Home Facebook Opens IM to Developers, Drops Ball on Interoperability

Facebook Opens IM to Developers, Drops Ball on Interoperability

Facebook announced this morning that its wildly popular Instant Messaging service now supports the open IM standard XMPP/Jabber. That means that 3rd party developers will be able to build support for Facebook Chat into their websites and chat applications with ease.

Standards are great like this for making development simpler but the other promise of technical standards so far remains unrealized. Interoperability is the big promise of open standards in general and XMPP chat specifically, but at launch Facebook Chat by XMPP does not federate with other XMPP servers. So this isn’t about interoperability, it’s about further extending Facebook around the web.

Does Facebook have plans for the future to federate with, say Google Talk, the other leading XMPP chat service online? Or with people using Jabber directly? We haven’t gotten a response from the company yet, but we really doubt it. Facebook could change the game in a big way around IM interoperability if it did so. Unfortunately, this is much more likely to be a case of an open technical standard being used to extend the dominance of a closed market leader.

Update: Facebook’s Malorie Lucich responded and told us that interoperability “isn’t something we’re announcing today, but we are looking into it.” Lucich is the same Facebook team member who advised users last month about how to use Facebook to subscribe to syndicated news sources, so she’s cool. Looking into it? We sure hope so.

Facebook is supporting the open standard, though! And thus it will be much easier for outside developers to build on top of it. That’s great. The open standard of XMPP now has all the more support behind it, all the more reason for developers to implement on it – now it offers access to 400 million Facebook users. That’s nothing to underestimate the importance of.

We sure would love to see someone step up and use open standards to support interoperability between people on different IM platforms, though. It would be great if it was Facebook that did it.

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