Thursday, May 19, 2011
Google Talk + AIM = XMPP Federation!
It's been over three years since I last blogged about interop between AIM and Google Talk, when I announced the ability for Gmail users to log in to AIM and chat with their AIM buddies. While a step forward for users, who could now talk to twice as many people as before, the approach taken had several technical drawbacks.
For various reasons, the mechanism used to access AIM involved making Google Talk into a "multi-headed" client, where it logged in to the Talk network and the AIM network at the same time, but hid these details under the covers so that from the user standpoint it felt like a single messaging application. Unfortunately that wasn't always true; users needed to have both a Google and an AIM account; they had to remember their Google password and their AIM password, and various features, such as group chat between members of both networks, were technically impossible to implement with this approach.
That's why I'm glad to announce today that the AIM and Google Talk universes are now connected via XMPP Federation. Through the open XMPP protocol, the AIM and Google Talk servers can communicate directly with one another, eliminating the need for separate credentials and the multi-headed complexities of the past. Users can now sign into a single service, either AIM and Google Talk, and communicate with one another simply by adding the email address of their friends to their contact lists. (For AIM users, who historically have been identified by "screennames", the email address is simply firstname.lastname@example.org).
For Google Talk users who previously used AIM integration within Gmail, there's one issue to be aware of. With our switch to use federation, Gmail will no longer log you into your AIM account, and so Gmail won't know who your AIM buddies are. Fortunately, AOL has created a simple web-based tool that will import your AIM buddies into your Gmail contact list, saving you the trouble of adding all your friends by hand.
I'm excited to see this day finally come, and am hopeful that this will lead to federation of all the world's IM services. We've achieved this for email; we should expect no less for IM.