Jabber: I return to the fold.

Quite a while back, I was a fairly avid user of Jabber, the XML based open source messaging system. This was mostly during the Yahoo / MSN / AIM / ICQ ‘instant messaging’ wars, where each company was trying to push their own system for the hearts and keyboards of the world.
It turned out apparently that marketshare in messaging really wasn’t the panacea they had all hoped it was, and the “YOU VILL USE OUR MESSAGE SYZTEM, AND YOU VILL LIHK IT!” approach many of the vendors were pushing has taken a back seat to other business models, like, say, making a good product.
I had no real need for a strong IM platform for a few years, as most of my communication was either done in e-mail or over IRC, but recently I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in IM with a my client down in New Jersey. As they are primarily a Microsoft shop, they naturally opted for Windows Live Messenger. With a somewhat heavy heart, I installed the Messenger client, and started using it fairly regularly.
In short, it sucks. First, Microsoft seems to be in this model of “Oh, we realize that the Windows interface is butt ugly, so we’ll redo the interface again, in sort of a hacked up interface-inside-an-interface model.” I first saw this with the Windows Media Player, which has an infuriatingly obtuse interface, while it tries to be ‘super-hip’. WLM is just as bad, but it tries to be an effective business tool (shared whiteboards, VOIP, etc) while also trying to be something kids want to play with (online games, cute icons and sounds, etc). The resulting mishmash makes me feel like I’m trying to do business over a speak n spell.
It was time to go back and see if I could use the MSN network, which my customer was wedded to, with a client that didn’t suck. A few years ago, this was problematic, as the various IM providers were occasionally blocking certain servers from connecting. (AIM is in fact still doing this for the big public Jabber servers, and Yahoo has a long history of actively blocking non-Yahoo clients.) Recently, the IM providers have backed off their rabid territorialism, and third party clients are easier to work with.
I once again considered multi-protocol clients such as Trillian and GAIM, but to me they solve the problem the wrong way. They make one piece of software that can talk all the different server protocols. Jabber does it differently. It’s up to the SERVER to connect to all the providers. You just need to run one client that talks Jabber, and the server does the rest.
My Jabber server has been running without maintenance for over a year, and I was using it occasionally for Yahoo and AIM connections, but now I needed to make the MSN gateway active as well. Fortunately, it was just a matter of apt-getting the msn gateway tools, and enabling it in the server configuration.
Now I’m back – I have a single Jabber client (at the moment I’m using Exodus, which IMHO is the best Jabber client on Windows), and it is happily showing me contacts from MSN, Yahoo, AIM, and Jabber. My old contact lists happily repopulated (they’re stored on the server, not on the client), and off I go.
It’s been pleasant to note that other services are coming onto the Jabber network, including Google Talk (A jabber system), and LJ Chat for the Livejournal folks – also Jabber.
And, as I type this note, I’m getting messages from the MSN-based folks I mentioned earlier, and Exodus is happily showing them as simple Jabber messages. Joy!
Are you on a Jabber network? Say hi! My Jabber ID (JID) is ‘dbs@jabber.stonekeep.com’.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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