Lack of support from Google and Facebook makes for grim XMPP future: FastMail

Australian email provider FastMail will cease offering its XMPP service at the end of January 2016, due to a lack of users.

A general industry move from open chat protocols to closed messaging has made it too difficult and costly for Australian email provider FastMail to continue offering its XMPP chat service to customers, which will be shut down at the end of January next year.

Writing in a blog post, the company said that XMPP previously looked as though it would be a well-supported open chat protocol, but over the intervening years, the federated openness of XMPP has diminished.

"Google has replaced Google Talk (which supported XMPP) with Google Hangouts (which doesn't). Facebook removed their XMPP chat interface and replaced it with their Platform API v2.0," the company said. "No major vendor seems to have XMPP support these days, massively reducing the overall XMPP user base that can be interoperated with."

FastMail said that users have moved to services such as WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook for personal communication, and moving to Slack or remaining with Internet Relay Chat for business messaging. Looking at its logs, the company said it was only servicing a few hundred users on its outmoded server.

"It does not make sense to devote our finite resources to the considerable work required to bring this up to standard, given the very low current use and grim future outlook for XMPP in general," FastMail said.

In recent weeks, the company has been subjected to a number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

The company revealed last week that it had received an extortion demand to pay 20 bitcoin. Similar attacks and demands were reported by other email providers including Zoho, Runbox, and ProtonMail.

In the case of ProtonMail, the size of the DDoS attack was taking out other companies that resided in the datacentre it used, as well as ProtonMail itself. Under pressure, ProtonMail paid the ransom.

"The collateral damage by then was hundreds of companies, with some as far away as Moscow," said Frederic Gargula, co-founder of IP Max, the Geneva-based internet service provider (ISP) that helped defend ProtonMail during the attack told TechRepublic.

However, in the wake of the original attackers, ProtonMail said it suffered from a second, more powerful and sophiscated attacker, which the company said behaved more like a state-sponsored actor.

After most of a week, a new emergency IP transit line, and a crowdfunded defence fund, ProtonMail was able to see out the attack.

For its part, FastMail has continued to see attacks with the latest occurring on Saturday.

Three years after selling itself to Opera, FastMail returned to independent ownership via a staff buy-back in September 2013.