, please leave a message (easy to do in Jabber).

We would have to retrain ourselves to leave the computer on and signed in during all waking hours (or all hours period for Google Talk where offline messaging still doesn’t work). We would have to retrain ourselves to try talking to people set to away, we would have to be willing to ‘run to the computer’ when it ‘rang’ just as we do with our phone. We wouldn’t have the conveniance of cordless like we do for phones (not at first anyway), but we would save ourselves so much time and effort… and maybe finally kill ‘real’ telephony.

IM Interoperability

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Jabber is the ineroperable-IM protocol… but only geeks even know it exists! With the advent of Google Talk there are more people using it — but many of them don’t even know it. So while Google has federated with the Jabber/XMPP universe, most IM users are still stuck in the MSN, Yahoo, AOL world unable to read out.

The big guys may only be in it for the money, but they’re not stupid. They know that having an account on every major IM network is a huge pain. They just haven’t figured out yet how to work together without losing their precious revenue. They seem to be moving in the right direction, however. The MSN Messenger (soon to be Windows Live Messenger) team has affirmed and re-announced their intention to federation with Yahoo Messenger.

It seems to be unclear whether this will be an actual network federation or a multi-client style feature. What I mean is, will only users of the newest versions of WLM be able to talk to Y!IM? What about older clients? What about Jabber transports? Obviously the transports should be able to evolve to support this (yay!) but whether they themselves allow for full network federation, I think, will be an indication of how ready the big guys are for interoperability.

Gmail Chat

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Google is launching inline chatting for Gmail in the near future. There is already an option in your Gmail settings (or at least in mine, it seems to be coming online account-by-account) to save all your Google Talk chat logs into a section of your Gmail account called ‘chats’, to be searchable just like your email. There is also an information page stating that they plan to include the ability to chat directly from your Gmail screen (a la Meebo and others). This should prove interesting.

Google Talk With Other IMs

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Google Talk has been opened to communicate with other XMPP IM services! One of the complaints against it when it first launched was that it used the open XMPP protocol, but was a closed system. No longer. This is a smart, and a useful, move for them. Hopefully they’ll add MSN/AIM/ICQ integration eventaully as well…