Sam Buchanan's weblog.

What is Jabber

I've talked about Jabber enough that I feel that I should give a brief overview for those who aren't inclined to dig too far beyond the simple links that I've provided.

Jabber (, was originally set up as an instant messaging service that allows people on different IM networks (AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, etc.) to communicate. Otherwise, for example, AIM users can't chat with ICQ users. Jabber is an open source, standards-based, XML-based IM framework — all messages, routing, etc. is handled with XML. There are Jabber clients for most platforms that people use in real life, and all the sorts of things you'd hope to find in an IM system: basic IM, chat, group chat, even whiteboard. Pretty slick, really.

Ah, but wait. That's not all. Because Jabber is in essence a system for routing XML messages, there's nothing that says that those messages need to be restricted to IM and chat. Jabber users don't even have to be people. Any system that uses XML to exchange data can do so using Jabber — with all the built-in benefits of presence management, security framework, etc. Quick example: an app that tracks stock prices or network traffic, then notifies you when you come online of anything interesting — or sends you a text message, or communicates with a web service via XML-RPC, or whatever.

That's why it's cool for users and developers. Another advantage is that it's free, open source, and extensible. An organization can set up its own Jabber server. Messages can also be encrypted with SSL and/or PGP. Instead of relying on an external service like AIM (perhaps a problem for security or reliability reasons), an organization could have its own self-contained IM system. Most Jabber development to date has been on Unix, but there are Windows and Java versions available, as well. For those who aren't comfortable with free software, there is a commercial version and support available ( And hey, get over it.

On the IM side, AOL has historically been antagonistic to Jabber, periodically changing the AIM protocols and necessitating a frantic couple days of reverse engineering (something that I'm no longer sure is legal under the DMCA, at least in the US). AOL has even blocked access from the server, so if you want to communicate with AIM users you need to use another server. Perhaps set up your own.

That's it in a nutshell. Peter Saint-André (whose name you'll start to recognize) has written a very good user guide, which you should read if I've piqued your interest. Then install a Jabber client and send me a message. I don't really feel like publishing my Jabber ID on the Web, so send me email first ( Ah what the hell. It's I look forward to hearing from you.