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Jabber Builds Case For IM Standards

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Hoping to calm the tumultuous interoperability waters in a vast sea of Instant Messaging, one industry group says it has the fix.

The Jabber Software Foundation (JSF) Wednesday hearalded the release of SIMPLE and Wireless Village (OMA -- Open Mobile Alliance MPS). The gateways built by Antepo and Jabber, Inc., are two of the leading protocols for instant messaging. The Denver-based JSF is a non-profit organization that builds open application protocols on top of the IETF's Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).

XMPP is an open protocol widely used as the common connection between open source and proprietary IM systems. The JSF has been pushing hard to get the protocol ratified soon by the IETF. As a selling point, the JSF reports that more than 215,000 open source XMPP servers have been installed with a total worldwide user base of approximately 7-10 million people.

Engineers at New York-based Antepo built the XMPP-to-SIMPLE gateway, while Jabber Inc.'s team built the XMPP-to-IMPS gateway.

"The Jabber community has always deeply valued interoperability, and it is fantastic to see commercial companies such as Antepo and Jabber Inc. continue the strong tradition begun by open-source developers," said Peter Saint Andre, the JSF's executive director. "The fact that Jabber/XMPP is both extensible and modular makes it the natural platform on which to build interoperable systems."

Saint Andre and the JSF presented their case at the Instant Messaging Planet Fall 2003 Conference & Expo here. The show is produced by Jupitermedia , parent company of this Web site.

The introduction of new standards certainly adds fuel to the IM in the enterprise debate. Of the major IM environments, Microsoft , AOL and Yahoo! all have proprietary platforms, but Jabber is compatible with all three. The competition is fierce. Nearly 65 million workers already using instant messaging and that number expected to grow to 350 million by 2005, according to analyst firm IDC.

Both Microsoft and AOL are actively participating in standards bodies like the IETF and OMA. Yahoo! Enterprise Solutions senior vice president Steve Boom says standards were important, but the company's policy is to take a "wait and see" approach.

"We usually don't place our bets on a standard before it is one," he said. "One problem with SIMPLE, for example, is that it doesn't support multi-party chat."

IM technology has become so widespread that it's even attracted the attention of federal communications authorities and Wall Street regulators. The IM industry is already tackling the problem of documentation to align with SEC and NASD regulations for financial reporting, but some financial institutions are calling for better requirements for encryption. Bank of America, for one, is calling for a model that documents from server to server instead of a desktop-to-desktop model.

In the coming months, the JSF expects sponsor and member organizations continue to demonstrate the interoperability of XMPP with other protocols as the XMPP standard inches closer to ratification by the IETF.