A rant about non-commercial IM-Servers and Clients

This rant is SO necessary! I am SO pissed off!

Today, my FOURTH Jabber-Account on a free server is failing.

Jabber – the great free decentralized XMPP-Network on which even commercial services like Google Talk participate. So the default procedure is: Someone who likes to be admin of a server creates an XMPP-Server, making it freely available, and maintaining it. But it happens what always happens: The Admin gets older and therefore more work to do, and so, the XMPP-Server gets forgotten. Instead of giving some other person the possibility to maintain it, the server either goes down completely, or has downtimes and bugs whenever you want to use it.

Thats what already happened three times to my accounts. I had to switch the server and port my contactlist every time. I will try to keep my current account as long as possible, but at the moment I am just totally switching to google talk.

Basically, Google Talk works and has almost no downtime – yes, it already had maintenance-timeouts, but these were announced before and were short. Thus, well, Google is open to external Jabber-Servers, and thus part of the Jabber-Network, but as it appears to be the only long-term reliable server besides jabber.org, the „freedom“ behind Jabber becomes arguable.

Then well, having an own little vserver should be sufficient for having an own Jabber-Server. The question is: What server-software to use? Jabberd2 seems very strange, and everyone suggests using ejabberd. But ejabberd – under Debian … well, most people suggest not to use the package, and I actually also do so, because not even the initscript works properly. But lets be honest. Ejabberd works – sort of. If you leave it to the basic configuration and hope that your server will be accepted by the other Jabber-Servers – and, above all, will accept other Jabber-Servers – there may come a time when you can actually use it (except when it crashes or refutes to connect because of some misconfiguration you didnt even notice before connecting to it from another IP-Address).

If you only want the service for yourself, you could also think of running a server locally on your Home-PC, using dyndns. Well, this solution is not very stable for a huge Jabber-Server, but for you and a few friends it should be sufficient. But then you are almost guaranteed to not being able to connect to the larger Jabber-Servers – because they mostly deny access of such IP-Addresses – which is obvious, since otherwise they would be flooded with spam.

And above all, having an own server is nothing for everyone. It is basically not what Instant Messaging was thought for. Instant Messaging contains the word „instant“ – which means you want to use it instantly. You dont want to have to configure a complex server infrastructure everytime you want to ask a friend if he likes pizza when he arrives visiting you, or if he will join you in the canteen this noon. Especially, you as a conscious free-software-user could even be willing to take the extra efforts to maintain such a thing, but will the handsome neighbour-girl you want to date do so, too? IM is only an option if it is easily available to anyone.

This includes a simple Client which runs under Windows – which doesnt want to know lots of strange settings, but just a small User-ID and password, and then connects and then just works. Is that really so hard?

Well, facebook has an XMPP-Service meanwhile, which is a good thing (and does certainly produce some costs to facebook) which works perfectly as far as I see – except with the newest Pidgin-Version (which is the client which is most commonly recommended to users). I tried with other clients. I tried with older Pidgin-Versions. It worked perfectly. Only the new Pidgin-Version doesnt like facebook’s XMPP-Service. And – above all – I asked #pidgin for help. But nobody could imagine what the problem is.

This is an XMPP-Service – it uses an open protocol. And it used to work with the same client on an older version. But nobody can even tell how to trace the problem. Now, isnt that nice?

And to get your client being able to transfer files from point to point is another story. It isnt even always sufficient to have one open port on one side.

Actually, I dont see the point to XMPP at all. Seems like the main purpose it is used for is Instant Messaging. There may be multiuser-chats, but IRC is far more wide-spread, and far more usable, and has a simple protocol. Actually, IRC could be used for Instant-Messaging, too, when slightly modified or extended.

I cannot understand why its so hard to create a working protocol for instant-messaging. I mean, its not that instant messaging is something that has just been invented.


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