Open Source IM Network for everyone
February 6, 2007 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I want a fully-featured instant messaging system (not just the client, and with support for webcams, etc.) that is open source. Ideally I would like to find one that exists, but I am willing to look into starting one. Any suggestions or advice for what to look at and/or how to go about it is welcome.

I want to make it mainstream, so it should be able to support features such as webcams, client-to-client games, display pictures and other features found in the more popular clients.

Assuming I haven't missed one that exists, would it be better to adapt an existing structure (such as XMPP), or start anew? Would a server-based model be best, or would some form of p2p system be better (I am still not fully read-up on peer-to-peer IM)

I will obviously need a client, so I was planning on looking through GAIM and similar projects and perhaps working from them (licensing permitting).

I have no doubt that this will be a big undertaking, but I really want to try to bring things together, and to keep it open - ideally with the ability for others to contribute to the backbone.

Thank-you for any help.

P.S. This is an initial post, in order to triple check I can't get anything "off-the-shelf" and to gather ideas. I will probably try to begin any larger project over the summer, or perhaps easter, when I have more free time and have had a chance to look through the required background.
posted by d7415 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm curious - what's your problem with Gaim? It can use the Jabber protocol, which is open source. In addition, there's an ongoing project called Gaim-vv that is concentrating on adding video and voice support to Gaim.

Why not put your efforts towards improving an existing project? Are they really that far from your ideal?
posted by chrisamiller at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2007

Second GAIM-VV and Jabber. Unless you're really chomping at the bit to write a bunch of software from the ground up, you could probably spend your time/money more effectively promoting mainstream use of what's already out there, and/or working to improve it. There are more open-source Jabber clients and servers than you can shake a stick at.

What aspects of an IM network are you interested in? Designing / Coding innovative new features? Running the servers? Publicizing and promoting use?
posted by Alterscape at 1:12 PM on February 6, 2007

Since the popular clients already do this, and are reverse-engineerable enough to foster the continued existence of clients like Trillian (which does support webcams, audio, etc), is there really a need for an OSS IM system?

There are already so many out there between open and closed source options that I'm not sure I understand the motivation behind your question.

That said - as mentioned above, Jabber is an open source protocol. It should be noted however that there are many clients out there (not just Gaim!) that support it.
posted by twiggy at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2007

I must admit that while I looked at Jabber, it was only really skimming things. If I can get the games and video into jabber then that could be ideal (I've never been one to work when I don't have to).

So, just to clarify, is it possible (at least theoretically) to get webcams talking over jabber?

Sorry if it's ignorant, but I just have to know (then I can get working on making the client work and my friends move!)

and @Alterscape, I mainly want one to use, be able to look at, and then promote (at least among my friends).

Thanks everyone
posted by d7415 at 1:33 PM on February 6, 2007

Absolutely. Jabber/XMPP is an extensible protocol.

I've spent a lot of time with XMPP it will do what you want.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2007

Everything I needed to know. Thanks a lot!
posted by d7415 at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2007

Google Talk uses Jabber/XMPP and allows voice (and video?) chat. XMPP is a fine protocol. Hell, Google even did you the favor of open sourcing the voice video stuff: libjingle
posted by revgeorge at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2007

I'll warn you that getting a new system to critical mass is really goddamn difficult, especially when you consider how entrenched the current leaders are. If you'd just like to use it among a few savvy friends, fine. If you're hoping that this will be the next big thing, you'd better add some must-have functionality that no other player can offer.

As a cautionary example look at Google Talk. They made chat simple, added super-easy voice chat, even leveraged their email system by integrating it all. Where do they stand now? Far, far below the leaders:

March 2006 IM users:
* AOL: 53 million
* MSN: 27 million
* Yahoo: 22 million
* Google: 866,000

So, best of luck, but be realistic with your goals.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:31 PM on February 6, 2007

I work with the team that created DJabberD, and it's completely open source, free, and scales to an enormous number of users. We use it to power LiveJournal's Jabber-based IM service, and it federates/interoperates with other Jabber-based services from Google, Earthlink, Gizmo, and others.
posted by anildash at 10:34 PM on February 6, 2007

chrisamiller: agreed. I know it won't be easy even using another client. The main intention is getting my friends over, but that has the implication of moving more people, hence wanting a client supporting multiple protocols. Part of me was (and is) hoping that the "free" bit will help (not a lot, but a good hefty nudge at least).

Just a matter of seeing where to go from here..

If anyone's interested, my plan at present seems to be to look at Gaim once I get a chance (they say they're aiming for video compatible with MSN at around v3), and hopefully get the webcam stuff with jabber going. After that, I will try to move my friends slowly.
posted by d7415 at 2:14 PM on February 7, 2007

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