Shutting down our XMPP chat service

Product

Quick summary: We’ll be closing down our XMPP chat server on 31 January
2016. For users with a FastMail domain account (e.g. @fastmail.com, @eml.cc, etc), XMPP messaging with your account will be unavailable after this date. If you have your own domain for your account, you’ll have to find an alternative XMPP server and change your SRV DNS records as appropriate if you wish to continue using XMPP with your domain.

The full story…

For many years we’ve supported XMPP, an open standards chat protocol, both for users in FastMail domains (e.g. @fastmail.com, @eml.cc, etc) and for users bringing their own domains. Recently we’ve had to review this support, and after some internal discussion, we’ve decided to decommission the service.

When we started, XMPP looked like it was going to be a open protocol supported by many of the biggest players, with “federation” support meaning users on different services could talk to each other, just like with email. Over the last few years however, that dream has evaporated. Google has replaced Google Talk (which supported XMPP) with Google Hangouts (which doesn’t). Facebook removed their XMPP chat interface and replaced it with their Platform API v2.0. No major vendor seems to have XMPP support these days, massively reducing the overall XMPP user base that can be interoperated with.

This has removed most of the major use cases for XMPP. For person-to-person messaging the vast majority of people are using either large platforms (such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, etc.), or niche privacy focused platforms (such as Telegram, Whisper etc.).

For intra-business messaging, most companies seem to be sticking with proven multi-user protocols like IRC rather than XMPP Multi-User Chat (MUC), or are moving to more sophisticated proprietary collaboration platforms like Slack.

Meanwhile, our XMPP service is now somewhat behind the cutting edge, and lacks support for many of the recent XMPP extensions that the dedicated XMPP users are now beginning to request.

So it is perhaps not surprising that reviewing our logs revealed only a few hundred users (yes, only two zeros!) are still using our XMPP service at all.

As a company, it’s hard to say “no” to our users, but in order to provide the best possible service to as many people as we can, we have to focus. And right now, it does not make sense to devote our finite resources to the considerable work required to bring this up to standard, given the very low current use and grim future outlook for XMPP in general. Leaving it running in the current state is not really an option, given the significant demands in monitoring and maintaining availability, and dealing with support requests.

We still feel chat is interesting, but as a service it doesn’t gain much from being integrated into your email, unlike for example a calendar (our most recent major addition). We believe that there are other services we can focus on in the near-to-medium future which will provide greater value for our customers, and gain more benefit from integration with your email and calendar.

So on 31 January 2016, we will be shutting down our XMPP server. For users with a FastMail domain account (e.g. @fastmail.com, @eml.cc, etc), XMPP messaging with your account will unavailable after that date. For users with their own domain, you’ll have to find an alternative XMPP server and change your SRV DNS records as appropriate if you wish to continue using XMPP with your domain. We can continue to host the DNS for your domain, but you’ll have to find the appropriate SRV records for your domain from your new XMPP provider.