Follow-up To "teh shiny" Rant

Apparently, for whatever reason, people came here and read my mad rant about Jabber, OpenID And “teh shiny’‘. To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat surprised about that. Anyways, allow me to address some responses.

Peter Saint-Andre answered with some interesting numbers. (He is Executive Director of the XMPP Standards Foundation, Director of Standards at Jabber Inc., Chair of the XMPP Council, and managing editor of the standards process followed by the XMPP Standards Foundation.)

[T]here are 40-50 million people using Jabber technologies these days, but most of them probably don’t even know it since they think they’re using Google Talk, Live Journal Talk, Chikka, IM services from NTT or BellSouth or Gizmo or whomever, presence services like Jaiku and Twitter, etc. Or they work for FedEx or HP or Adobe or EDS or just about any Wall Street bank and those companies all use Jabber for their in-house IM service. Or they’re in the Marines or work for some other government agency that has deployed Jabber. Or they’re using something that doesn’t even look like IM because it’s in fact a network monitoring service or workflow system or whiteboarding app that just happens to use the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol to send around some XML in real time. Or. Well, you get the picture. Jabber/XMPP is fundamentally infrastructure, not a shiny client. Think HTTP, not Firefox.

Very good point, and very good numbers. (Seriously, I am actually, truly wow’ed.) And I apologize for me not mentioning the infrastructure part. It is part of XMPP, of course, but I was talking about wide-spread adoption of XMPP/Jabber by the average IM user. XMPP is a superior protocol in my eyes, and I was wondering why it didn’t take the public IM landscape by storm. That said, as impressive these numbers are, in my eyes corporate or governmental clients and services really count, mostly because in these cases the employer (be it a company or a country) dictate which client to use. Now if all these people would use XMPP IM clients at home as well, then that would really make a splash.

Now I was wondering why not everyone is using an IM client that uses this superior protocol, and the reason is: there is no client that does really impress the public. Now, please, don’t get me wrong: There are a lot of good Jabber clients out there that appeal to devs and geeks. Hell, I’ve used a fair share of them myself. Some of them are pretty damn cool, others not so much, and that’s okay. But now, even if you kick and scream about the awesomeness of IM client XYZ, the question remains:

“Why is Joe A. IMuser still using ICQ & Co. instead of a good, slick Jabber client?”

Think about it. We’re talking about an good selling point that is heard by the ungeeky masses.

Phil Wilson asked in the comments:

OpenID is for logging in to things. I look forward to your suggestion of a killer app for “logging in to things”. Also, your [..] comparison is fatally flawed. An IM infrastructure and protocol has a default application, an IM server and client, OpenId has, what? a login form?

I was under the impression that it was an identity management platform/protocol. But in the end, yes, that means it is for logging in to things. ;) But as I’ve said, the “killer application” for OpenID could be something quite simple. For example, being an integral part of the Wordpress standard package so every WP installation would allow OpenID authentication by default. Yes, no, maybe? Well, I don’t know…

Really, I don’t have (m)any answers. I was just going with my new years resolution to blog more about what I think about. :)

Anyways: In the end, I think Mike sums it up best:

[I]n short, the public has no imagination when it comes to protocols. The fact that Skype took off has nothing at all to do with the backend communication layer, except insofar as that layer was better at getting through firewalls than anything else on the market. People used the protocol, not because of the protocol, but because of the feature the protocol enabled. When you say that Jabber will take off as soon as it has a client with some killer features, I don’t think that actually says anything about Jabber itself: you’re simply arguing for a shinier client. If Y! implemented the killer “Smilmiis” (How’s that for a name? :) ) in Messenger, people would use it. If AOL did the same, people would use it.

Well put, thank you. (The “mi”s in “Smilmiis” stand for “Mike”, I believe.)

On a personal note: I know that I often lack the ability to pinpoint what I am pondering, or where I am going with a rant. I know that. I hope that more frequent blogging and “public pondering” will help me improve that ability.

Also, I might be totally off my rocker. That’s why I tagged it with “rant”.

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Carlo Zottmann @czottmann