Tagged: jabber

Check out Synapse!

I can’t speak for all Linux users, but over the years I have sadly come to accept that the Linux community is usually sidelined and ignored by most vendors in the first release of any product — be it application software, device drivers or hardware. Even companies that stand on the shoulders of open-source software often treat Linux as a second-class citizen (case in point: Google with Chrome, Apple with Safari and numerous other products).

While there is plenty of Linux-specific software out there as well, most of it is to fill the void left by mainstream vendors. Consider the Instant Messaging world. Google Talk still has no native client for Linux. In fact, there is no really good and well supported chat client on Linux that reliably does voice as well as video chat. Yes, there are ways to make it work, but if they really worked, wouldn’t more people be using them?

A brave soul is making another attempt to change the status-quo. Enter Synapse: a refreshingn take on a Jabber/XMPP only IM client, designed especially for Linux. (Interistingly, Synapse is written using Qt/Mono, both of which are cross-platform, so it could easily run on other platforms as well).


Quoting from the introductory blog post:

With all the focus on the web, a lot of people have been dismissing desktop operating systems as nothing more than something required to run a web browser. Unfortunately, Linux, which has suffered from unpolished UI applications for a while, has been hit especially hard by this trend.

Even though there have been lots of exciting advances to the platform (Mono, DBus, Cairo, Gstreamer, KDE4, etc.), few developers focus on supporting Linux, and Linux applications rarely receive the same polish and attention to detail as web applications.

Although it makes me unpopular, I’m not ready to give up on Linux software development. I feel strongly that there’s a place for both web and desktop applications, and exciting opportunities for integration between them.

I like many things about Synapse already:

  • a slick website
  • it uses git (and github)
  • provides packages for Ubuntu and some other distros
  • the app itself is visually interesting

Of course, many things don’t quite work yet (such as the ability to add multiple accounts!). But it definitely looks like a very interesting project, one that I’ll be watching very closely.

How gTalk pushed jabber

I remember signing up for a Jabber account several years back. Since there were a lot of Jabber servers to choose from, and really no “canonical” choice, I ended up trying out a few different ones, until I finally settled on the jabber.org server. Of course, since hardly any one I knew was using Jabber at that time, that account was rarely used.

{{ http://floatingsun.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/screenshot6.png|Jabber}}

I subsequently tried to convince my friends to start using Jabber, even issuing a [[http://floatingsun.net/2005/07/28/call-for-jabber/|call for Jabber]] on my blog. Suffice to say that in all I added perhaps three friends to my Jabber buddy list. So much for technological merit driving adoption!

Somewhat naively, in that post I said:

//I should point out that Jabber is meant for (and only for) instant messaging. This means that there is protocol bloat for supporting webcams or voice chats. Use video conferencing or VoIP if you want those. Lets keep IM simple.//

Oh, how wrong I was. There are now official [[http://xmpp.org|XMPP]] extensions for [[http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0167.html|audio]], [[http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0180.html|video]] and [[http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0096.html|file transfer]]! Nevertheless, the basic premise of Jabber remains the same: open, free standard, distributed implementation and rich functonality.

However, it wasn’t really until Google embraced XMPP for Google Talk that Jabber really took off. Even now most end users are not familiar with the technological underpinnings of Google Talk. When Google Talk launched, it was a closed network. That is, though it used Jabber as the communication protocol, non Google Talk Jabber users could not communicate with Google Talk users. After some initial resistance, Google finally gave in, making Google Talk an open Jabber network.

It is kind of unfortunate that one of the main “features” of Jabber — a distributed implementation much like that of email — has essentially been nullified by Google Talk, since the vast majority of Jabber users //are// Google Talk users. Of course, it has been a boon to Jabber as well, since it piqued interest in Jabber from all kinds of commercial interests, leading to the significant increase in interest in the XMPP protocol stack. The extensions I mentioned earlier are just a small sampling of the [[http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/|total extensions available]].

It is interesting, as well as a little disappointing, that good ideas often get ignored not due to lack of technical merit, and some how endorsement by a powerful and recognized brand suddenly lends credibility to them.

GMail Chat

I’m sure everyone has seen the Google Talk interface within GMail by now. They’re activating it in some weird order — its enabled on all my email accounts but one — the one that I use the most! Anyways, its just a matter of time I guess.

Initial reaction? Well, it works. But so does Meebo, and a host of other web based IM services. So whats new? Clearly, the archival of chat transcripts is a big plus. I wish I had this feature common across ALL my IM accounts. Right now I just have to use Kopete’s history plugin, and keep histories synced across all my different machines with [[http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/|Unison]] and its a pain.

But its good to see that Google is trying hard to open up Google talk. I just checked whether I could add my Google Talk account to my regular Jabber account (@jabber.org) and it works! And with all the work behind [[http://code.google.com/apis/talk/about.html|libjingle]], soon all of the IMs would be able to provide voice chat through a single, open, standardized protocol (I believe Kopete already has implemented support for Jingle in their development branch). I wonder how Skype will react to this development — my guess is that they will emphasize more on the telephony and VoIP aspects of their service.

Y! MSN Messenger?

Whoa! [[http://www.betanews.com/article/Microsoft_Yahoo_to_Link_IM_Networks/1129075667|This is]] interesting news (via :slashdot:):

> Microsoft and Yahoo are set to announce on Wednesday a blockbuster interoperability deal that will reshape the landscape of the fragmented instant messaging market. The companies will connect their IM networks so users on each can communicate with one another using text and voice chat free of charge.

I wonder how will AOL take this. As for me, I don’t particularly care. So long as [[http://kopete.kde.org|Kopete]] can handle everything, I’m not concerned.

However, as I have [[http://floatingsun.net/blog/2005/07/28/76/|mentioned before]] as well, my preferred network is Jabber. So far I have only been able to convert 3 people — Asim, Ragesh and Jaya — to Jabber, which is quite depressing given the number of people using Y! or MSN on my buddy list. Come on people! Help me out here. Go [[http://jabber.org|Jabber]].

Call for Jabber

I’m sick of Yahoo! instant messenger — frequent connection drops, spurious presence notification, lost messages, and the general unfriendlyness towards free clients — everything sucks. I’m not a big fan of those “IMvironments” nor the “buzz”, so they are just minor attractions. I’ve heard AIM/ICQ are better, but the protocols have become defunct, and hardly any of my friends use AOL.

Meanwhile, Jabber is amazing. Its open, its free, its distributed, its rich in features. I was surprised to see that Jabber is more popular in enterprises than among the public. Here’s a call to all my friends to please, //please// give Jabber a shot. If you use Gaim or Trillian or Kopete, you don’t even need an additional client — all of them can handle Jabber very well.

To know more about Jabber, here are some useful links:
* [[http://www.jabber.org/about/overview.shtml|Jabber overview]]
* [[http://www.jabber.org/network/|List of public Jabber servers]]
* [[http://www.jabber.org/software/clients.shtml|List of Jabber clients]]
* [[http://www.jabber.org/user/userguide/|Jabber user guide]]

And if you //really// can’t live without MSN or Yahoo or AIM, you’ll be happy to know that Jabber has these things called “gateways” that allow you to use Yahoo, MSN, AIM, ICQ through your Jabber ID and client — no multiple IDs, no multiple clients needed. And there are plenty of public servers out there that support gateways. So give it a shot!

I should point out that Jabber is meant for (and **only for**) //instant messaging//. This means that there is protocol bloat for supporting webcams or voice chats. Use video conferencing or VoIP if you want those. Lets keep IM simple.

Oh yes, if you do try Jabber, don’t forget to add me on your buddylist. I’m at diwakergupta **at** jabber **dot** org