Terminally Incoherent

Utterly random, incoherent and disjointed rants and ramblings...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Talking about Google Talk

I just found this very insightful article on Google talk. It's a very interesting read. He makes a very good point. It's great that Google decided to use Jabber but, talk.google.com does not communicate with other Jabber servers.

Google has chosen not to embrace this most wonderful aspect of Jabber. Instead, they've created just another isolated IM network. As a Google Talk user, a person has a jabber address (@gmail.com, mirroring their email address) but the Google Jabber servers do not talk with the other Jabber servers on the net. A Google Talk user is just as cut off from the world as an AIM user is.

In other words, while Google uses the Jabber protocol, they do not participate in the Jabber network, nor do they plan to do it in the future. From the official release notes:

We look forward to federating with any service provider who shares our belief in enabling user choice and open communications. We do believe, however, that it is important to balance openness with ensuring that we maintain a safe and reliable service that protects user privacy and blocks spam and other abuses. We are using the federation opportunity with EarthLink and Sipphone to develop a set of guidelines by which all members of the federated network can work together to ensure that we protect our users while maximizing the reach of the network.

I don't know about you, but for me this passage above quite clearly indicate that a privately run Jabber server of Joe Shmoe will not connect to the google talk network. At least not without jumping through major hoops and possibly paying some "federation fee".

I can understand why wouldn't they want to open up their service to all Jabber servers. It does create room for abuse - for example, rogue servers set up to spim the google network. So keeping some kind of control over the communication is not a bad idea. But I do not like the "federation" system.

It would not be hard to open it to general public. You could for example register your server with google and sign an agreement to their Terms of Service. This way google could whitelist Jabber servers, and ban the ones that break TOC by allowing large amounts of spim to leak out to Google Talk. This would shift the responsibility to moderate non-google network nodes to admins who run them.

If they launch this type of operation, they could really become a major player that could crush the competition. If Joe Average can run a Jabber service in their garage and be able to connect with Google Talk, then Jabber can become the de-facto IM standard - just like SMTP became the standard for email. It could start a revolution which would send AIM, MSN and Yahoo packing - or even force some of them to work on Jabber compatibility to stay competitive.

If they keep talk.google.com sequestered from Jabber network, and simply "federate" with partnering companies, nothing will change in the IM world. In fact, they are risking being made irrelevant by the sheer amount of users subscribing to AIM. Why would anyone want to switch to a brand new IM network, if all their friends use AIM? The only way Google can crush AIM's dominance is to establish a standard in AIM communication by promoting the distributed Jabber based IM networks.


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