Imagine a world in which there is no unified way to send electronic email. A world in which you need an email client to communicate with your brother, your sister in law and your best friend, another client to send emails to your colleagues and that old friend in Canada and a third client to stay in touch with your old schoolmates.
Luckily for us, email doesn't work like that. Thanks to well defined open standards, we only need one client, one system to communicate with the world, while having the choice from at least ten clients, picking the one that we think suits our needs best.
Sadly enough, the world of instant messaging looks much more like world that was sketched above. Today we can see the world is divided in those who use ICQ, those who use Yahoo!, those who use MSN, those who use AIM,... All living on perfectly separated islands. And while we see that a lot of these ICQ users also have an MSN account, just to be able to chat with those friends, colleagues, relatives, ... that don't happen to use ICQ, we all know there has to be a better way.
Oddly enough, that better way might very well be yet another network, albeit one that is open, both in the sense that anyone is allowed to access it, no matter what client he's using, as well in the sense that one can see the complete specifications of how communications are initiated, how files can be transfered, etc...
Such a network exists and it's called Jabber.
A lot of questions can be raised, such as 'how can another network solve the problem of diversity?' and 'what makes this network better than the ones you mentioned before?'. You'll find out soon enough.
Jabber unites the world
Jabber, using an open protocol called XMPP, has some clear advantages over the other, proprietary
networks. XMPP stands for eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol and is completely documented
as an internet standard, such as HTTP, the protocol we use to browse the net and SMTP, the protocol
we use to send emails.
Using an open protocol means that everyone and their dog can choose to write a server, a client or a utility for the Jabber network. Indeed, even servers, as Jabber is a completely decentralized network. Jabber uses not one server (or cluster of servers) but literally thousands of servers. Fab4.be is one of these servers. And just as there are thousands if not millions of mail servers, these servers can all connect with one another to permit there respective users to communicate with each other.
This also means that if one of these servers should fail, it affects only a small part of the Jabber community, being the users of that server.
But Jabber, just as any other promising open technology on the internet, has seen a lot of development both in open source software as in commercially available software that extends its possibilities beyond plain and simple Instant Messaging. Some examples are news aggregation, email notification, group chat, blog publishing, monitoring alerts, webbased messenger clients using jabber as backend and even some large scale projects such as financial transaction support which handle 100 billion dollars in transactions, daily.
Jabber also helps us to build bridges to the other IM networks. Using the so called transports, or gateways, Jabber users can communicate, using only a Jabber client, with contacts on other networks. Software is available to implement transports to MSN, ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, IRC, Gadu-Gadu and even email. This means that even while convincing your friends, relatives or colleagues of the beauty of Jabber, you can still chat to those that haven't yet heard about Jabber using the transport to the network they happen to have heard about first.
Starting to get interested? Read on!
Fab4.be, a public Jabber server
Fab4.be offers Jabber as a free service to the Internet community for as long as our bandwidth can sustain. Once we notice we're reaching our limit, we'll stop the ability to register on this server, though. Fab4.be offers transports to MSN, ICQ, AIM, Yahoo and IRC, a web based interface, the possibility to host groupchats, while some extra functionality is planned as well. For a more detailed view on what Jabber@Fab4.be can offer you, browse through the links on the top of this page.
Registrations have been disabled. Too many users have registered for our server to handle. For the moment, look out for other alternatives at jabber.org.