With all the current discussion about the threat that Instagram Threads has on the Fediverse and that article about how Google Embrace Extend Extinguished XMPP, I was left very confused, since that was the first time I’ve heard that Gchat supported XMPP or what XMPP actually is, and I’ve had my personal Gmail since beta (no, don’t ask for it), and before then, everybody was using AOL/MSN Messenger to talk with each other online. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a single person who started using Gchat as an XMPP client.

Instead of a plot where Google took over XMPP userbase via EEE, it just seem to me more like XMPP was a niche protocol that very few hardcore enthusiasts used, and then Google tried to add support for it in their product, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the development effort to support a feature that very few of their users actually used and abandoned it in typical Google fashion.

So, to prove my point, how many people have used XMPP here, and how many people here haven’t?

  • Jajcus
    link
    fedilink
    4511 months ago

    I was quite involved in XMPP, not from the very start, but quite early. At first its biggest strength were ‘transports’ – gateways to other, proprietary, instant messengers. Having a Jabber (that what it was called there) account allowed one to talk to ICQ and AIM users. This is what pulled first users and allowed the network to grow. The protocol being open and network being federated appealed to various nerds, for whom it became the IM network of choice. Especially when they could use it to talk to friends and family on other networks.

    I wrote a Jabber transport for the most popular instant messaging platform in my country. It become a ‘must have’ component of any Jabber/XMPP server here. And some major local commercial internet services would start their own XMPP services – finally they had some means to compete with the monopolist. For me it was my ‘5 minutes of pride’ – my little piece of open source software would be used by thousands of users, though most unaware of that. I have also wrote a Python library and a text client for XMPP.

    Then Google joined and Facebook started considering it. It seemed like XMPP will become ‘the SMTP of instant messaging’ – the real standard which will end closed proprietary communicators. But things didn’t go well. Google would often ignore the agreed protocol, change it a bit, while still declaring full support. XMPP development would slow down, as everybody wanted the protocol to be agreed with Google, but Google just made some small improvements on their side without sharing details or participating in building XMPP specifications.

    Federation with Google would become more and more unreliable. Sometimes it would work, sometimes not. Google Talk, GMail Chat, Hangouts seemed to be the same thing and not the same thing at the same time it was a mess. Then Google pulled the plug. Then every smaller commercial providers did the same – there was no point in keeping the service when more than half of the contacts disappeared.

    I felt betrayed by Google (it really felt like a ‘non-evil’ corporation back then). But that was not what killed XMPP for me.

    I would have less and less people to talk to via XMPP, not just because of Google. Other networks my Jabber server was linked to become more and more irrelevant (anybody using ICQ, AIM or GG now?). Nerds that used XMPP left it because of loosing contacts in other networks, or just moved on to Discord (yeah… nobody seems to notice it is proprietary too). I would still use XMPP for family communication, but there was the spam…

    Oh… the spam. I would get over hundred of messages (or contact requests), mostly in Russian, offering me bitcoins or cracked software. They would come from many different accounts and domains. Often from ‘legitimate’ XMPP servers. And there were no means to reliably block it. The XMPP protocol had no proper means to handle illegitimate traffic. XMPP servers and clients had little spam-fighting measures. The spam made XMPP unusable for me, so I shut down my server too. I guess that could also be a major reasons for some commercial services to de-federate. I think USENET was killed by spam and no effective moderation too back in the day.

    Then my wife convinced me to bring it back. XMPP is again and still my primary communication platform for family chat. A private server with four accounts. Practically blocked from outside. We use it because it proven to be the most reliable thing and independent from the big corporations. Even Signal was inferior to that (no proper desktop/web clients, sometimes messages would be delayed even by hours, then it even stopped being convenient when they dropped SMS support).

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      411 months ago

      Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing. I’m curious: have you considered [matrix] nowadays?

      • Jajcus
        link
        fedilink
        211 months ago

        I don’t have anyone on Matrix to talk to, so no reason to try it.

  • dudeami0
    link
    fedilink
    43
    edit-2
    11 months ago

    Google tried to add support for it in their product

    Is like saying that google tried to add support for HTTP to their products. Google Talk was initially a XMPP chat server hosted at talk.google.com, source here.

    Anyone that used Google Talk (me included) used XMPP, if they knew it or not.

    Besides this, it’s only a story of how an eager corporation adopting a protocol and selling how they support that protocol, only to abandon it because corporate interests got in the way (as they always do). It doesn’t have to be malicious to be effective in fragmenting a community, because the immense power those corporations wield to steer users in a direction they want once they abandon the product exists.

    That being said, if Google Talk wasn’t popular why did they try to axe the product based on XMPP and replace it with something proprietary (aka Hangouts)? If chat wasn’t popular among their users, this wouldn’t of been needed. This could of been for internal reasons, it could of been to fragment the user base knowing they had the most users and would force convergence, we really can’t be sure. The only thing we can be sure of is we shouldn’t trust corporations to have the best interest of their users, they only have the best interest of their shareholders in the end.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      14
      edit-2
      11 months ago

      This could of been for internal reasons, it could of been to fragment the user base knowing they had the most users and would force convergence, we really can’t be sure.

      Given the well documented history of Google making absolutely dogshit product decisions, I think it’s the former. In fact, I don’t even need to think. Google already explained their reasoning. They had several different communication products (including Talk) that couldn’t be integrated together. They wanted the services to work seamlessly to try and compete with Messenger.

      If chat wasn’t popular among their users, this wouldn’t of been needed.

      Sure, chat was probably popular. However, I bet that 99% of their chat users never cared about XMPP compatibility in the first place. When you’re a product manager at a billion dollar megacorp who’s aiming for a promotion and you have a choice between making 1% of your users sad and massively simplifying the complexity of your new project… you pick the 99%

      • dudeami0
        link
        fedilink
        711 months ago

        As for the article, I think this is generally PR and corporate speak. Whatever their reasons were, they apparently didn’t shut down the initial XMPP servers until 2022 so it was a reliable technology. There “simplification” was bringing users into their ecosystem to more easily monetize their behaviour. This goes along with your last paragraph, at the end of the day the corporation is a for-profit organization. We can’t trust a for-profit organization to have the best of intentions, some manager is aiming to meet a metric that gets them their bonus. Is this what we really want dictating the services we use day to day?

        • @[email protected]
          link
          fedilink
          5
          edit-2
          11 months ago

          they apparently didn’t shut down the initial XMPP servers until 2022

          Sure. They probably had one client who paid them a pile of money every year to keep it live. If there was some plan to extinguish XMPP, surely they wouldn’t have kept it around for so long.

          We can’t trust a for-profit organization to have the best of intentions

          Sure. The solution is simple: don’t use corporate platforms. The way to prevent what happened was not for XMPP to block Google. It was for people to not switch to Google in the first place. Google Talk released in 2005. This was absolutely back when everyone still believed “Don’t be evil”.

    • Margot RobbieOP
      link
      611 months ago

      Hmm. Did not know that. Thanks!

      But my counterpoint to the axing bit is that Google did not need any reason to do anything dumb with their Chat products, otherwise Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger would not have been as popular as they are now.

      • Margot RobbieOP
        link
        611 months ago

        Also, in my defense, that article was just wrong about XMPP’s history then, as it stated that:

        In 2006, Google talk became XMPP compatible. Google was seriously considering XMPP.

        Which is why I thought it was a feature they later added.

  • Eugenia
    link
    2811 months ago

    XMPP was better known as Jabber back in the day, and most of us used Pidgin to connect to it. I used it for about 10 years or so.

  • @CarbonatedPastaSauce
    link
    2511 months ago

    I had a five digit ICQ account back in the day. Also used pidgin and MSN Messenger. A lot of us nerds used XMPP clients. Hell, ICQ had tens of millions of users at its peak.

    • @marcos
      link
      1211 months ago

      I was very glad then Google adopted it and maybe that would mean that we could stop making a new instant messenger account every year, and deal with non-compliant plugins for that GNU client…

      Just to see Google using it to do the exact opposite.

      • @CarbonatedPastaSauce
        link
        1211 months ago

        A lot of us thought that, in our innocence. We thought Google were the good guys for a while.

        “But they were, all of them, deceived.”

  • Nine
    link
    2111 months ago

    I LOVE XMPP!

    I’m still upset that it didn’t take off like email did. It is/was the best federated instant messaging platform ever.

    However with things like discord and to a lesser extent matrix, I don’t see it ever making a comeback and being widely used. I think google dropping it and going full hangouts was the final nail in its coffin 😞

    • @mvirts
      link
      411 months ago

      Not with that attitude! Get a server set up ! :P

      • Nine
        link
        311 months ago

        Lol yeah, but why do that when https://conversations.im/ is doing an amazing job of making great software and running an amazing service? Plus with super easy and simple E2E it’s pretty damn secure and private!

        • @mvirts
          link
          111 months ago

          Lol I did a double take when I saw a us bank account and routing number provided for donations :P

          Looks legit to me!!

          • Nine
            link
            311 months ago

            Yeah, They offer XMPP hosting and other services. Having a bank account setup to collect donations and what would make it easier for B2B transactions.

            Given all the scams and stuff these days I can see where that would raise some concerns though.

            I’ve been using them for nearly a decade. I think they’re one of the only places around that host XMPP like that too.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      English
      29 months ago

      XMPP is far superior to matrix for one on one and group messaging, imo. Matrix is useful for communities, as you said, like discord is.

  • swope
    link
    fedilink
    1711 months ago

    I knew XMPP as Jabber, and I remember being delighted when I tested messages between my Jabber accounts and my Gmail account.

    • Ender2k
      link
      fedilink
      411 months ago

      @swope

      @MargotRobbie

      Recently pulled an old iMac out of storage and logged in. iMessages started trying to log into all my Jabber accounts…

    • Andy
      link
      211 months ago

      Does that translate to ‘it will be nice to chat with people using Threads from my Mastodon account?’

      • swope
        link
        fedilink
        411 months ago

        I think it’s a different thing. For me, my expectation is that Threads/Meta connecting to Fediverse is more like when AOL connected to IRC (specifically EFnet) in the 90s. I wasn’t really into Usenet, but Eternal September was pretty much the same wave. AOL pushed hard in advertising and recruiting users, and IRC and Usenet were originally populated with people who got into it more organically.

        I don’t remember Jabber or XMPP having any kind of discovery system. I only ever talked to people who knew already. So when Google connected Talk, it was just added convenience. I wasn’t bombarded with rude idiots like the AOL invasion of IRC. When Google ended XMPP support, I was disappointed, but I continued using XMPP with my friends.

        I think Meta is spending a ton on promoting Threads, and it’s going to bring in a lot of people with different values. It’s going to be unpleasant for me, but I think that’s just the self-similar fractal that is the Internet.

  • mnejing
    link
    fedilink
    1211 months ago

    The first time I ever heard my wife’s voice was on XMPP (GTalk, I know, but I was using Jabber prior to). So yes, I absolutely used XMPP and watched it get obliterated.

  • ProtonBadger
    link
    fedilink
    1211 months ago

    I used Jabber with the Pidgin client, my impression was also it was mostly developers and open source enthusiasts. Most people I knew who were not of those circles used commercial things like ICQ, MSN Messenger, AIM, etc. Frequently Jabber/XMPP enthusiasts had to use clients that supported it as well as some form of gateway to the other clients. Trillian was a popular multi-protocol client.

  • key
    link
    fedilink
    1211 months ago

    I used pidgin back in the late 00s. Had to sign up with Jabber/XMPP to round out all the account options! Then it became my main way of talking with people who used gchat for years. Will admit it was never as popular as IAM/MSN was before or Skype was after

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    1011 months ago

    I used XMPP for years, then my work switched to using it, then my work switched to Slack.

    XMPP was fine.

  • picnic
    link
    fedilink
    10
    edit-2
    11 months ago

    You’re not getting an objective answer to the “did most of the Gtalk/Facebook messenger users even know they were using xmpp, or care?” from lemmy/kbin/fediverse users in 2023, as most here likely do care a wee bit more of the technical and privacy matters than the average joe.

    However, I used XMPP personally via integrating it to my irc (weechat+bitlbee) so I could get all the IM services under one interface. I’m doing the same now with Matrix: I have irc, whatsapp, my smart home messages etc all forwarded to matrix.

    We also built XMPP chat at our company which I was working for back in the day. I think it was called Jabber back then. Biggest drawback in my opinion was the lack of encryption out of the box - encryption should’ve been more integrated to XMPP from the get go, instead of being an extension.

    XMPP/Jabber is once again a thing that could’ve been great for everyone. We could have one singular decentralized technology to IM which would’ve been open to all and interoperable. If approx 20% of the world’s population has a google account and 35% facebook account, at least every third person in the world would’ve been reachable via XMPP. And if it would’ve reached critical mass, it would’ve likely been even bigger.

    • Margot RobbieOP
      link
      411 months ago

      I know I’m not getting the perspective of the average consumer (which is also why this is the perfect audience for the “Barbie” promotion), part of me is just curious about the perspective of enthusiasts on XMPP, since I know very little about it.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        311 months ago

        And also, most of the people who will want to reply to this post will have used xmpp and want to tel their story

  • Em Adespoton
    link
    fedilink
    1011 months ago

    XMPP was sitting there in the background like any well behaved protocol. Anyone who used the original iChat or Google Talk, for example, used XMPP. And of course anyone who used Jabber.

    For that matter, iChat communicated with AIM via XMPP IIRC. It’s not something you actively attempted to use, just like people don’t tend to talk about using HTTP or SMTP.

    But when Google moved to a proprietary standard, that was the major client for XMPP. It broke my integration allowing me to communicate with all the other messaging systems, and the result was really that I stopped using all of them and switched to e2ee systems only, and Skype when I needed to.

    But I still use Pidgin to connect to a private XMPP server from time to time; I just don’t leave it running 24/7 anymore. I’ve got iMessages and Signal and Matrix for that.

  • Pumpkin
    link
    fedilink
    9
    edit-2
    11 months ago

    I used it a lot, not through Google’s gchat stuff, I ran my own XMPP server. It worked really well, I used the OTR encryption plugin in pidgeon. My work also used to use xmpp for internal chat within the company, however they switched to matrix like 5-6 years ago. Something I’ve since done personally too.

    I like XMPP a lot, it worked well, including it being federated.