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Trillian Pro Adds Jabber Support, New Features

Cerulean Studios is preparing to unveil the next version of its popular multi-network instant messaging client, Trillian Pro -- adding basic support for Jabber-based servers, a number of new public IM features, and opening its architecture to new IM services.

With the addition of Jabber -- also known as Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, or XMPP -- Trillian Pro 2.0 is poised to become one of the most widely deployed XMPP clients, since Cerulean Studios claims that the software, and its less-featured, free version, have been downloaded more than 10 million times. (It's unknown how many of those users are Pro users.)

That could be a major boost for the grassroots forces promoting XMPP as a standard in the public and corporate instant messaging world, in opposition to the proprietary networks operated by America Online , Yahoo! and Microsoft's MSN. Jabber supporters point to their system's open-source model and its ability to offer server-to-server interoperability as its chief value proposition. Working against XMPP, however, is its relatively small user base compared to the major IM networks, which each claim more than 100 million users.

"It's certainly exciting for us," said Joe Hildebrand, chief architect at Jabber, Inc. and a member of the Jabber Council, which oversees the protocol's community of supporters. "This gives people who are already Trillian users to begin with an opportunity to use a better IM system, rather than one of the more consumer-oriented ones. It's also good because of Trillian's community and how large it is ... both communities can start to come together."

"We haven't actually seen the running code yet, but we were working with the woman doing the actual coding, so it should be a really nice client," he added.

So far, Jabber compatibility isn't enabled by default -- users must turn it on by enabling a plug-in. And while functionality is limited, the implementation does offer individual IM, group chat, file transfers and SSL support for encrypted messaging.

In addition to XMPP support, another key improvement takes place on the development front, where improvements in the Trillian Pro SDK give programmers the ability to add their own IM services. That could potentially be a coup for the company, as the number of IM networks and protocols Trillian Pro could eventually support would seem to be limited only by the amount of support by outside developers.

In addition, other technical improvements in the upcoming version of Trillian Pro include better handling of AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! file transfers. Yahoo! Webcams also are better supported under the new version. The client also adds support for AIM users with a mac.com domain name, while ICQ users can now send an SMS message without having to bind a contact's mobile number to their contact entry.

Trillian Pro 2.0 also makes improvements on the user interface front -- simplifying skinning, introducing tabbed chats, and rolling out new system tray alerts for new received messages or contact status changes (similar to MSN Messenger). There's a new typing indicator for AIM users. Also, logs from earlier conversations with a contact are also shown within IM windows, even if the chat window is closed and re-opened later.

Windows-based Trillian Pro is currently in beta testing; it's unknown when the company plans to make it available for purchase, or whether some of the improvements will be added to the company's free version of the software.

In addition to the improvements in the current beta application, the company is said to be in early talks with programmers working on multi-network IM clients for other platforms -- about creating a standard for encrypted chat. So far, the talks include developers behind the Mac OS X-based Fire and the GAIM-e plug-in for the multi-platform GAIM. Currently, Trillian, Fire and GAIM-e users can chat securely, but only with other users of their software.

Christopher Saunders is managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.com.