Jabber: An Open Source IM System

The instant messaging war between Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and America Online Inc. (AOL) has many pessimistic about the prospects that online chat can develop into an industrial-strength communication tool anytime soon.

However, the bickering over interoperability could become old news if a new, open-source IM project is successful.

Launched last January, Jabber uses an open architecture and is built from the ground up with interoperability and simplicity as core goals, according to lead developer Jeremie Miller.

“Lots of businesses want to deploy their own custom clients and use instant messaging, but none of the products out there are designed so that anyone can build on top of them. With Jabber, they don’t have to depend on a commercial company to develop a large client that has a lot of features the don’t need.”

Using XML as the transport protocol, Jabber developers are already building clients for the Windows, Java, TCL, and other environments, with plans for a Mozilla-integrated client, according to Miller. Thanks to a little reverse software-engineering, Jabber will have back-end compatibility with other IM systems, so that users can communicate with AIM, ICQ, and other proprietary systems.

Like its commercial cousins, Jabber is about much more than chat. Miller said the goal is for developers to contribute modules including stock tickers, news alerts, company announcements, and email. Already, a number of Internet service providers and corporate developers have joined the effort, he said.

The project is expected to go into high gear next month, when the next beta of the core server code is released.

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