When instant messaging first hit town, I couldn’t see the point. You could either use it to chat to total strangers (no appeal for me) or with your online buddies (no buddies for me).
This changed somewhat when all but one of my immediate family started to use MSN Messenger, and suddenly we were all more connected across this big country (PEI, Ontario, Vancouver) than we ever had been.
But you can only talk to your family so much, and to really talk to them, you’ve got to use the phone.
The big revelation for me, though, was when my brother Johnny started working for The Company. He’s in Vancouver. I’m in Charlottetown. We needed a way of staying in almost constant touch while he glides his way up the web learning curve. Suddenly instant messaging became a useful business tool.
Which brings me to Jabber. Jabber is an open source instant messaging system. Which means that it’s very configurable, and very easy to take in new directions. If using MSN Messenger is like driving one of those modern cars where you can’t even change the oil yourself, using Jabber is like owning a 1972 Chevy Nova and a really well-stocked toolbox.
One of the really nifty things about Jabber is that it can act like a sort of rosetta stone for the instant messaging world. Using something called “Gateways” in Jabberspeak, you can use a Jabber client to exchange messages with people using MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ.
Once you start to play around with Jabber a little, you start to see potential applications for it that have little to do with traditional instant messaging. For example, this server is now set up so that if you submit a discussion posting for this item, I’ll get an instant message telling me about it. Obviously there are other similar applications: indeed anywhere there’s a need for some sort of instant notification or alert, the Jabber system can be called into service.
You can learn more about Jabber at jabber.org.