As Facebook usage continues to grow, many people rely on Facebook as their primary method for chatting in real time with their friends and family. I am not one of those people, but since many of my friends are, having a way to easily contact them in real time is very important. There have been attempts to make plugins for major IM clients such as Pidgin and Kopete that can work with Facebook, but they were difficult to maintain and did not always perform well.
A few days ago, Facebook announced that they have opened their chat system to XMPP, which is an open standard for chat communication. It is famous for the many Jabber chat systems that exist on the Internet and also for its adoption by Google as their protocol for Google Talk. Now, any client that can connect to XMPP will be able to connect to Facebook.
This is particularly good news for mobile devices that might have supported XMPP but did not have Facebook support. What follows are the steps you need to take to connect your chat client to Facebook chat. I have included Kopete for KDE as an example, but feel free to add more in the comments.
Facebook’s tour currently has a nice feature that explains how to access their chat from Pidgin,Adium, and Apple’s iChat, and even gives you the exact use name you will need.
1. Click “Settings” in the top menu and then click “Configure”.
2. Under “Accounts”, click “Add Account…”
3. Select “Jaber” from the list of protocol choices.
4. For username, type your Facebook name (what is normally at the end of your Facebook URL) For example, if your Facebook name is bobblehead, you will need to enter firstname.lastname@example.org If, for some reason, that username does not work, you can check the Facebook Chat page in their site tour, click “Other – Windows/Mac/Linux” and see what your username is supposed to be.
5. Password is your normal Facebook password.
6. Under Connection preferences, leave all three options unchecked (no SSL).
7. Click OK, and you’re done!
Facebook is currently telling users to disable SSL, and I am not sure if this is how they intend to keep it permanently. I also could not get profile images to display in Kopete, although users might have more success with other clients. I did test it with one of my friends and did not experience any anomalies. He also did not report any strange characters or other problems coming from my end.
It seems to do a good job of keeping track of when users are idle on their Facebook pages, just like the web-based Facebook chat. Certain other features like voice and video will not be supported unless Facebook adds those features, even if other XMPP connections support it.
Overall, it works very well and feels like a normal IM chat protocol, complete with emoticons. Now, it will be that much more difficult for you to hide from your old friends.