Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pidgin and the Impending Shutdown of Windows Live Messenger

So, Microsoft recently announced that they’ll terminate the Windows Live Messenger service in favor of Skype in early 2013.  We’ve been getting a number of questions about what this means for Pidgin.  Quite honestly, we don’t know.  At this point, all we know is that China will still be able to use Windows Live Messenger.  That leads us to believe that the servers providing MSNP service will remain active and maintained for some period of time after the announced shutdown, but it’s not clear whether or not that will be the case.  It’s also not clear if the servers supporting China’s continued use of WLM will be accessible to non-Chinese IP space.  Even further, it’s not clear if the recently-launched XMPP interface to the WLM network will remain functional.  We don’t support that yet though, as it requires some authentication magic we don’t implement.  Even if we implement support for the authentication this XMPP gateway requires, it could end up being a waste of time, as it could get shut down at any time, either before or after the rest of WLM.

And before anyone goes there, we can’t support Skype.  There is no documentation of the protocol available to us, nor is there code we can borrow from a cleanly reverse-engineered alternative implementation.  All that exists is SkypeKit, whose license agreement explicitly forbids its use in open-source software.  The license also forbids use in “server applications” which precludes doing something like wrapping a simple closed-source XMPP daemon around SkypeKit.  It is not currently possible to legally support Skype, so we won’t try.

The bottom line is we have no idea what the announcement means for Pidgin or any other alternative clients yet.  We’ll all just have to wait and see.