Saturday, April 7, 2007

Freemail and jabber

[This post was originally in Hungarian on my personal blog, and was sent to some people inside and near Hungarian ISP T-Online, which owns freemail. Freemail is the oldest e-mail service in Hungary, with roughly 3 million users, that wasn't updated for many years. In March, T-Online announced the public beta of the new freemail, which has a built in IM-client in javascript built on jabber, and a SIP client (for which T-Online has already a desktop VoIP client, called Klip, since 2005 or so) in java. But the jabber service is only available through the web interface (yup, http-binding), and no s2s is allowed.]

Dear T-Online developers,

First, I'd like to express my happiness about that freemail has chosen the standard, open source - rooted Jabber / XMPP protocol instead of proprietary solutions. This - because of the amount of users - is a big step in the history of jabber service too: to the usually cited 50 million users this 3 million growth is significant, let alone considering the internet penetration in our country [it's about 30-40% on 10 million people]. I hope that soon every Hungarian internet user could have a Jabber account, what could cause an innovational movement unprecedented in Hungary. I believe, that there's much unexploited potential behind this technology, and that it can develop further in an open competition, in a market-oriented environment.

However, users will engage the benefits of a standard solution only if we make it more open: e-mail systems used to be incompatible with each other, now a freemail user can easily send a mail to a gmail user, without worrying about the mail will come through - why should it be different with the also standardized instant messaging systems? Furthermore, e-mail can be read not only on the interface of freemail, but any POP3-compatible client can be used, like it's possible to use most jabber services without an always-open web-browser, at least a hundred client programs are there to choose from. A presence service available only on the interface isn't nearly full-featured, just like standardization - like in case of phones - means service provider and vendor independency.

Therefore I would like to present the following requests. I know it isn't easy, politically it's often difficult to understand why it's worth and necessary to follow these steps; but if there's no other way, think of it that it's exactly what made the web "mashup-able", created the movement called "Web 2.0" that the service provider roles, the bindings of service and platform disappeared, separated from each other.

Regarding the Freemail beta service, I would like to requests in order to improve the service quality:

  • Instant subscribe feature: IM solutions react immediately to the "Add contact" feature if the requested user is available. It isn't the main problem that the page must be refreshed after various kind of emails exchanged, buttons clicked etc, it is that this shouldn't be handled this way when the user is online.

  • I would like to request to open the 5222 port for desktop clients. There's no marketing campaign needed, just let the advanced users advertise amongst freemail users that there's a world beyond MSN too. There's no need to develop an own client, just let talk about this. Load won't increase significantly, I could say that in case of what server software which steps could be done to achieve this, most possibly the web interface should be designed to handle hundreds of thousands of connections at the same time, there won't be that much desktop users at all.

  • I know that this is the difficult part: I would like to request to make freemail a part of the open jabber network: I know that this is a serious strategic issue, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that e-mail can be exchanged with non-freemail users too. If it isn't possible, at least make it open to gmail; to hungarian jabber servers; for who already use jabber could talk to other users. If someone is to be converted to gmail, then she will, there's no photo gallery, postcard sending in it anyway, and everyone knows her freemail address. There's no progress if instant messages can only be exchanged inside freemail, let alone only from web.

To clarify historical context: Google first introduced the (also jabber-based) Google Talk service, much earlier than it became a part of gmail. It was rumored that the fact the new service wasn't spreading as fast as expected played a significant role in this step. But it is really important to understand, that Google talk developers claimed on IM-spam (SPIM) when they didn't let connection with other jabber servers at the first time, but they tried to enable some level of federation from the beginning. For example, they were in server-federation with users of Gizmo project from start. Jabber has the methods, specifications regarding the fight against SPIM and harassments, which can also be found in extension protocols too.

Any requests for help (whether it be technical kind, about the protocol and the surrounding software families, or strategical kind, about the concepts of the protocol and further extension possibilities) would be honestly given by me,

Kind regards:

Adam Nemeth, developer,


fgs said...

You should have mentioned the term "network effect" in your email:

Fabian said...

What i find interesting about that: T-Online in Germany also has it's own, non Jabber based IM (which hardly anybody uses). I was always hoping they would do the "switch" to Jabber. Now that they have a certain Jabber affinity in other countrys that might be a good sign. Another hint in that direction is the fact that T-Online's strongest competitor in Germany "United Internet" with it's brands GMX, WEB.DE and 1&1 is beta testing a Jabber based IM (with S2S enabled and open Port 5222). If they are successfull, it might inspire other companys.
I hope your post reaches the right people at T-Online. Please post about it, if something happens on that front.

Aadaam said...

Network effect is always based on hub nodes. Most hub nodes (in this case: advanced users) use gmail when it comes to jabber (given that freemail wasn't improved since 2000 or so - it got some facelift in 2002 but not so much - most of them moved since then). Probably T-Online would want them back with this new feature, but I believe my plan is a bit better.

I think they fear of gmail, but I really believe they shouldn't: it's just a matter of a better integrated software in the current cultural context, which freemail can and could give to an average user. The ones who can use ie. flickr already left.

Aadaam said...

(And probably you were right but they think of the other side of network effect,that's why they use the walled garden - method :/ )

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