When our colleague Mikl Kurkov suggested we make a timeline of chat services and their protocols, we all thought it was a great idea. (Little did we know how many services we’d find!) Today, we’re releasing the timeline, and it’s fucking scary. The number of chat services in the market is staggering.
(If you know someone who's thinking about starting a chat service, have them look over this timeline first—doing so might save him/her some substantial pain.)
Perhaps most interesting is how, for the most part, the current state of things has nothing to do with the infamous chat wars of the ‘90s. These days, everything’s largely peaceful and folks are playing nice. Most groups have their own vision for what features are best—and want to build the best chat service they can. Many start by looking around for a protocol, realize that few support the features they want to offer, and just roll out their own.
These organizations rarely realize the challenges they produce in doing so—and that they’ll lose users, because their service doesn’t speak to other chat providers. They do what they have to—and, in turn, add to the many dozens of protocols that are in no way interoperable. Until, they plug-in Sameroom (the universal translator for chat protocols), and suddenly their little island is connected to all the other chat services, out there.
The source code for the timeline is freely available on GitHub. If you see any inaccuracies or omissions, feel free to file an issue or send a pull request: https://github.com/sameroom/history-of-chat.