[jdev] Jabbers Killer App (was: The State of Our Code-bases)

Bart van Bragt jabber at vanbragt.com
Thu Sep 2 10:41:36 CDT 2004

A quote from Rachel which nicely sums up most of it:

Rachel Blackman wrote:
> In order to overtake the existing networks in terms of end-user usage, 
> Jabber needs something to 'win out' over them which the target audience 
> -- IM end-users -- will understand.  Pubsub, for instance, is a really 
> cool technology, but it won't convince my father to switch off of MSN.  
> x-data is a useful way to capture user input information, but the 
> average end-user won't see it necessarily as being all that different as 
> when AIM or MSN redirect you to a webpage for a survey or something. 
>  Sadly, the thing which makes Jabber stand out the most to the average 
> end-user is the transports... which should not be Jabber's selling 
> point.  Worse still, after they try to use the transports and find they 
> can't file-transfer with their friends on the legacy networks, can't see 
> buddy icons, or any of the other things they're used to, they usually 
> forget about Jabber and go instead to Gaim or Trillian or any of the 
> other combined messengers.

I know we've had this discussion a few times before but IMO not that 
much useful came out of them (IIRC).

Jabber certainly has some nice advantages in corporate environments 
where interoperability with the major networks is not an issue and where 
people aren't switching of an other network/protocol. It's open, it's 
free, lots of (free, open) clients, commercial support, easy to extend, 
ratified by the IETF, we can all name a few extra advantages for 
corporate users.

But what about the masses? What about the girl next door or Joe Average? 
Why would they want to use Jabber? Or don't we want to win over those 
users and do we want to keep ourselfs limited to the corporate world?

IMO Jabber doesn't have that many advantages over the 'legacy' protocols 
at the moment, at least not for your average user. Open? They don't 
care. Extensible? MSN contains all they need and they can't program. 
Secure? They don't care. XML based? What the heck is XML? 
Interoperability? Trillian/Miranda/Gaim do that better.

Jabber does have a few advantages. It does have Offline messages which 
MSN doesn't have (big disadvantage but users don't miss what they don't 
have :D). Multiple clients can be an advantage but the current situation 
is too complicated and too many clients just plain suck. A user doesn't 
want to try 5 clients before they find something that actually does what 
they want it to do. Being able to login from multiple locations is an 
advantage. Having decent status messages is an advantage too but most 
clients don't really display that. Most MSN users abuse their 'friendly 
name' for that: "Joe has just bought a new dog!".

But those are just minor advantages, not nearly enough to get people to 
switch. Most people on Jabber are here because they just dislike MS or 
large companies in general, because they are geeks, because they are 
developers or because they have a combination of these properties :D

So what do we need to win 'Joe Average' over (if we want to do this)?

First of all it needs to be _much_ easier to get started but a decent 
community site and some usability improvements in the clients can solve 
most of that.

Besides that there need to be some real advantages in using Jabber for 
the enduser. Audio/Video? Really nice but that's playing catch up. Yahoo 
and MSN can already do that. Filetransfer? This works better in MSN at 
the moment and they can all do that to some extent.

Pubsub is an advantage but only if there is some real use for this. So 
it should be very trivial to put useful information on the pubsub 
network, for example for site owners that want to have a pubsub feed 
besides their existing rss feed.

The clients can be an advantage, the cute star icons in Psi is why my 
girlfriend has switched to Jabber :) But this means that the client 
developers need to focus more on usability and polishing than on the 
geek part of their application. Users don't want to have as much JEPs 
implemented, they want something that's easy to use, something stable 
and something that looks good. Having a lot of features is secondary. 
Just take a look at the MSN client (that is immensely popular in the 
Netherlands), especially the first versions where _extremely_ basic. 
Text messages with emoticons was all it could do IIRC but still it 
catched on because it didn't crash (that often), it was dead easy to 
install (wasn't included in the OS yet) and it was very easy to use.

But having cute stars in your client also won't get people to switch 
from MSN/AIM/Yahoo to Jabber :D

So what do we need? What can provide the real edge?

One of the few things that I can think of (and that I have been 
evangelising (sp?) quite a few times now :D) is web/email-integration. 
IMO it would be great if I could see if someone that just sent me a mail 
is still online so I can quickly ask a question related to his/her mail.

It would be great if I could send a message to someone that just posted 
on a bulletin board (or newsgroup) to ask a question or to give my 
support. It would be fun to be able to put an indicator on your website 
with your presence, your mood, your current tune. It would also be very 
cool if you could use your jabber client/JID to authenticate on just 
about any site (like MS Passport but better). Or being able to receive 
status updates of a package you sent or an order you placed, etc, etc.

Thoughts? Other suggestions for killer apps? How could you get your 
sister in law to switch to Jabber? :)


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