Why Jabber

2005-03-15

In my recent post about the AOL terms of service fiasco, I mentioned that I think Jabber technologies are better than, say, AIM. In what sense? Well, in general I think that open systems and technologies are better than closed systems and technologies. To my mind, the consumer IM services provided by AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo are fine as far as they go, but each one uses closed technologies and they do not interoperate based on any open standards. In the IM world, we're still where the email world was in 1993 or so, when CompuServe, Prodigy, MCIMail, and the others had their closed-off communities. Yet I am not anti-AOL, anti-MSN, or anti-Yahoo -- and certainly I have nothing against fine people like Justin Uberti of AOL, who's been put in the hot seat over something the lawyers did. Although it probably sounds strange coming from someone who is generally perceived as an XMPP bigot, I have a lot of respect for AIM, MSN, and Yahoo, since it is not easy to run a big IM service. Operationalizing this stuff is hard work (as I know on a smaller scale from helping to administer the jabber.org service). What the Jabber/XMPP community has been working on since 1999 is a fully open alternative in the realm of messaging technologies. And why is open better? You can customize it, run your own server, modify the clients, add new functionality, ensure that your communications are private, and so on. That may not appeal directly to Aunt Tillie, but it appeals to the geeks who build the infrastructure that Aunt Tillie uses (such as our friends at the IETF). The Jabber strategy for world domination has always been a long-run strategy. We've come a long way since the day in 1999 when there were 150 Jabber users or whatever with version 0.6 of the jabberd server -- now there are perhaps 15 million people using Jabber technologies for IM (although a lot of them don't know they're using Jabber, since they are on company intranets or services offered by big ISPs). The good thing about working on open technologies is that there is no one company supporting what we're doing, so we're not going to disappear anytime soon, and by all indications will continue to grow and thrive. In other words, yes, you will be assimilated. ;-)


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