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Jabber Transports Open Doorways To AIM/ICQ And MSN

As an alternative to getting everybody you know to switch to Jabber, there are ways to use it to interact with friends, family, and business partners who use AIM/ICQ or MSN/Yahoo IM accounts. These come in the form of transport protocols designed for Jabber server use. With the proper transports installed on a Jabber server, it can establish IM links to IM networks from AIM, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo.

This approach differs from that used in the multi-protocol messenger programs we discussed earlier, in that the client need not support the proprietary IM protocols that these other networks use; only the server has to carry this burden. This also confers the considerable advantage that when one of these IM protocols change, all the clients don't need to be changed - only the server needs to be modified, after which all of its clients can continue on as before.

Python implementations for actively maintained transports include PyICQt, PyAIMt, and PyMSNt. Another transport designed to facilitate interactions with the IRC network is known as PyIRCt. In addition, various commercial vendors also offer gateway products that enable Jabber network users to transmit Short Message Service (SMS) cellphone text messages into Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) cellphone networks.

Additional Jabber Functions Needed

To use any of these transports into other IM or text networks, Jabber client software must support the "service discovery" function. This enables the client to interrogate the server to determine which transports it has enabled, and therefore, which other networks or services it can reach. In addition to such transport services, the Jabber server can also deliver multi-user chat support and a Jabber user directory to its clients. Multi-user chats make chat rooms accessible, where multiple users can exchange text messages simultaneously, and conduct multiple ongoing virtual conversations.

User contact lists (rosters) are stored on the Jabber server. Thus, any user who can access his server automatically gains access to his contact list through his JID, no matter which system he uses to log in. One of the best business features in Jabber is the so-called Shared Roster. This permits an administrator to predefine contact lists on the server, which may then be made available to all members of specific user groups once they log into the server. Users can't alter these lists, nor delete their entries, either. This feature gives coworkers instant access to the contacts in their contact lists without requiring them to add those entries manually.

Marcel Binder
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