Those cagey guys at Facebook are about to do something which nobody else in the last five years has been able to do. They’re about to crown Jabber/XMPP the king of IM protocols, and in the process they may finally crack the hegemony that AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo have enjoyed in the IM market for the last decade.
The news is that Facebook has announced that Facebook Chat will become XMPP compliant. In theory that means you can take a client like iChat on the Mac, or GTalk from Google and make it speak to Facebook chat. And Facebook is where the eyeballs are moving to today.
Example: as I write this at 5:30 AM, I have 30 contacts online on Skype, 29 on Facebook, 6 on MSN, and 2 on GTalk. GTalk, for all its promise, is little more than a persistent twitter window for me. I started on MSN, but for a long time, Skype has been my primary IM. Skype is where the people are. Increasingly, Facebook is becoming a Skype replacement for text chat.
To place all of this in context: Skype, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL are proprietary closed IM protocols. There has been a tug of war for some time in the industry between two open standards — XMPP and SIP/SIMPLE. Neither has won out, despite the fact that the telecom industry understands that presence is a huge step forward. With Facebook’s endorsement of XMPP, however, that could all change. Their 70 million plus audience is about to become completely presence enabled in a standard way, paving the way for a true social directory for all communications networks.
And, as I wrote 18 months ago in New Presence, this is happening off network. To be valuable, a presence cloud needs to be open and exist separate from the carriers.
Users live lives outside the artificially constructed walled gardens of the network operators, and so must their presence. Therefore, New Presence assumes a user-centric model of presence rather than a network-centric model. New Presence by its nature must be an off-carrier platform as it is dependent on the ability of users to assert identity, catalog relationships, and gather contextual information across multiple networks.