Google embraces open IM standards

Users of Google Talk can now communicate with other instant messaging services that support the XMPP protocol

Google is doing its bit to open up the world of instant messaging by making Google Talk interoperable with other IM services that use the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).

XMPP is an open XML protocol — sometimes referred to as the Jabber protocol — used for the real-time exchange of data between two points on the Internet. It is used by many open source IM applications, including JabberNow and Earthlink.

By enabling server-to-server support for XMPP, Google is allowing its Talk users to communicate with other IM services which also support server-to-server XMPP.

In a statement, Google said it was "delivering on its commitment to user choice and open standards".

Google Talk was launched last year. Originally, it used XMPP only as a client-to-server protocol, which allowed users to connect to the system with a variety of clients, but the community of Google Talkers weren't able to use the application to contact people on other IM networks.

At present, the three largest instant messaging operators — Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL — maintain closed networks and don't support server-to-server XMPP. Discussions have taken place between the three firms about creating more interoperability, but at present users must turn to a consolidation service such as Trillian, Gaim or Adium if they want to combine contacts from multiple IM services.

Google said it is backing efforts to create full, open interoperability, which it called federation.

"Email is an example of a federated network that enables people to communicate with one another, regardless of their email provider. Open interoperability is the first step towards bringing a similar level of openness and user choice to instant messaging and VoIP, and with today's deployment of open server-to-server federation, Google Talk is enabling millions of people worldwide to communicate with each other instantly," said Google.

According to information on Google's Web site, the company is also planning to support SIP — the protocol underpinning VoIP — in the future.