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XMPP: The Standard for Enterprise Instant Messaging

January 4, 2009

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For nearly a decade, a battle has been waged over enterprise instant messaging. The question that had lingered for so long was whether any standard would emerge as the predominant standard, or whether we would all be crippled with proprietary solutions that only work within the confines of the enterprise. Well, the writing on the wall is pretty clear now, with XMPP coming out as the clear winner.

This is not surprising, of course. XMPP has long-been focused on enabling presence and instant messaging with inter-enterprise communication capabilities in mind. Dozens of companies and open source projects produced products (both clients and servers) to enable IM and presence functionality via XMPP. Google adopted XMPP as the basis of its Google Talk service and most other major instant messaging providers are building bridges to interface with the XMPP networks.

So, why is XMPP becoming the protocol of choice? Quite simply: it works. Just like email systems that enable one to send a message to anybody in the world, XMPP is a well-defined protocol that enables one to send messages to or get presence for anybody else in the world. Of course, privacy issues are certainly a concern, but XMPP supports the concept of a "buddy" list so that one can control who can send messages and who can subscribe presence. The protocol also supports the use of TLS for secure encryption between the client and server, as well as server to server.

XMPP if a feature-rich protocol that is still being actively developed and extended, but has already become the official IM standard by the United Stated Department of Defense, most large financial institutions, and a number of the Fortune 500 companies. And, it makes sense given the large number of open source developers and organizations like XMPP Standards Foundation, which is constantly working on new extensions to the protocol.

Putting all of the politics that always surround a protocol aside, what made us really excited about XMPP is the fact that it really does just works. We installed an open source XMPP server in a matter of minutes and were able to exchange IM and presence with users of Google Talk without any complications whatsoever. The technology is mature, well-supported, and rock solid — it definitely ready for widespread enterprise adoption.