updated 03:30 am EST, Thu December 15, 2011
iChat now able to connect to all IM networks
In a surprise move, the team behind the Microsoft Messenger IM network have made the network available via XMPP, an open-source protocol for chat clients that most other multi-IM network programs support, AppleInsider reports. With the move, iChat users should now be able to add MSN or Windows Live accounts as buddies directly without the need of a gateway. The program now directly addresses all major chat networks.
The Lion version of iChat added support for Yahoo, and previous support existed for AIM. The program also allowed direct access to Jabber and other XMPP servers such as Facebook Chat and Google Talk as well as iChat Server for chatrooms. Though the protocol is largely limited to text chat, Apple also uses the XMPP standard for other purposes such as push notifications and, more interestingly, iMessage. Today's development could mean that future iMessage development could further blur the line between SMS and XMPP messaging.
Apple has leveraged XMPP more and more since it initially added support to iChat in 2004. The protocol forms the basis of Bonjour local chat and is used in Mac OS X Server for local e-mail services and other intra-network messaging. Microsoft is also likely to leverage the XMPP compatibility to merge some IM services into Skype, which it bought in May of this year.
Windows' MSN chatting is popular both in the US and throughout Europe, but has always been excluded from iChat due to its proprietary protocol. The move to XMPP eliminates the issue and adds a potential 300 million users to the audience iChat can reach. Developers have reported that builds of iMessage in iOS 5 contain "hooks" that would allow further integration of XMPP chat messages in the program if Apple decides to offer the option. [via AppleInsider]