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An XML standard to Jabber about

In the world of XML standards, where proliferating acronyms push the envelope of pronounce-ability if not understandability, Jabber is a refreshing change.

Jabber is the open XML application protocol for real-time exchange of messages and presence between points on the Internet, according to Dan Bruns, president of Prospero Technologies LLC (www.prospero.com), Littleton, Mass.

Prospero, which provides outsourcing support of online chat communities for such clients as NASCAR and the Washington Post, is using XML and related standards, including Jabber, to handle dynamic data and content, Bruns said.

For developers of online chat boards, Jabber provides what Bruns calls "a very standard streaming data transfer API" for building user features ranging from bookmarks of favorite chat rooms to block lists of people they don't want to avoid in their online chats.

Jabber is a product of the Open Source Community, Bruns explained, and detailed documentation and sample code is available at www.jabber.com, which he said has been very helpful to Prospero developers.

Prospero is a follow-on company to Delphi Internet Services, an early 1990s online provider of Web access for consumers, Bruns said. As America Online and MSN came to dominate that market, the company began to focus on providing online community chat technology culminating in the birth of Prospero in 1998.

XML has proven to be a boon to this business where data is dynamic and thus a challenge to manage, Bruns noted.

"A lot of the community content -- discussions, participations and chats -- are by nature very fluid with very loose structure. We've found that XML is a great way of capturing that and putting structure on it in a way that can be communicated, stored, transferred and reconstructed by our clients," he explained.

XML technology makes it possible for Prospero to provide links between a news story on the Washington Post Web site and chats about the issues in the story, Bruns said.

"We have a suite of services called Active Content where our clients can embed essentially conversational elements from the discussion boards and chats directly into their Web site through data feeds that are direct raw XML or go through XSL transform so they can display them on their pages," he explained. "That's become very popular as a way of integrating dynamic content onto static pages. For example, if you go to the Washington Post Web site, there will often be a [link on the page displaying a news story to] the latest discussions about the peace process in the Middle East. Those are pulled from our server directly through an XML mechanism with links back in so people can click on a [link to the] conversation and jump right in to participate."

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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