Google's retreat from XMPP is a conversation killer

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Google have upset a good few people in the tech community recently, shutting down a number of high profile open standards in their core products.

Most recently, we saw a frighteningly sudden shuttering of XMPP (you may know it as Jabber) in Google Talk (now Google Hangouts) (confused yet?). XMPP has its problems and vocal critics, but it has strongly represented open standards in a sea of proprietary systems.

Open standards aren't everyone's cup of tea, and are certainly not the average Joe's caffeinated drink of choice for chat. It comes as no surprise that Apple's claim that Facetime was going to become an open standard has somewhat dissolved into the sea of closed systems, yet outside of the tech community few seem too bothered.

However, Jabber and its contemporaries taking the 'open' word seriously should matter to Joe. The fight between chat clients is eternal. Many will remember ICQ, AOL, Yahoo! Messenger battling away years ago. I'm perhaps nerdy enough to remember friendship groups forming around specific clients as a depressing reality.

These days, though dedicated-chat-dwarfing products such as Facebook bring more commonality, they are still part of the problem. People are using proprietary systems to communicate. (Un)fortunately, people are not proprietary, aside from the fact that some are annoying and thus you probably think they're incompatible with you.

Everyone wants to communicate, and the idea of restricting who someone can talk to appeals to no-one. There is no doubt that systems such as Blackberry Messenger are used by recognisably cohesive groups of people - this is part of its appeal as a service. However, this is not something to celebrate.

Google's removal of XMPP/Jabber makes them just another big service to go proprietary. Another service you've got to tell your friends about before you use it. And you'll tell them using, uh, another chat system.

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