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The instant messaging world should prepare for a major quake — thanks to Facebook, which seems to be all set to launch a new connection interface that would allow Facebook Chat to work with any kind of XMPP client.
The news of this development was first reported by Mickaël Rémond on the company blog of Process One, a Paris-based messaging startup. “It now seems the launch is close as the XMPP software stack has been deployed on chat.facebook.com,” writes Rémond, who is a leading expert on instant messaging and ejabberd and is an active member of the XMPP Standard Foundation.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Facebook had announced that it would build “a Jabber/XMPP interface for Facebook Chat” and that “users will be able to use Jabber/XMPP-based chat applications to connect to Facebook Chat to” communicate, check their friends’ profiles, and set their statuses.
Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, or XMPP, has surely become the de facto standard for messaging and presence. After a big push from Google Talk, XMPP is going to get the next major push from Facebook. The world’s largest social-networking service, with over 350 million subscribers, is about to launch the XMPP connection interface. That will allow users to use Facebook Chat with any XMPP client — whether on the desktop or mobile. A good example of how this works is Adium, a popular open-source IM client that allows you to communicate with disparate IM networks. The latest version of Adium supports Facebook Chat.
Why is this news disruptive? Simple: Until now, in order to use Facebook Chat to communicate, one needed to be logged into the Facebook web site or mobile service. However, if the chat can be accessed on any device regardless of whether you are logged into Facebook’s web site, the usage of that IM is only going to increase. This would, in turn, mean tough times for older IM networks such as AOL’s AIM and Microsoft’s MSN.
To understand why independent Facebook Chat on the web (and on the wireless networks) is disruptive, just take a look at its amazing rise. It was prototyped in January 2007 at a Hackathon and become a real project in the fall of 2007 with four engineers. In April 2008, the service went live for consumers and was available to 70 million Facebook users at the time. As of September, nearly a billion user messages were being exchanged every day with 1GB traffic at its peak, according to a presentation made by the Facebook development team at a conference in Edinburgh in September.