Jabber gets you talking with all your online friends

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By Benjamin Kwiecien

By Benjamin Kwiecien

Whenever you fire off an e-mail, you don’t stop and think about who you’re sending it to, and you usually don’t worry about whether or not they are going to get it.  Some people get e-mail from their internet service provider, while others get it from their employer; others still can access e-mail from free hosts on the Internet like Yahoo or MSN.

You can get e-mail from just about anywhere, and the great thing about that is no matter how you transfer your e-mail, you can communicate with everyone on the Net.

If you had the time and energy, you could even run your own mail service from home. It’s that kind of freedom and flexibility that has made e-mail so popular around the world.

E-mail, however, is not the only way to communicate online. Sometimes you need something faster than an e-mail and less time consuming than a phone call. That’s where instant messaging comes into play.

There is an inherent problem with instant messaging; who you can communicate with is limited by what service you use. Some people have AOL, while others have MSN. There are also people who use Yahoo, and the list goes on: ICQ, QQ, Gadu-Gadu, Skype. Thousands of people use these services (millions in some cases), and almost none of them can intercommunicate.

Sometimes there are exceptions; for example, AOL users can send messages to ICQ users, and Yahoo users can send messages to MSN users, but this is the exception, not the rule.

If e-mail proves anything, it’s that sending messages from one place to the other on the Internet is incredibly easy to do, so why can’t instant messaging be universal?

Most companies and organizations that offer instant messaging prefer to monopolize. They want to pressure you, your family, and all your friends to commit to their service exclusively. This boosts revenue through advertisement, but it puts their users in a tight spot.

Being forced to commit to a single service is terribly inconvenient. What happens when your best buddy uses one service and your grandpa uses another?

If you want to talk to both of them online, you’ve got to connect to different services. Some people need to keep up with as many as four or five different services to stay in touch with everyone they know.

In order to deal with this problem, many people resort to downloading a single program that will connect to every service for them, but this only solves part of the problem. Now they can send messages to all of their friends, but there is no guarantee that their friends can send messages to each other.

Not only that, but it is common for these kinds of programs to fail because they can’t keep up with all the changes between one service and the next.

Isn’t there a simpler way to pass messages-one that can connect everyone? Yes, and that way is called Jabber.

Jabber (also called XMPP) is a friendly name for a set of technical specifications that describe how messages can be delivered across the internet efficiently and safely.

What makes Jabber special is that it is based on a set of public standards created by the Internet Engineering Task Force, a volunteer group that works to develop internet technologies.

That means that as long as a service is compatible with Jabber, it can deliver your messages to people on different networks. For example, if you have an account on jabber.org, you can send messages to your contacts who use Google mail even though you are not using Google’s service.

Right now there are thousands of different Jabber servers on the Internet, each one unique and independent. This offers a great deal of freedom, and according to the Jabber Foundation, there are over 10 million people worldwide who use Jabber. That number is likely to grow in the future, showing just how many users value freedom.

Because Jabber does not represent any single program or service, many people are confused by how to take advantage of it. If you have a Google account, all you have to do is go to http://talk.google.com for the latest software and information related to Google’s service. In case you don’t have a Google account, there is an option to register for free.

If you are braver and willing to investigate other programs and providers, try visiting http://www.jabber.org. All of the servers listed there are open to the public and ad-free.

Joining the Jabber network is the most effective and immediate way to promote progress in instant messaging; as long as you stick with incompatible messaging services, you only make life harder for everyone.

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