Tagged: xmpp

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.