Google Talk discontinued

Will Google keep its promise and give xmpp users a way out?

As you may have seen, Google announced at their Google I/O conference that they were discontinuing their XMPP service, Google Talk. It’s very unfortunate, because XMPP is the most deployed open standard for instant messaging. It gave Google users the ability to communicate instantly with anyone using an XMPP federated service (like FSFE’s fellows XMPP server). Even Microsoft recently enabled its users to communicate to the outside world through XMPP. Now, Google is “replacing” Google Talk with Google+ Hangouts which will no longer support XMPP¹:

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

What we know is that Google stops XMPP federation. Soon, Google users won’t be able to chat with anybody but other Google users. If I were paranoid, I’d say this makes their recent move on Google Talk look suspicious. But enough whining. What can we do about this? Well, there might be a way out for those of you who were using Google Talk as their XMPP service and who had a lot of non-Google contacts. Did you read Google’s Terms of Service? I bet you didn’t ;-). No worries, we sum it up for you at Terms of Service; Didn’t Read. So, you might have noticed this interesting bit:

Google enables you to get your information out when a service is discontinued Discussion Google gives you reasonable advance notice when a service is discontinued and “a chance to get information out of that Service.”

The full terms state:

We believe that you own your data and preserving your access to such data is important. If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.

So far, the only notice I have seen is on a developer page so I don’t think that counts for a “reasonable advance notice”; we yet have to wait for this when Google announces to their users that they discontinue Google Talk. Or maybe Google’s going to argue that they don’t “discontinue” a Service because Talk is replaced by Hangouts (which does not support XMPP and which isn’t federated). I’d argue it’s not true and that XMPP chat is discontinued. Hence Google should give users a way out. Let’s hope that those who have decided to pay allegiance to Google will be able to get their chat contact list out of Google Talk, with a way to import them into XMPP providers which are federated.

  1. it remains unclear whether XMPP support is entirely gone for xmpp-client-to-server according to Ars

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Unethical HTML5 content-restriction proposal (aka DRM)


This, is astonishing:

“Can you highlight how robust content protection can be implemented in an open source web browser?” he asked. “How do you guard against an open source web browser simply being patched to write the frames/samples to disk to enable (presumably illegal) redistribution of the protected content?”

Netflix’s Mark Watson responded to the message and acknowledged that strong copy protection can’t be implemented in an open source Web browser. He deflected the issue by saying that copy protection mechanisms can be implemented in hardware, and that such hardware can be used by open source browsers.

Microsoft, Google and Netflix are making a Web standard proposal for proprietary javascript as DRM, no less! This proposal is totally at odds with web ethics. Not only it would be the first Web standard to impose proprietary software to the user, it would mostly be against everything the Web stands for! Making copies and sharing content between individuals is so much a widespread practice. Can you imagine: being prevented from copy-pasting something from a webpage!

In the end, the current situation is that DRM require to maintain (costly) DRM servers and obsolete no cross-platform software. Let’s make it stay that way. I see no reason why users should have to accept to take the burden of DRM costs.

Open Letter to Steve Jobs

update 16:00: Steve Jobs answers to my open letter, see below.

Steve Jobs pointing his finger

That's rude!

Dear Steve Jobs,

Having read your Thoughts on Flash, I could not agree with you more. Flash is not the Web, and I am glad Apple seizes the opportunity of open standards to build better products for their customers.

But I am not so sure about your definition of the word Open in general. I will not argue here that it is ironic you find the Apple Store more open than Flash. I will not complain either that you like Openness so much that when you use “Open Source” Software to build your Mac operating system, you keep all the openness for yourself and don’t give it to your customers, nor to the developers whose works have been very useful to you.

I figured that writing an open letter was an appropriate way to remind you of a couple of things that you may have forgotten — maybe in good faith — about open standards.

It is true that HTML5 is an emerging open standard, and I am glad that you adopted it (well, did you really have the choice anyway?). However I have to say I am impressed in the way you succeed in saying how Apple has been doing great with open standards against Flash… while explaining Flash videos is not a problem, because Apple has implemented another video codec: H.264.

May I remind you that H.264 is not an open standard? This video codec is covered by patents, and “vendors and commercial users of products which make use of H.264/AVC are expected to pay patent licensing royalties for the patented technology” (ref). This is why Mozilla Firefox and Opera have not adopted this video codec for their HTML5 implementation, and decided to chose Theora as a sustainable and open alternative.

Free Software Foundation Europe have been raising consensus and awareness on Open Standards for some years already. I am sure we would be happy to help Apple make the good decision. So, to begin with, here is the definition:

An Open Standard refers to a format or protocol that is

  1. subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
  2. without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves;
  3. free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model;
  4. managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
  5. available in multiple complete implementations by competing vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.

Hugo Roy
April 2010

Steve Jobs’ email (with sources)

From: Steve Jobs
To: Hugo Roy
Subject: Re:Open letter to Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Flash
Date 30/04/2010 15:21:17

All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other “open source” codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn’t mean or guarantee that it doesn’t infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source.

Sent from my iPad

Since it was an open letter, I think I have the right to publish his answer.

A (short) update from FSFE

I haven’t been quite talkative on this blog these last couple of months… (hey, for those of you who read French) but I can guarantee you I will be back! It is also that things are moving fast and it’s been hard to have a minute to blog! No possibility to get bored: things are happening at the European Commission especially with the battle for Open Standards and the Digital Agenda. What’s more, Document Freedom Day is now in 3 days, and with our fellows in Berlin we will thank Radio Stations adopting the Ogg Vorbis open standard. Finally, the annual workshop of the European Legal Network, maintained by FSFE, is coming near in Amsterdam! Lots of interesting topics, I’m sure I’ll find some time to give my views on them!

Oh, and I also have to do all this university work about my internship, which ends in 2 months déjà!