Posts categorized "Internet"

Net Neutrality: Did We "Win" A Battle, Only To Possibly Lose The War?

FCC logo

Friends don't understand why I'm not jumping for joy after the FCC's "Network Neutrality" decision yesterday.  After all, they've been hearing me passionately argue for years about how we need to wake up and pay attention to the choices we have to make for the future of the Internet.  They've heard me rail against the Internet access providers here in the US who seek to be the new gatekeepers and require people to ask permission or pay to get new services online.  They've heard me strongly say that "The Internet Way" is for services to be "decentralized and distributed".  They've seen me write about "permissionless innovation" and the dangers we could face.  In fact, I'll be in Austin, TX, next week speaking at the NTEN conference about "Our Choice of Internet Futures"

They know that I joined the Internet Society in 2011 specifically to fight for the open Internet - and that a large goal in my life is to be one of the voices helping advocate for the open Internet and ensuring that my children have the same "Internet of opportunity" that I've been able to have.  Friends could hear in the closing words of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler many of the same phrases and words that I have been so passionately advocating about over many years.  
 
Why, then, am I not dancing in the streets?
 
Two reasons.
 
1. What Is In The FCC Order? - Seemingly lost in all the media euphoria yesterday was a basic fact:
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FCC ACTUALLY VOTED ON!
No one outside the FCC Commissioners and their staffs have seen the actual "Order" that the FCC voted on yesterday.  Sure, we've heard all the lofty rhetoric and seen the summaries... but the rumors are that the actual document is over 300 pages and full of details.
 
Perhaps I’m just cynical, but the telecommunications industry in the United States employs hundreds of lawyers in Washington, DC, to influence and shape legislation and regulations in ways that benefit the telecom industry - and they've been doing so for over 100 years.  And so while some of the companies may line up to file lawsuits against this FCC Order, odds are very good that their lobbyists and specialists have been hard at work attempting to shape these new regulations. I know some people at the FCC who are strong open Internet advocates and who I'm sure are trying to do the right thing... but I also know that 300+ pages has a whole lot of room for things to slip in.
 
My greatest fear is that when we actually see the full text, we may find that while there are some provisions we like, there are many others we don't - and there may be loopholes big enough to drive an entire residential network through.  

    
"The other problem with rules is that they are brittle. Teams of lawyers will comb through whatever the FCC finally publishes and find any loopholes. There will be defined bright lines going forward and, make no mistake, ISPs will now get as close to those lines as they can. Whatever the Internet's rough consensus of "acceptable" was before, it's about to be thrown out in favor of a set of rules written by lawyers. Ironically, that may end up resulting in a regulated network that is less neutral than what we have today."
 
2. The Internet Is Not (or WAS Not) The Telephone Network - For so many years (in fact, decades for some people), we who are advocates of the open Internet have said at every chance we could one simple fact:
The Internet is NOT the telephone network.  The Internet is NOT the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
 
And therefore the Internet should NOT be regulated like the traditional telecom network.  The Internet should not fall under traditional telecom legislation and regulation.  The Internet should not be regulated by the traditional telecom authorities and telecom regulators.  
 
You cannot apply the old rules of telecom to the new world of the Internet.
 
The Internet is something new.  The Internet is NOT telecom.   Again and again and again and again we've all said this.  Going back many, many years.
 
If you remember back to 2012 and the whole World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) where so many were concerned that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was going to try to assert authority over the Internet, millions of us around the world rallied together to encourage our advocates in governments and organizations to say at WCIT that: 

The Internet is NOT telecom.  You cannot apply the old rules of telecom to the new world of the Internet.
 
And the outcome of WCIT was that the Internet was left alone and was recognized as being outside the scope of a treaty focused on telecommunications/telephony.
 
We all within the Internet have been saying this consisistently again and again:
The Internet is NOT telecom.  Those are old rules - we are living in a new medium.
 
But guess what?  
 
Yesterday's ruling by the FCC says (as best we understand it) - the Internet does fall under telecommunication regulations.  Internet service providers should be classified under Title II just like all the other telecommunications service providers.
 
The FCC has effectively said: 
The Internet IS telecom.  The old rules DO apply.
I am not sure that is something to celebrate.
 
Many countries around the world have followed the lead of the US in treating the Internet lightly - but now that the FCC is effectively declaring the Internet to be like the telephone network, what is to stop those countries from doing the same?  Indeed what is to prevent the ITU from now using this action to justify a larger role for it in regulating the Internet?  After all, it's just telecom now.
 
I would have personally been far happier if the U.S. Congress had come up with new legislation that enshrined the principles of the open Internet in a new form  of legislation that didn't carry with it all the legacy baggage of 100 years of telecom regulation. Yes, the legions of lawyers might have made it a hard fight, but it would have at least been something new - and at least we would have known more of what was actually being voted on. But that didn't happen - and so here we are today.
 
The "devil is in the details", as they say... and now we have to wait to see what exactly the FCC actually did yesterday.  I'd like to be wrong and just be cynical and jaded.  I fear that I am right.
 
I applaud FCC Chairman Wheeler for the lofty language he and the other commissioners used yesterday.  It is a huge victory to have the heads of the FCC saying publicly so many of the things that so many of us have been advocating about for so many years.  It is also a huge victory to have so many millions of people, not just in the US but all around the world, rise up and pay attention to these issues as a result of this whole issue here in the U.S. That is HUGE.  We've needed something like this to wake people up to the choices we have to make.
 
But I do worry that in "winning" this victory yesterday, we may in fact be setting ourselves up to lose the larger war to keep the Internet open.


Video: VUC 528 Provides An Update On Matrix.org And Wire

Vuc logoLast Friday's VUC conference call / podcast / hangout provided some interesting updates about the ongoing work at Matrix.org to build services for scalable, distributed and federated collaboration systems as well as some discussion of Wire, the app I've written about here. Guests included Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape from Matrix.org, as well as the usual cast of characters and a couple of live demonstrations, too.

You can view the episode web page and listen to the show here:

I joined the show about mid-way through and naturally wound up talking about IPv6, the Internet of Things (IoT), ICANN, DNS and other topics.

FYI, some good info about Matrix.org can be found in their FAQ. Back in November 2014, there was also another VUC episode focused around Matrix.org.

It was an enjoyable show and I'd encourage you to give it a listen.


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Join Me On VUC Today At Noon US EDT To Talk IPv6, IoT, WebRTC and more...

Today at 12 noon US Eastern (in about 3.5 hours), I'll be part of a panel on the VoIP Users Conference (VUC) talking about IPv6, WebRTC, the Internet of Things (IoT) and much, much more... you should be able to watch it live at live.vuc.me or embedded here:

VUC host Randy Resnick had a scheduled guest be unable to attend and so he asked a group of us to come on for what he is calling a "VUC Vision" session. I will be on there, as will, I believe, Tim Panton and a number of others. I expect the discussion should range over good variety of topics. It should be a good time... you're welcome to join in the discussion.

It's probably best to also join the IRC backchannel where links are shared, questions are answered and other comments occur. You also can visit the Google+ event page for the VUC session today where there may be additional links and info.

If you won't be at your computer, you can also call in via:

  • sip:[email protected]
  • +1 (646) 475-2098
  • Skype:vuc.me

The session will of course be recorded so you can listen/watch later.

Vuc vision 20141003


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Talko Looks Very Cool, But Needed A Firewall Change To Work

Talko directoryThe big telecom story today certainly seems to the be launch of Ray Ozzie's new "Talko" application for iOS. Tons of attention in the tech media, and many of my friends on social media have been trying it out. There's a brilliant article posted on Medium about the "Brave New Phone Call" along with a great blog post from Ray Ozzie about how this new app will revolutionize the voice experience.

I think Talko has great potential to do so, particularly after using it.

But...

... I had to change my firewall rules in order to make Talko work. :-(

And I don't know how long it will continue to work.

Perhaps worse than that... it wasn't clear initially that I had a firewall problem. Frequent testing partner Jim Courtney sent me a message and after installing the Talko app on my iPhone I tried to talk to him, but all I seemed to be able to do was send him a voice message or a text message.

Subsequently I tried connecting to Tim Panton and again could only send voice messages. It made for a very asynchronous "walkie-talkie" style of communication that clearly seemed to not be what was described in the article.

At that point my many years in VoIP kicked in and I realized the firewall at the edge of my network was probably blocking something. Sure enough, when I pulled up the live firewall log and filtered on my iPhone's IP address I could see blocked connections from my iPhone that were intended for an IP address in Amazon's EC2 cloud. These blocked connections happened when I tried to initiate a voice conversation within Talko.

I first tried to create a firewall rule that would allow specific ports through, just by guessing from the firewall logs what ports Talko might be using. However, they jumped around and what I ultimately had to do was create a rule allowing any connection from inside my network to the specific IPv4 address of what I assume is one of Talko's servers on Amazon EC2.

Once I did this, I was able to have a voice conversation with Tim perfectly fine. It was actually rather cool how it would record the conversation and let me easily go back, listen again, advance through it, etc.

But...

... poking a hole in my firewall to a specific IP address is very definitely NOT the way to have a telecom application work.

And... Talko will only work on my network as long as that destination IP address doesn't change. If they add more servers or change their architecture, it's dead to me. At least... dead on my home WiFi network. Presumably it could still work on my mobile data network (at a cost to me).

Now, to be fair, I'm a bit more security-paranoid than the average home user and so I run a Linux-based firewall/server/gateway on the edge of my home network with a fairly restrictive set of firewall rules. The default policy is to deny outbound connections unless they fit into various rules. I've had to add rules allowing VoIP and IM protocols... and it's not uncommon for me to have to add new rules for applications like this. For instance, I had to do so for Tox when I was playing with it a few months back.

Odds are Talko will probably work fine for the vast majority of connections from WiFi networks with less paranoid firewall rules.

But... for an app like this to really challenge the existing telecom infrastructure, it needs to work from almost anywhere. This is why Skype usage is so ubiquitous - Skype "just works" and has its ways to work around firewalls. Within the SIP and WebRTC communities there are all the STUN / TURN / ICE servers and technologies that enable this kind of transit of a firewall. The technology is out there. And there will certainly be some enterprises and other businesses that set up firewalls at least as restrictive as mine is.

I realize today's news is the initial public launch and that this is early days for the app. I hope the Talko team can figure out a way to make the voice conversation work through firewalls. I really like what I see inside the app.

Meanwhile... I'm just hoping they don't change the IP address of the server with which my app is communicating!


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Three Years At The Internet Society

Internet sign london

Today marks three truly amazing years at the Internet Society.  It was September 19, 2011, when I visited the main office in Reston, Virginia, and began this wonderful journey.  I wrote back then about why I was taking this job to fight for the open Internet - and in truth the reasons haven't changed.

If anything, the situation has only gotten worse.  

There are now far more threats to what I've taken to calling the "Internet of Opportunity" ... the kind of Internet we have today where anyone can start any kind of service or publish any kind of information.  

Within the Internet Society (or "ISOC" as we are often called) we call this "permissionless innovation", not needing to ask permission of anyone to innovate.  If you have a new idea or a new service or product... you can just do it. You don't have to plead with a "gatekeeper" or pay someone in order to launch your service out onto the Internet.

But that could change.

Some of the legacy telecommunications companies who have lost out on revenue as everyone has moved away from phone calls would really like their revenue back.  Some of the entertainment and traditional media companies would like their revenue and control back, too.  And many governments would like to regain some of their control - and tax revenue.

Money and control.

As I wrote in that article three years ago, there is a great quote from the 1992 movie Sneakers:

“There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”

That is definitely the case.  And that war is only gotten stronger... and it's going to get even more fierce in the years ahead.

I'm personally glad that there are a group of organization including the Internet Society that are dedicated to shining the light on the changes that are happening... and arguing for why we need to keep the current "open" nature of the Internet so that we and our children, and their children, can all benefit from the kinds of opportunities we've had to date with the Internet.

Last year I wrote a good bit about how pleased I was to be part of the Internet Society.  That hasn't changed!  My passion for the work that ISOC does around the world has only grown stronger in this past year as I have learned more of the amazing things happening around the world.  I continue to love my own work with the Internet Society Deploy360 Programme - I wake up each morning excited to write more and do more to help people learn how they can deploy new technologies to make the Internet work better, faster and be more secure.  I absolutely love what I do!

But I was reminded this week of how many other things are done by my colleagues all over the world.  I just game back from a 4-day all-staff retreat at a hotel in Virginia.  This was the first time an event like this had been held in over 3 years and we've added so many new staff that many of us had never met each other.  We spent the time talking about what our priorities should be... where did we see the organization going... how could we best help the Internet... what could we do......

It was an amazing time.  VERY intense... although certainly with some time for fun mixed in.   We came out with some great ideas and plans that I'm looking forward to making happen in the weeks and months ahead.

What struck me most is that the people are amazing.  It's truly an honor and privilege for me to serve with them and to do what we do.

The mission of the Internet Society is quite simple:

To promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.

It's that mission that brought me here... and that's the reason I continue to be as excited as I am about what I do. As I celebrate three years with the Internet Society, I'm very much looking forward to the next three years... and the next beyond that!

P.S. One great way you can help is to join the Internet Society to stay up-to-date on current issues affecting the Internet - membership is free for individuals. You can also subscribe to my infrequent email newsletter where I hit many of these topics.


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Watch Live TODAY (Sept 19) - CITI State of Telecom 2014

Citi logoWhat is the future of telecommunications and the Internet? As more entertainment moves to being over the Internet, what are the implications for the media and for the technology?

Today, September 19, 2014, there is an interesting set of presentations happening at the Columbia Club in New York City, organized by the Columbia (University) Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) called the "CITI State of Telecom 2014". Subtitled, "From the Internet of Science to The Internet of Next Generation Entertainment Implications for Content, Technology and Industry Consolidation", the session description states:

The goal of the early Internet was to connect research institutions. Yet today 71% of all Internet traffic consists of video, games, and music, and that number is growing. This transition raises issues for media content, technology, industry consolidation, business strategy, and regulatory policy. Media companies, academics, policy makers, and technologists must think ahead.

You can watch it all live at:

http://new.livestream.com/internetsociety/citisot14

The sessions are being recorded, too, and are available at that address.

The session agenda and list of all the speakers is available on the CITI event page. The quick summary is:

  • 9:00am Welcome and Introduction of Topic
  • 9:15am Session 1- Technology and business drivers of the transformation of the Internet
  • 10:25am Session 2- Emerging business, marketing, and transaction models for Next Generation Video (NGV)
  • 11:35am Coffee Break
  • 11:50am Session 3- Public Interest Dimensions in Next-Generation Video and Networks
  • 12:50pm Lunch
  • 1:50pm Session 4 - Consolidation in the network platform industry: drivers and impacts
  • 3:00pm Coffee Break
  • 3:10pm Session 5 - New TV and (video) OTT issues for telecom and media policy
  • 4:20pm Session 6 - Defining the future: initiatives to lead the next generation of internet video
  • 5:30 Closing remarks and reception

The sessions began 3.5 hours ago at 9:00am US Eastern and will continue for another 5 hours. I've learned a good bit from a number of the sessions - and am listening right now to the discussion around the challenges of getting Internet infrastructure deployed in rural areas of the USA.

Great sessions to listen to!


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Don't Miss Friday's Live VUC Call! - Martin Geddes on "Rethinking Broadband and Voice"

What are you doing tomorrow, Friday, December 6, 2013, at 12noon US Eastern (1700 UTC)? Would you like to join in to what should be an excellent conversation about the future of broadband networks, IP communications, telecom, etc.? If so, make plans to join the VoIP Users Conference (VUC) call happening live at 12 noon where the guest will be the ever-interesting Martin Geddes. The topic will be "Rethinking broadband and voice: Network Science and Hypervoice" and should prompt some vigorous discussion!

I've known Martin for many years now and have been a great fan of his analysis and writing ever since back in the days of his "Telepocalypse" blog. He's truly a great thinker in the space and is also quite an enjoyable and fun speaker to listen to. We know each other well from the early days of VoIP blogging as well as the conference circuit, and I regularly read his email newsletter and other great content he puts out. He's very active on Twitter as well.

Having said all that, I do have some fundamental disagreements with some of what he is advocating these days. I wrote about some of this disagreement last year and he and I had a good conversation both in the comments to that post and in some private exchanges.

Now, I very much agree with much of what he calls "Hypervoice" and where he sees voice going. Where we disagree is about the broadband component. This is the part that Randy outlines in the VUC page as:

He will outline some (controversial) answers that suggest we’re heading down a dead end and should consider a different technical and commercial approach.

It should be a fun conversation and I'm very much looking forward to the group discussion with Martin!

You can join the fun, too! If you want to just simply watch and listen, you can:

If you want to join in to the actual discussion, you can call in via:
  • Skype audio: +990009369991484768
  • SIP:[email protected]
  • PSTN (phone) international numbers: http://vuc.me/voxbone

Regardless of whether you are just listening or planning to participate, it's always a good idea to join the #vuc IRC channel on Freednode.net. More info and a web interface to IRC can be found on the VUC site.

If you can't join in live, the session will be recorded in both audio and video form. You'll be able to find the archive on the VUC page and on the Google+ event page.

Please do join us! It should be a great conversation!


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Two Years At The Internet Society

Deploy360 300It rather staggers my mind that it was two years ago today, on September 19, 2011, that I began work for the Internet Society (a.k.a. "ISOC"). Longtime readers and friends may remember my impassioned (and naturally long) post at the time, "Ch-changes - Taking A New Job At The Internet Society To Join The Fight For The Open Internet".

Two years later that passion has only grown stronger! The events of recent months with the massive Internet surveillance disclosures have only reinforced the need for organizations like the Internet Society to be out there doing what they can to preserve the open character of the Internet.

Whether it is the excellent work on leading Internet technologies - and support for the IETF... the incredible work of our public policy team ... or the great work going on to to expand access to the Internet in regions where there is limited connectivity... or the global work of our chapters helping at a local and regional level... or the programs to develop the next generation of Internet leaders... or the many, many other activities going on around the globe... it's been an absolute pleasure to be a staff member for the Internet Society and I look forward to many more years ahead!

For me, being involved with the creation of the Deploy360 Programme has been an amazing experience. Working on Deploy360 has enabled me to unite my writing and communication skills with my passion for and knowledge of technologies such as DNS, IPv6 and routing technologies - as well as my enjoyment of social media as a way of distributing content and engaging in conversations. Plus, I've had a chance to continue my work with WordPress and so many other social tools.

I've had the opportunity to work with an outstanding team ... and I've had a chance to meet some of the most amazing people all around the world. With Deploy360 our goal is to find out what challenges people are having with deploying IPv6, DNSSEC and routing technologies - and then find or create the appropriate resources to answer those challenges and help people overcome those issues. To do that, you have to go out and meet people... to talk to to them... to hear their questions and to ask them questions.

And so there is this exquisite irony that someone who works for the Internet Society winds up spending an insane amount of time on airplanes traveling to places all around the world to meet with people responsible for deploying these open Internet protocols. And sometimes it's admittedly a bit absurd... such as the trip to Singapore where I spent more time in airplanes traveling there and back then I did actually on the ground in Singapore! (I was only there about 36 hours.)

But it's the people that make the travel worth it! I've met incredible people doing great work to keep the Internet open in so many different places... and in places that quite honestly I would never have even imagined that I'd wind up going! Sure, I've traveled through North America and Europe, but I mean... Russia? (see also: my thoughts on walking in Red Square) China? South Africa? India? Colombia? Poland? Singapore? Brazil? It's been a privilege to be in those places and meet these people doing such great work.

I hope that in some small way I've been able to help them with their efforts. I've certainly learned from what they are doing... and that's been fed directly back into what we're doing within the Deploy360 Programme.

Two years into the role there is still a great amount of work to do... we have content roadmaps that outline MANY documents we want to either find or create... we have new topics that we want to add to the site... we have code we want to help get created... we have new best current operational practices to help document... we have other groups we want to engage with...

The two years seem to have flown by rather quickly - it's been rather a whirlwind ... but I'm looking forward to where the next two years go. Lots to do - and the challenges ahead for the open nature of the Internet are only going to get tougher and more demanding!

I know I haven't been writing here on DisruptiveTelephony as much as I used to... but I'm hoping to do a bit more in the time ahead. Much of my writing these days is on the Deploy360 blog and sometimes over on CircleID. You can always track my writing via my danyork.me site... or of course follow me on any of the social networks.

Thanks for all the support and help that so many of you have given me over these past two years - and I look forward to working with so many more of you in the months and years ahead!

P.S. One great way you can help is to join the Internet Society to stay up-to-date on current issues affecting the Internet - membership is free for individuals. You can also subscribe to my infrequent email newsletter where I hit many of these topics.


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Further Thoughts on the Google Voice / Google+ Hangouts Integration

Google hangoutsMy post this week about Google Voice ringing into Google+ Hangouts generated a good bit of commentary, not only on the original post but also out on Hacker News, Reddit, Google+ and other areas. Given the range of responses, I thought I'd reply to a couple of points and also expand on some further related topics. So here goes...

"DUH! This is nothing new/disruptive. You could do it forever with GTalk/Gmail!"

A common response was to point out to me that Google Voice had been integrated with GoogleTalk / GMail for quite some time and so this integration was really nothing new.

Okay, fair enough. Point taken.

I'll admit that I never keep GMail open in a web window and so while I do recall that this integration was there in the past, I never personally used it.

Similarly, in Google+, I've taken to logging out of the GoogleTalk/chat sidebar because I found it was sucking up CPU cycles on my Mac. For whatever reason, the new Hangouts sidebar doesn't seem to consume as much CPU cycles and so I've left it running there.

So yes, the integration may have been there in the past and now it is there in Hangouts - and people like me are actually now noticing it. :-)

Ringing G+ Hangouts BEFORE Ringing Other Devices

There were a couple of comments that it seemed like calls to a Google Voice number rang the Google+ Hangouts first and then rang the other devices connected to the GV number. In my own testing there does seem to be about a 3-second delay between when the call starts ringing in Google+ Hangouts and when it starts ringing on my cell phone and Skype. Now, this may be a fact of Google giving priority to their own application - or it may just be an architectural fact that when they fork the call out to the different numbers it is faster to connect to their own service while the calls to my cell and my Skype numbers have to go through various PSTN gateways. Either way, there does seem to be a degree of delay before all devices ring.

Delay In Answering

A couple of people noted that there was a delay from the time you hit "Answer" to when the call was actually established. I've noticed this, too, although not consistently. I think part of it may be with starting up the Hangouts component inside of your browser - particularly with getting the video going, since that seems to be required for the Hangouts component. It may also be just the paths through whatever systems Google is using. It's certainly something to monitor.

Google Voice Call Does Not Ring The Hangouts App on iOS

In my own testing, I found a curious omission. When I call in on my Google Voice number, it does not ring on my Hangouts app running on my iPad. It rings Hangouts on my web browser... but nothing happens in the mobile app. Now, my iPhone rings - but that is because it is also connected to the Google Voice account. I didn't try removing that number from Google Voice and then seeing if the Hangouts app on the iPhone would ring. At least for the iPad, nothing happens. It would be great if this did work so that I could receive the calls on that mobile device.

XMPP...

Multiple people pointed out that my final remark about maybe some day getting SIP support was probably unrealistic given Google "dropping" XMPP support. I was admittedly away on vacation and at a conference last week and so I missed this point in all the announcement about Hangouts coming out of Google I/O. I wrote about this yesterday, though: Did Google REALLY Kill Off All XMPP/Jabber Support In Google+ Hangouts? It Still Seems To Partially Work

Although, as pointed out in a comment on Google+, this "partial" XMPP support may just be a factor of the continued GoogleTalk support - and may fade away when Google finally pulls the plug on that.

This is definitely an area where it would be helpful if Google could provide a few clarifications.

That's all I have right now for a quite update and response to points. Thanks for all the great comments and I do look forward to seeing where Google is going with all of this.


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Did Google REALLY Kill Off All XMPP/Jabber Support In Google+ Hangouts? It Still Seems To Partially Work

Google hangoutsDid Google really kill off all of their support for XMPP (Jabber) in Google+ Hangouts? Or is it still there in a reduced form? Will they be bringing back more support? What is really going on here?

In my excitement yesterday about Google Voice now being integrated with Google+ Hangouts, I missed a huge negative side of the new Hangouts change that is being widely reported: the removal of support for the XMPP (Jabber) protocol and interoperability with third-party clients.

But yet a few moments ago I did have a chat from an external XMPP client (Apple's "Messages" app) with Randy Resnick who received the message in a Google+ Hangout. I opened up a Google+ window in my browser and I could see the exchange happening there as well. Here's a side-by-side shot of the exchange in both clients:

Googleplusxmppinterop 450

So what is going on here?

Reports Of Google Removing XMPP

This issue has been widely reported in many of the tech blogs and sites. Matt Landis covered this issue very well in his post: Hangouts Won’t Hangout With Other Messaging Vendors: Google’s New Unified Messaging Drops Open XMPP/Jabber Interop which then generated long threads on Reddit and Slashdot.

The Verge in their lengthy story about Google+ Hangoutscontains this statement from Google's Nikhyl Singhal:

Talk, for example, was built to help enterprise users communicate better, Singhal says. "The notion of creating something that’s social and that’s always available wasn’t the same charter as we set out with when we created Talk." With Hangouts, Singhal says Google had to make the difficult decision to drop the very "open" XMPP standard that it helped pioneer.

The "Google Talk for Developers" pagealso very clearly states this:

Note: We announced a new communications product, Hangouts, in May 2013. Hangouts will replace Google Talk and does not support XMPP.

A Google+ post by Nikhyl Singhal has generated a large amount of comments (not solely about XMPP) and a post from Google's Ben Eidelson about how Google Messenger will be changed by Hangouts has also received many comments.

There was also a Hacker News thread about the news out of Google AppEngine that apps hosted there would not be able to communicate users of the new Hangouts app via XMPP - and providing a couple of workarounds.

A couple of Google+ threads from Matt Mastracci and Jan Wildeboer are also worth reading as is this note from Daniel Pentecost about how he has lost interop with his clients / customers.

But Is XMPP Support Still There?

I was a bit puzzled, though, by a couple of comments from Google's Ben Eidelson down in one of the G+ threads:


Ben Eidelson
+Thomas Heinen Thanks for your report of the issue. Hangouts supports basic interop with XMPP, so you can-for the time being-continue to use 3rd party clients. It does not work the same way as Talk, and so I believe the issue you're having with the XMPP bridge will not resolve in Hangouts.
Jason Summerfield
+Ben Eidelson So there is still some basic XMPP functionality under the hood? Does this mean that Hangouts will still be able to communicate with federated Jabber servers/clients, at least for now?

Ben Eidelson
+Jason Summerfield Not federated support, but supports interop with XMPP clients. Meaning you can continue to use XMPP clients to log in to Google Talk and those messages will interop with folks on Hangouts.


It was this that prompted me to call up Messages on my Mac, where I am logged in via XMPP to my GMail account, and to initiate a chat with Randy as shown above. We found we could chat perfectly fine. We couldn't initiate a callinto a Google+ Hangout from an external XMPP client - although I'll be honest and say I don't know how well that worked in the past. My own usage of external clients has entirely been for chat.

So What Is The Story?

I don't know. The statement quoted in The Verge's story seems pretty definitive that XMPP has been dropped, as does the message sent to AppEngine developers. It does seem so far that:

  • "Server-to-server" XMPP, used for federation with other servers / services, has been dropped.
  • "Presence" and status messages have been dropped (because the idea seems to be with Hangouts that you just send a message and people will get it either right then or whenever they are next online).
  • Within the Hangouts app, you can only connect to people with Google+ accounts, i.e. contacts on external XMPP servers no longer appear.
  • Google hasn't made any clear statements on what exactly is going on.

But is this partial XMPP support only temporary? Will it go away at some point whenever Hangouts fully "replaces" GoogleTalk? Or is this a communication mixup? (As happened recently with Google's announcement of DNSSEC support for their Public DNS Service?)

For me the disappointment in all of this is mostly that Google has been one of the largest advocates for the open XMPP protocol and I enjoyed the fact that I could use multiple different chat clients to interact with my GoogleTalk account. I was also very intrigued by the federation that we were starting to see between GTalk and other systems out there via XMPP.

Whereas before Google+ seemed to be an interesting social/messaging backbone to which I could connect many different apps and systems, now Google+ is looking like simply yet another proprietary walled garden - and we don't need more of those!

Hopefully we'll hear something more out of Google soon.

P.S. Here's another interesting viewpoint: Google Hangouts and XMPP – is cloud harming the Internet?


UPDATE: In a comment over on Google+, Daniel Pentecost states that Randy and I were not actually using Hangouts:

Dan, you weren't actually chatting through Hangouts. You were chatting through Google Talk which itself has a bridge into Hangouts. It only works b/c Randy is a Gmail user and still has access to Google Talk in Gmail.

Perhaps that is the case, which again then begs the question of whether this is only a temporary capability until GoogleTalk is shut down.


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