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Getting Started with Jabber

Introducing Jabber

This book is about Jabber: the technology, protocols, ideas, and the philosophy. Jabber is about connecting things (users, applications, and so on) in an all-pervasive message plasma that flows between clients and servers, carrying content, structure, and conversations.

The spirit of Jabber lies in its openness, its extensibility, and its lean but generic nature. That it finds itself in the midst of all that technology that will provide the backdrop to the dawn of the next-generation Internet is no accident. Web services, peer-to-peer, XML encapsulation, presence, identity, distributed computing—these are all phrases that describe key intiatives and developments that lie at the core of the coming transition, and Jabber can and does play a central role.

This book will show you how Jabber works, what makes it tick, and how to bend and shape it into solutions that join applications and users together. This first part is a guide to Jabber's technology and server. Part II is an examination of Jabber's building blocks and a series of scenarios and scripts we call "recipes," to show you how to deploy Jabber in a variety of situations.
==Imaginary Jabber Conversation==
To help you better understand what transpires during a Jabber-based conversation, this section presents a conversation between two friends, Jim and John, and two "assistant" applications at their respective places of work.

Jim and John work at two different companies. Both of them invest in the stock market, and they use a Jabber-based service to check and monitor prices, to buy and sell shares, and to manage their portfolios. John's company also has a workflow assistant that monitors incoming email and coordinates work items between colleagues.

Jim is notified that John is available:

|<presence from='john@company-b.com/Desk' to='jim@company-a.com/home'> <status>Online</status> <priority>2</priority> </presence>

Jim sends a quick chat message to John:

|<message type='chat' from='jim@company-a.com/home' to='john@company-b.com'> <thread>01</thread> <body>Hey John, have you seen the latest story on Megacorp earnings?</body> </message>

John responds:

|<message type='chat' to='jim@company-a.com/home' from='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <thread>01</thread> <body>No, where is it?</body> </message>

Jim sends John the URL:

|<message type='chat' from='jim@company-a.com/home' to='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <thread>01</thread> <body>Here's the link</body> <x xmlns='jabber:x:oob'> <url>http://www.megacorp.co.uk/earnings3q.html</url&gt

<desc>Third Quarter Earnings for Megacorp</desc>

</x> </message>

John receives an alert about the price of ACME Holdings (ACMH) falling below a threshold he previously set:

|<message to='john@company-b.com' from='alert@stocks.company-b.com'> <subject>ACMH Fallen below 250p</subject> <body>ACME Holdings price 248p as at 10:20am today</body> </message>

He checks the price of Megacorp stock (MEGC) by sending an empty message to the shares assistant application:

|<message type='chat' to='MEGC@stocks.company-b.com' from='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <thread>T20</thread> </message>

In reply, the shares assistant application sends the required information:

|<message type='chat' from='MEGC@stocks.company-b.com' to='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <thread>T20</thread> <subject>MEGC Current Price</subject> <body> Megacorp price 1287p at 10:25am today </body> </message>

John likes the price and decides to buy 100 more shares:

|<message type='chat' to='MEGC@stocks.company-b.com' from='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <thread>T20</thread> <body>Buy 100 at 1287 now</body> </message>

He sends a message to Jim telling him of his new investment. Jim checks his own portfolio:

|<iq type='get' to='portfolio.company-a.com' id='port_01' from='jim@company-a.com/home'> <query xmlns='jabber:iq:browse'/> </iq>

He sees that he already holds 1200 Megacorp shares and decides against buying any more:

|<iq type='result' from='portfolio.company-a.com' id='port_01' to='jim@company-a.com/home'> <portfolio xmlns='jabber:iq:browse' type='personal' jid='jim@portfolio.company-a.com'> <stock type='standard' name='Megacorp' jid='MEGC@portfolio.company-a.com' holding='1200'/> <stock type='standard' name='ACME Holdings' jid='ACMH@portfolio.company-a.com' holding='500'/> </portfolio> </iq>

The workflow assistant application, workassist, sends John a notice that he's received an important email:

|<message from='workassist@company-b.com' to='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <subject>New mail from: Alastair B</subject> <body> You have a new mail waiting; details are as follows: Subject: Incident last week From: Alastair B </body> </message>

He also receives an invite to a meeting:

|<message from='joanne@company-b.com/laptop' to='john@company-b.com/Desk'> <body> Hey John, you're supposed to be helping us decide where to hold this year's Christmas party! </body> <x xmlns='jabber:x:conference' jid='room2@meeting.company-b.com'/> </message>

John decides to leave the mail until later and join the rest of his colleagues in the meeting room.

There's a great deal we see in this imaginary, but not unlikely, conversation:

  • There are human and application participants involved in this

conversation; Jabber makes no distinction nor holds any prejudice against either participant type.

  • XML is used effectively to

segregate the conversational chunks (Jim's opening gambit, John's response, the price alert, and so on) and to structure and identify data within those chunks (the URL for the earnings story, the portfolio information, the conference room invitation).

  • Conversational strands

are kept in context by use of a <thread/> tag, so that Jim and John's clients have a chance to present what's said in an appropriate way.

  • Each conversational chunk is a

<presence/>, <message/>, or <iq/> tag—the three Jabber building blocks on which everything is based.

  • The conversation takes place across two

Jabber servers; one server is located at company-a.com and the other at company-b.com.

  • The conversation flow is

asynchronous, in the sense that out of nowhere, a message alerting John to a stock price fall below threshold appears seemingly in the middle of John's conversation with Jim, as does the message from the workassist agent.

  • All Jabber entities, human or otherwise,

are identified by Jabber IDs such as John's (john@company-a.com) or the stock alert mechanism (alert@stocks.company-b.com).

  • company-b.com's stock

system is multifaceted. As well as being able to send (and receive settings for) threshold alerts through the alert@stocks.company-b.com address, it can also interact using different identities to reflect the context of the stock being discussed. For example, MEGC@stocks.company-b.com represents the Megacorp (MEGC) stock.

  • In fact, this stock system is a Jabber

component, a single entity that takes on each of the stock guises in the conversation. The most common misconception about Jabber is that it's solely for instant messaging—Jabber is more than a bridge to other IM systems or a set of protocols. Instant messaging is just one of countless ways that an XML-based messaging technology such as Jabber's can be applied. Jabber is an extensible client/server architecture that routes XML data between clients and services, which plug into Jabber servers as components. The original and core set of components provide the IM features (and supporting services) that were briefly described in the Preface.

The XML structures that make up the Jabber protocol fall into three categories, each represented by a uniquely named top-level tag (also referred to as an element). These tags don't necessarily carry human-generated IM message content; as long as the resulting XML is well-formed, anything goes. Furthermore, the Jabber protocol design makes use of an XML feature that allows total flexibility of extension: namespaces.

To prevent flooding of the server with large amounts of data,

there are mechanisms in place to "throttle" heavy connections. These mechanisms can be configured in the server configuration, described in Section 4.13.

Bearing this in mind, it's clear that Jabber can be deployed to

}} provide solutions far beyond the IM space as well as within it.

A Simple Script

Before moving on, let's have a look at how simple it is to interact with Jabber. Example 1-1 shows a simple Perl script that connects to a Jabber server, authenticates, checks who's online, and sends those people a reminder message. It uses the Net::Jabber library, which provides a high-level API to many Jabber-related functions such as handling the connection to the server (this is via another library that Net::Jabber uses—XML::Stream), authentication, events, and all the mechanisms to parse and create Jabber traffic.

A simple Jabber script


use Net::Jabber qw(Client); use strict;

  1. List of addressees for our reminder our @addressees; # What we want to
  2. send my $reminder = $ARGV[0] or die "No reminder!"; # Connect to our
  3. Jabber server my $c= Net::Jabber::Client->new();
  4. $c->Connect('hostname' => 'yak', 'port' => 5222); #
  5. Authenticate $c->AuthSend('username' => 'reminder', 'password'
  6. => 'secret', 'resource' => 'reminder'); # Set handler to deal
  7. with presence packets that might (will) be pushed # to us (we're not
  8. interested in any other type of packet) $c->SetCallBacks('presence'
  9. => \&handle_presence); # Send out our own presence, and run an
  10. event loop for up to 5 seconds # to catch any packets pushed to us
  11. $c->PresenceSend(); $c->Process(5); # Create a new message with
  12. our reminder text my $m = Net::Jabber::Message->new();
  13. $m->SetBody($reminder); # Send the message to each of the
  14. addressees collected in the # handle_presence() subroutine foreach my
  15. $jid (@addressees) {

$m->SetTo($jid); $c->Send($m);


  1. Disconnect from the Jabber server and exit $c->Disconnect; exit(0);
  2. # Deal with presence packets sub handle_presence {

my ($sid, $presence) = @_;

  1. Get the presence my $show = $presence->GetShow() || 'online'; # If
  2. the user is around, add to addressee list push @addressees,
  3. $presence->GetFrom() if $show eq 'online' or $show eq 'chat';

} }} The script is fairly self-explanatory. For now, we'll leave the } }} script's description to the comments embedded within it; by the end } }} of the book, you should have a good understanding of how to put } }} together complete applications and utilities using Jabber libraries } }} in Perl, Python, and Java.

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