What is a specification

"[Specifications are the] formal documents describing a technology, protocol, or other pattern that may be standardised. A standard cannot exist without a specification, but a specification is not automatically a standard of any kind. Specifications are key in allowing interoperability." (Singpolyma)

The word "protocol" refers to a specification for communication technology (Wikipedia). Like how the word "format" refers to a specification for a save-file.

1. Choose your protocol

1.1 What is a chat protocol?

People who use the same chat protocol can generally talk to eachother over that protocol.

1.2 XMPP: a free protocol

(a) What is XMPP?

XMPP is a free protocol.

XMPP supports plain-text-messaging, voice, video, file-transfer, and more. Some XMPP clients support all of these features. Some support just a few of them.

(b) Where can I make an XMPP account?

You can make an XMPP account from any website that offers accounts. You could also set up your own XMPP server. Our community talked about where and how to make an account here.

You may connect with users on any XMPP server, no matter where you make your account. This is called interdomain federation. Older protocols tend to be centralized.

The Trisquel project hosts an XMPP server for it's members. In this case, the "domain" is, the "username" is the one you would register when becoming a member. And so is the "password". By entering those pieces of information in any chat client that supports XMPP, you can chat with any other XMPP user.

(c) I have an account -- what next?

Log in to your XMPP account through your XMPP client. Ask your friends for their XMPP account addresses. Then add them to your XMPP list, from your client.

In Pidgin: Ctrl+B or menu "Buddies/Add buddy..."

XMPP will then ask your friend whether she would like to add you to her XMPP list.

(d) XMPP and popular Internet services

The XMPP protocol is very popular today. And it deserves it!

Google uses XMPP from within G Mail, Facebook within its social network, Apple supports it in the default (and proprietary) client for Macs, etc.

Many protocols seem to slowly disappear in favor of XMPP. Even if they are still working. The companies behind ICQ, Windows Live Messenger or Skype (for text messages only), use XMPP. In fact, the companies behind those centralized protocols set up gateways to the network where most XMPP clients are connected (including, e.g., those chatting through a GMail page).

1.3 The IRC protocol

The IRC protocol fulfills another need: that of creating discussion forums (called "channels") where you can read what anybody has to say on the topic (channels are thematic) and anybody can read you. This documentation explains how to connect to the #trisquel channel with Pidgin or XChat (a popular client for the IRC protocol only). The provided information is easily adaptable to connect to another channel.

This tutorial shows how to use IRC with Pidgin (a chat app that comes with Trisquel).

2. Choose your client

Pidgin, an instant messenging application, comes with Trisquel. It supports many instant messaging protocols, is extensible, and is very popular. Search Trisquel's repositories for "pidgin", to check out it's extensions.

You can install other chat applications from Trisquel's repositories. Some of these are:

  1. Empathy -- GNOME's default client,
  2. Kopete -- KDE's default client,
  3. Kadu (which supports the XMPP and the Gadu-Gadu protocols),
  4. Gajim -- a full-featured XMPP client,
  5. Psi -- for the XMPP protocol only,
  6. Tkabber -- (idem),
  7. MCabber -- (idem and terminal-based),
  8. aMSN -- for the Windows Live Messenger protocol only
  9. emesene (idem),

Each has a unique set of features; you'll want to read a little about each before deciding which is right for you. Consider:

  1. Which features do I want?
    1. plain text messaging
    2. voice calls
    3. video calls
  2. Which operating systems do my friends use?
    1. x y and z are multi-platform
  3. Which messaging protocols do my friends use?

3. Privacy

Instant messaging protocols help you communicate with others. Relying on someone else's server, or communicating over the Internet generally, are convenient ways to keep in touch with friends. But please learn about the privacy implications:


Please see chat-encryption for information on how to encrypt your chat communications.


01/29/2013 - 19:21
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