On 13th May 2008, Facebook announced ”Right now we’re building a Jabber/XMPP interface for Facebook Chat. In the near future, users will be able to use Jabber/XMPP-based chat applications to connect to Facebook Chat“. The news has been greeted positively in various places everywhere.

A year later, strictly nothing had happened, and that silence has not gone unnoticed. Facebook has not even issued the slightest announcement, except a wishlist bug report comment by Charlie Cheever mentioning that “some people are working on this.  It will probably be done in a few months. Sorry the timeline isn’t more clear“.

But today the people at ProcessOne noticed that preparations for an opening have reached an advanced stage that hint at the imminence of a public XMPP service :

It now seems the launch is close as the XMPP software stack as been deployed on chat.facebook.com, as our bot at IMtrends have found out: chat.facebook.com on IMtrends.

The biggest question that remains is whether federation is on the menu. By federating with Google Talk and the rest of the XMPP world, Facebook has an opportunity to make a huge splash in instant messaging with 300 million users at once and deal a heavy blow to Yahoo and Microsoft. Will the partial ownership of Facebook by Microsoft keep them from interoperating ?

I would love to be able to chat with all those Facebook friends who will never use a chat client that was not pushed by a mass market service provider. So far, Facebook has always chosen the closed way – opening its service to a federation would be a first. I’m eager to see if Facebook can take this golden opportunity to surprise us in a good way.