Instant Messaging

Instant message and Chat systems are probably the most popular and best understood use case. In fact that’s how XMPP got its start, as Jabber – an instant message platform. There are hundreds of different systems around the world: ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, GG, Skype, AIM... So what's new in XMPP, how is this different and/or better?

First, XMPP is an open standard and open protocol. What does this mean? It means that all the details of the protocol are publicly available. Users and administrators know exactly what is sent and received by the software, how secure it is, and what happens to each piece of data inside the server. Many different software applications that use XMPP are also open source, meaning that users and admins have access to all the implementation details. With all these details public, people concerned with security can be confident that no private data is being leaked to a provider. Although the “how” of the software and protocol is open, your own security setup and personalized installation is not public information making it uniquely yours.

Secondly, the XMPP protocol is by its nature incredibly extensible. Sure, out of the box XMPP can handle basic texting, but that can be extended to carry rich HTML based text, file transfers, even voice and video! This ability to be flexible lends itself to being extremely customizable for your installation whether you are personally investigating XMPP, or using it for commercial use. Again, servers and clients can be quickly and easily customized for your installation needs to offer exactly what you need in a communications platform. Moreover, because XMPP is an open standard it’s backed by the minds and talents of a wide community of developers and users that are working together to ensure the protocol can be as good as it can be. When operating in an environment like that, you are never alone or on your own.

Third, users on a single XMPP server need not be locked into only using that one server and communicating with the few people there. A server can be configured to be a ‘federated’ server which means that it can communicate with all other federated servers using the XMPP protocol. If you were on and wanted to speak with somebody on another federated server, say, as long as both are federated you can chat with users on without making a new account or requiring special access to another domain. Most users of the XMPP choose to communicate this way, giving you access to many people outside a local installation.

Finally, unlike the traditional instant message systems that are commercially available, XMPP is open to everybody without limitations. Software for XMPP has been written for all kinds of devices from mobile phones and computers to cameras and smart watches, no matter the operating system or hardware. XMPP is open to everybody, and everybody is welcomed to work and use the specification, extensions, or associated software. Can your instant message platform offer the same?

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