TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jun 01 MacTech Online

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 06
Column Tag: MacTech Online

Jabber

by Jeff Clites online@mactech.com

Last month we began our coverage of P2P (peer-to-peer) technologies. The P2P field is being fueled by open-source projects which have sprung up in response to the popularity of specific proprietary applications in this genre, by generalizing, improving, or simply imitating them. Last month we discussed Gnutella, an open-source protocol for peer-to-peer sharing of files and other resources. Gnutella was inspired by Napster, generalizing the concept to support sharing of things other than music files, and decentralizing searches to avoid any one critical point which could be attacked, by either technological or legal means. This month we are going to look into Jabber, which takes its cue from instant messaging (IM) and chat products such as AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Yahoo Pager, MSN Messenger, ICQ, and IRC. Jabber's goal is to provide a "universal" XML-based platform for instant messaging, which can bridge to other protocols as well as support new applications of messaging.

Jabber originated with Jeremie Miller's frustration with having to use multiple pieces of IM software in order to keep up with all of his friends, who were using a variety of different IM systems. His response to this proliferation was to come up with a protocol which was designed to both serve as a messaging platform on its own and to transparently bridge to others, so that he could use one protocol (and one client application) to communicate with all of his friends. Unsurprisingly, he chose XML as the basis for Jabber. So what is Jabber, exactly?

Jabber in a Nutshell

Jabber isn't a specific application, and the Jabber community likes to point out that it isn't a protocol either—they prefer to call it a platform. In truth, Jabber represents a collection of XML-based message formats, and the protocol for communicating them.

Jabber is completely XML-based, and communicates over client-server based TCP/IP connections, modeled on the email system. Users are identified by Jabber IDs, which resemble email addresses, and are of the form user@server/resource. (The "resource" portion allows the same user to connect multiple times from different applications or locations, and so the name of the client application or location, such as "home" or "laptop", is often used.) Jabber users begin a session by connecting to their local Jabber server. Messages are sent by addressing them to other Jabber IDs and handing them off to the local server, which routes them to the remote user's server in a manner similar to how email is routed and delivered. The remote user then receives the message via a connection to his local server.

Jabber's design philosophy takes XML seriously, and also sees as fundamental the placing of the bulk of the logic on the server. As mentioned above, one of Jabber's original goals was to bridge to other IM system, so that Jabber users could talk to other IM users without either really having to care or fully realize that they are using different systems. The technology which allows this accordingly lives on the server side, and Jabber users bridge to other IM systems by having the server act as their proxy—from the point of view of the foreign IM system, the server is the AIM client (for example), and it takes care of translating Jabber messages into AIM messages, and vice versa. This translation is done by components of the server called "transports" (or more recently, just "components"). The value of this approach is that it makes the creation of Jabber clients relatively simple, and additional functionality can be added by upgrading Jabber servers, without requiring a widespread client upgrade.

But Jabber doesn't just bridge to other systems—in the ideal situation, everyone could just use Jabber natively. As an IM technology in its own right, Jabber is full-featured: it supports "buddy lists" as well as notification of whether these users are currently online. It goes a step further than most other IM systems, in that buddy lists (called "rosters") are stored server-side, which facilitates notification of online status (called "presence"), as well as allowing users to connect to Jabber server from different machines using different client software without having to keep separate rosters in sync. Additionally, notification under Jabber occurs only with consent—a user must "subscribe" to another user in order to receive notification of whether they are online, and the other user has to authorize the subscription. This affords additional privacy, and could be used to combat spammers (by refusing messages from users to which one is not already subscribed, for instance). Also, Jabber supports the concept of traditional IM messages (which Jabber calls "chat"), group chats similar to IRC (called "group chat"), and more passive messages.

Strengths and Weaknesses

In additional to serving as a traditional human-to-human communication technology, Jabber is aspiring to serve as a mechanism for facilitating application-to-application (A2A) communication, or as a middleware to transport other types of messages. Fanciful potential applications include "smart" appliances which communicate in order to negotiate for resources (such as a coffee pot which turns itself on when the alarm clock goes off). As of yet, there don't seem to be any applications in this arena, and it isn't clear if this is a reasonable goal—other technologies such as Java's Jini have not seemed to take off in the "smart appliance" area, and for more traditional application-to-application communication there is already a great deal of underutilized technology out there, and the idea of an AI-like communication between desktop applications isn't realistically on the horizon. As a transport mechanism for other forms of inter-process communication there is potential, but Jabber doesn't have a clear advantage over the alternatives already available, and for some applications a protocol more directly designed for this task might work better.

In general, Jabber seems to suffer a little from what I would call the "premature need for generalization", and this is just one of the symptoms. Although Jabber is trying to be general-purpose, it's clear that it was designed with instant messaging in mind—for instance, its message types are "chat", "groupchat", "default", and "error". In truth, many of the new XML-based protocols today are trying to fill some perceived general need at the same time they are trying to fill a specific one. In general, I'd prefer to see a strong solution to a particular problem (such as the need for an open instant messaging protocol), and have generalization come later, if it's really needed and after some experience has been gained with the concrete application. Then, the original use could become one application of a more general technology, possibly after reimplementation.

Jabber is composed of open protocols and formats, and there are open-source implementations of clients and servers as well. The importance of this shouldn't be underestimated, in light of the proliferation of mutually incompatible, restrictive IM technologies. But the most valuable and immediately useful aspects of Jabber, in my opinion, aren't really the direct consequence of the "open source" approach: they are actually security-related. First, it's straightforward for companies to set up a private Jabber server behind the corporate firewall. This is actually more significant than it may sound, because despite the inherent insecurity of using AIM (for instance) for communication of confidential material, it's so useful that people often do it anyway. With Jabber, all of this communication can happen without the need for it to pass through an external server, whose security isn't under the control of its users. In the same vein, Jabber is incorporating support for encryption, both PGP-like procedures for the encryption of message content, and SSL for encryption of client-server and server-server communication. They do get points off, however, for not incorporating this from the start; we have enough insecure protocols which originated while the internet was a safe, private playground, and anyone developing new protocols today has no excuse for ignoring the need for some level of encryption as a fundamental component.

Jabber Resources

If you're interested in Jabber from a developer's perspective (or as a user, for that matter), the central hub of all things Jabber is Jabber.org. Here you can find developer documentation, as well as FAQs, user guides, and links to client implementations. Developers will want to look at the Technology Overview, the Protocol Overview, and the Programmers Guide, as well as the links to available code libraries. Also, those implementing Jabber clients in particular will want to check out The Jabber Client Developer's Cheat Sheet, which will help steer you around the "gotchas". For examples of some alternative uses of Jabber, take a look at DJ Adams' articles on the O'Reilly Network, or on his own Fun with Jabber site. Adams' applications use the Net::Jabber Perl module, which makes this sort of experimentation a snap, and you'll want to get your hands on this if you are Perl-savvy. He also has an experimental implementation of doing XML-RPC over Jabber. O'Reilly has some additional general coverage of Jabber, both on their portal site and in their Peer-to-Peer book, the Jabber chapter of which is available online. Finally, try Eric Peyton's Fire IM client for Mac OS X, which supports Jabber as well as a variety of other IM protocols, and keep an eye on JabberCentral for coverage of current related news.

Jabber - Open Source XML-Based Interoperable Instant Messaging and Presence Platform
http://www.jabber.org/

Jabber FAQ
http://docs.jabber.org/general/html/faq.html

Jabber Technology Overview
http://docs.jabber.org/general/html/overview.html

Jabber Protocol Overview
http://docs.jabber.org/general/html/protocol.html

Jabber Programmer's Guide
http://docs.jabber.org/jpg/html/main.html

Jabber Projects - Jabber libraries
http://jabber.org/?oid=71

Jabber Client Developer's Cheat Sheet
http://homepage.mac.com/jens/Jabber/JabberClientCheatSheet.html

You Have Mail! [Mar. 09, 2001]
http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2001/03/09/adams_1.html

A More Sensitive Mail Notifier [Apr. 13, 2001]
http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2001/04/13/jabber.html

Fun With Jabber
http://www.pipetree.com/jabber/

Net::Jabber
http://search.cpan.org/search?dist=Net-Jabber

XMLRPC over Jabber
http://www.pipetree.com/jabber/XMLRPC/

XML Messaging with Jabber [Oct. 06, 2000]
http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2000/10/06/jabber_xml.html

Jabber Works: Here's How [Oct. 06, 2000]
http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2000/10/06/jabber_works.html

Peer-to-Peer: Chapter 6: Jabber
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/peertopeer/chapter/ch06.html

epicware: Fire
http://www.epicware.com/fire.html

JabberCentral
http://www.jabbercentral.com

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Apple iTunes 12.2 - Play Apple Music...
Apple iTunes lets you organize and stream Apple Music, download and watch video and listen to Podcasts. It can automatically download new music, app, and book purchases across all your devices and... Read more
Apple Security Update 2015-005 - For OS...
Apple Security Update 2015-005 is recommended for all users and improves the security of OS X. For detailed information about the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.... Read more
Apple HP Printer Drivers 3.1 - For OS X...
Apple HP Printer Drivers includes the latest HP printing and scanning software for OS X Lion or later. For information about supported printer models, see this page. Version 3.1: The latest printing... Read more
Epson Printer Drivers 3.1 - For OS X 10....
Epson Printer Drivers installs the latest software for your EPSON printer or scanner for OS X Yosemite, OS X Mavericks, OS X Mountain Lion, and OS X Lion. For more information about printing and... Read more
Xcode 6.4 - Integrated development envir...
Xcode provides everything developers need to create great applications for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Xcode brings user interface design, coding, testing, and debugging into a united workflow. The Xcode... Read more
OS X Yosemite 10.10.4 - Apple's lat...
OS X Yosemite is Apple's newest operating system for Mac. An elegant design that feels entirely fresh, yet inherently familiar. The apps you use every day, enhanced with new features. And a... Read more
Dash 3.0.2 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API Documentation Browser and Code Snippet Manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
FontExplorer X Pro 5.0 - Font management...
FontExplorer X Pro is optimized for professional use; it's the solution that gives you the power you need to manage all your fonts. Now you can more easily manage, activate and organize your... Read more
Typinator 6.6 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
Arq 4.12.1 - Online backup to Google Dri...
Arq is super-easy online backup for the Mac. Back up to your own Google Drive storage (15GB free storage), your own Amazon Glacier ($.01/GB per month storage) or S3, or any SFTP server. Arq backs up... Read more

Hands-On With Raceline CC
Set for release soon, Rebellion’s motorbike racing game, Raceline CC certainly looks stylish. But how does it play? I got my hands on a preview build to answer exactly that. | Read more »
Siegefall - Tips, Tricks, and Strategies...
So, you fancy establishing a base and ruling the world again. Siegefall is a convenient place to do that, but how about some great tips and tricks on how best to go about it? Here are a few ideas on how to get ahead as a beginner to this medieval... | Read more »
The WWE Comes to Racing Rivals - Because...
Racing Rivals is a racing game that's all about, well, rivalry. And who knows rivalry better than WWE superstars (shhhh, that was rhetorical)? [Read more] | Read more »
Hey, Who Put Apple Music in My SoundHoun...
One of the App Store's popular music discovery sources - SoundHound - has already been updated to include Apple's own music discovery source - Apple Music. That was fast! [Read more] | Read more »
Arcane Legends has a New Expansion Calle...
Arcane Legends has been going strong since it debuted at the tail end of 2012. So well, in fact, that it's already up to its sixth expansion. [Read more] | Read more »
Vector 2 is Officially a Thing and it...
Vector is a pretty cool parkour-driven runner that's gotten a pretty decent following since it first came out - although personally I think more people could stand to show it some love. Anyway, Nekki has announced that a sequel isofficially on its... | Read more »
Get Ready to Trucksform and Roll Out (an...
It looks like NuOxygen is bringing the truck-transforming racer Trucksform (get it?) to iOS in a couple of weeks. Although really it's more of an auto-driver than a racer. But still, transforming trucks! [Read more] | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps:June 22-26, 2015
June's Summer Journey Continues With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice,... | Read more »
LEGO® Minifigures Online (Games)
LEGO® Minifigures Online 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
World of Tanks Blitz celebrates its firs...
Today marks the first anniversary of the launch of World of Tanks Blitz, the mobile version of the PC tank battler, World of Tanks. World of Tanks Blitz launched on iOS and Android on June 26th last year and to celebrate, Wargaming is giving all... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Releases OS X 10.10.4 With WIFi Fix, iO...
On Tuesday, Apple released final versions of OS X 10.10.4 and iOS 8.4, as well as updates for the Safari browser for OS X Yosemite, Mavericks, and Mountain Lion. The OS X 10.10.4 update focuses on... Read more
Dual-Band High-Gain Antennas for Home Wi-Fi N...
Linksys has announced what it claims are the first dual-band, omni-directional high-gain antennas for the consumer market. The new Linksys high-gain antennas available in a 2- and 4-pack (WRT004ANT... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 15-inch Retina MacBook...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1609, $390 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. They have... Read more
Clearance 2014 MacBook Airs available for up...
Adorama has 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $301 off original MSRP including NY + NJ sales tax and free shipping: - 11″ 256GB MacBook Air: $798 $301 off original MSRP - 13″ 128GB MacBook Air: $... Read more
5K iMacs on sale for $100 off MSRP, free ship...
B&H Photo has the new 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. They have the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2199, also $100... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679, save $...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Gray MacBook on sale for $1487...
Amazon.com has the new 12″ 1.2GHz Gray MacBook in stock and on sale for $1487 including free shipping. Their price is $102 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. We expect... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon.com has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1819 including free shipping. Their price is $180 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
OtterBox Releases New Symmetry Series Metalli...
Otterbox’s new Symmetry Series of smartphone cases flaunts the best of both both street style and street smarts with their new metallic finishes and trusted OtterBox protection for iPhone 6 and... Read more
Eliminate Cable Chaos with New GE Branded Wra...
GE licensee Jasco Products has introduced a new line of GE branded Wrap-n-Charge USB wall chargers with built-in cable management. “We are always working to combine great technology with innovative... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* TV Live Streaming Frameworks Test En...
**Job Summary** Work and contribute towards the engineering of Apple 's state-of-the-art products involving video, audio, and graphics in Interactive Media Group (IMG) at Read more
Project Manager, WW *Apple* Fulfillment Ope...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
Senior Data Scientist, *Apple* Retail - Onl...
**Job Summary** Apple Retail - Online sells Apple products to customers around the world. In addition to selling Apple products with unique services such as iPad Read more
*Apple* Music Producer - Apple (United State...
**Job Summary** Apple Music seeks a Producer to help shepherd some of the most important content and editorial initiatives within the music app, with a particular focus Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.