Sunday, July 13, 2008

"State of the MSN Plugin Address"

Yes, the title is intended to be half joking. Just a few days ago I made a comment to a fellow developer that "someone needs to make a 'state of the msn plugin' address," meaning that someone needs to let people know what's happening. Well, looks like that someone's going to be me. So here's the outsider's summary of what's happened.

In current Pidgin releases, the default MSN plugin uses the old MSNP9 protocol. This protocol doesn't support Personal Status Messages (PSM, also called "personal messages"), nor does it support offline IM, current media (a field that shows what music you're listening to or what video you're watching), or messaging while invisible.

Two years ago, for the 2006 Summer of Code, we had a student whose project was to update our MSN code to MSNP13. MSNP13 supported the PSM and current media, although at the time libpurple didn't support the status attributes for "now playing" or "current media" or whatever you prefer to call it. MSNP13 may also have supported messaging while offline, but I can't recall for certain and I don't, at the moment, feel like looking it up in the documentation we have online. Later this was updated to MSNP14 for Yahoo! interoperability support. At the end of the summer, the code wasn't of a quality we were ready to release. The code sat.

Last year, we had another student take on MSN protocol updating. This time the student updated the code to support MSNP14, starting from the previous work. This supported offline messaging for sure, and there were a lot of commits that dealt with the OIM features. Again, at the end of the summer, the code wasn't release-ready in our opinion, so again the code sat.

Earlier this year, one of our developers started working on the MSNP14 code in a side branch, and eventually merged it to the im.pidgin.pidgin branch in our monotone repository. Because the code still wasn't release-ready, we disabled it and forced the MSNP9 plugin to build by default. The more clever users were still able to figure out how to get MSNP14 going, but there weren't too many until we introduced an argument to the configure script to enable the MSNP14 plugin.

A new "crazy patch writer" appeared and started to work on MSNP15 support. We eventually gave him write access to the central monotone repository at This has paid off for us very well. Elliott has done a LOT of work, including some necessary cleanup, stability improvements, etc. MSNP15 was finally merged to im.pidgin.pidgin this morning. Currently it is also the default MSN plugin, and I hope it stays that way, but it might be changed if anyone objects to it.

This would not have been possible without the work of Elliott, the two Summer of Code students, one other crazy patch writer (known as Masca on #pidgin), our XMPP Voice and Video Summer of Code student for this year (known as Maiku on #pidgin), and Dimmuxx and other Adium users' testing. I'm sure there are a number of other people I've forgotten to mention who have made contributions to this progress, and I apologize. My memory isn't what it used to be. To all these people who have helped with the long road of updated MSN protocol support, I give well-deserved thanks.

So what does all this mean? Well, simply, a lot of the feature requests we've been getting are finally resolved. Ideally we also will stop seeing people asking why they don't receive offline MSN messages, why they can't message while invisible, and why they can't see personal messages. For these reasons alone, I can't wait for the release of Pidgin 2.5.0!