Facebook in Pidgin

Ethan Blanton elb at pidgin.im
Thu Nov 20 22:40:58 EST 2008

Eion Robb spake unto us the following wisdom:
> > Background:
> > * Facebook added IM to their site in April.  It uses their own
> > proprietary protocol which uses HTTP requests and comet/HTTP
> > long-polling with JSON formatted data.
> > * They have announced that they're working on letting people log in
> > using XMPP, but they have not announced a timeframe
> This was an issue I raised months ago, but was prompty shot down in
> irc, because it was apparently worth waiting for XMPP rather than
> implementing another proprietry protocol, which was odd, since I
> thought Pidgin was all about implementing lots of proprietry
> protocols.

I'm not really interested in a protracted discussion about this, but I
think there is an important distinction to make -- Facebook is a *new*
chat service, not an existing chat service with a legacy base of
users.  On top of that, the "protocol" being implemented isn't even
intended to be an IM protocol as such, it's screen scraping some
crufty interface provided for an AJAX web page.

I am of the opinion that we should not encourage further proliferation
of properietary IM protocols.  There are a number of open IM standards
available which have significant traction (XMPP and SIP SIMPLE, at the
very least), and new services can reasonably be expected to use one of
these.  In fact, several new services (Google Talk, LiveJournal) have
already embraced XMPP, several established services are publically
flirting with it (AIM and ICQ, possibly others), and the new service
in question has already announced intention to support it.

All that said, that's a reason why *I* wouldn't write a facebook
screen scraping protocol, not a reason (at least, by itself) why I
would keep one out of Pidgin.  The fact that, even if it's a
well-written plugin, it's still a dirty screen scraping hack *is* such
a reason.  This is important, for those who haven't gathered it,
because you effectively get a new facebook IM client every time you
click a link or reload your browser -- that means they can change
their protocol at any time with no ill effects to an installed client
base.  That's not a game we should be vocalizing support for.  We
can't even manage to roll a release in less than a week, these days,
so I don't think it's a good idea to chase a bouncing ball.


The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws [that have no remedy
for evils].  They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor
determined to commit crimes.
		-- Cesare Beccaria, "On Crimes and Punishments", 1764
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