XMPP Summit reflections

XMPP Summit 20 took place this past weekend at the offices of Atlassian in Austin, TX. I had the pleasure to attend this protocol summit to discuss the current state of the protocol, some improvements, and some designs for the future. Amongst so many brilliant minds, it was occasionally difficult for me to keep up and stay part of the proceedings, but it was clear that the future looks bright for XMPP.

The most prevalent topic at the summit was the future of XMPP communication, and how it can fit into the third generation of instant messaging. Many other platforms have come forth with new features such as emojis, and in-chat media. It was decided that XMPP should begin to adopt these features in order to stay up-to-date and remain relevant in the instant messaging space. Another consideration is the addition of two factor authentication for in-band registration and password recovery within the XMPP sphere without the need for administrator intervention. While we are a little ways off from these innovations, it is likely we will start seeing them not too far in the future.

Another topic talked about was Mediated Information eXchange, or MIX for short. MIX serves to stand as a substantial upgrade to MUC, but not as a direct replacement. MUC lacks a number of security features, and since it was developed early on and cannot take advantage of later developments such as PubSub and Message Archive Management. MIX allows XMPP communications to be conducted without sending presences. It can potentially change the way users interact with XMPP. Although MIX is still in experimental status in the XSF, it is getting close to a finished XEP, and soon after implementation by clients and servers, available to all users of XMPP.

Finally it was suggested that spam prevention should become an active topic. With XMPP becoming more popular and prevalent, it is necessary to define a way servers can fight spammers and abusive users internally without needing an administrator to manually remove them from the server. There was some debate about how best to implement both local and server to server solutions to share data, and how to report abuse or spam. Ultimately by the end of the summit two XEPs were submitted to the editors for review; one on defining a user rating that can help label servers or JIDs as spam, and another defining how spam reporting forms should be standardized.

Looking back on the summit, it is clear that the XSF has some work ahead to help maintain XMPP as a modern communication method for human and machine users. There are significant challenges and changes ahead for the protocol. However, it became semblent during the time I spent working with the members of the XSF: they are up to the challenge.

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