The official blog on Trillian development.

On Interoperability

This week, a competitor of ours (imo.im) decided to drop support for third-party IM networks and focus on building out their own platform instead. This got us thinking: reverse engineering other IM protocols is a thankless task and Facebook just acquired WhatsApp for ~19 billion dollars, so what the heck are we still doing here? 
 

Interoperability is difficult.
To be perfectly clear, everything the imo team said is true: supporting third-party messaging networks is awful. Not only can it be frustrating technically, but you’re often left with a half-broken implementation for reasons completely outside of your control. Why isn’t AIM connecting today? Dunno. Why do half of your Facebook messages not show up on all of your devices? Blame feature gaps in their XMPP gateway. At some point, the temptation to punt and focus your company’s energy on building its own reliable messaging network is almost unbearable. 
 

We’ve been there.
In fact, we’ve been running our own messaging network since 2006 in the form of what some of you know as Astra and others just as Trillian. Running our own messaging network has given us the opportunity to build our own awesome IM protocol, work on things like audio and video calls, reliable file transfers, native support for TLS, our “continuous client” dream, and generally learn all of the ins and outs of running a service. It’s been great, and we obviously believe our service is fantastic! 
 

And yet…
Trillian was started because Kevin and I had a problem: we were tired of having to load mIRC and AIM at the same time just to stay in touch with all of our contacts. Millions of people still rely on “legacy” networks like AIM, Yahoo, and Google Talk to get their jobs done and stay in touch with (ok, perhaps slightly older!) members of their families. We therefore believe it remains important that we keep up our efforts at providing interoperability in Trillian even as we continue to invest in our own network. Still, it’s important to remember that Trillian is not immune to industry change, and the day may come when we’re no longer able to provide interoperability for reasons outside of our control: Microsoft’s decision to shut down SkypeKit, for example, will eventually be the end of Skype in Trillian. That’s why we encourage everyone to use Trillian’s messaging network: share your Trillian username with your other Trillian-using friends and add each other to get started! 
 

We wish the entire imo team the best of luck, and are obviously a little jealous of their newfound freedom from nights buried in assembly and network dumps. We hope that when they make their first billion that they remember our shared struggle send over a box of Cristal. :)

26 Responses to “On Interoperability”
  1. A person Says:

    I do NOT like the fact that you REQUIRE me to click on your bloody popups to close them down on mac. What if I don’t want to read your blog right now? The pop-up doesn’t go away. Please use the built in notifications system for stuff like this, ESPECIALLY marketing. I’m a paying customer, and you’re essentially showing me ads that requires mandatory clicking.

  2. Nathaniel Chandler Says:

    As a “lifetime” user, I am dismayed to hear that Cerulean Studios is considering dropping support for other messaging protocols in Trillian. This is the entire reason that I use Trillian.

    The suggestion that folks like me should “share [our] Trillian username with [our] other Trillian-using friends” is a nice thought, but the reality is that we have friends on a number of networks that we are staying in contact with by way of Trillian, and most of them don’t use Trillian. I like Trillian (a whole lot), but I’m not going to suggest that my friends install a piece of ad-supported software so that we can stay in touch, nor am I going to suggest that they purchase it (though I’d happily gift it to one or two).

    As to billion dollar buyouts: there are deep, interesting reasons why Facebook acquired WhatsApp and attempted to acquire Snapchat. These reasons have nothing to do with just the fact that the companies behind these products were putting out Yet Another Chat Protocol. (The received wisdom, as I understand it: WhatsApp was desirable because it has a great user experience on feature phones giving it users that Facebook had been unable to reach; Snapchat because it experiences great popularity with a particular demographic (young people) that Facebook fears it is losing or at least not reaching.) For this reason, it doesn’t seem very sensible to suppose that imo will be wildly successful and soon to be receiving a multi-billion buyout proposition unless they are doing something specific that nobody else is. It is entirely possible that Cerulean Studios could launch a unique product that would be immensely desirable to Facebook And Friends, but it doesn’t seem very sensible to risk everything on that hope. Of course, I recognize that my ignorance of the facts of those acquisitions is dwarfed only by my ignorance of the business decisions that Cerulean Studios faces, so apologies for my speculation which you’ve graciously tolerated.

    I would understand if Trillian had to be completely a subscription service (reneging, though it would be, on the agreement made to “lifetime” users like me) and was forced to charge all users a yearly fee, but I would be very sad indeed if Trillian dropped support for other messaging protocols. I have long thought of Trillian as a much better alternative to free software such as Pidgin and recommend it to my friends and family as such. I really hope that Cerulean Studios makes the right decision: while exploring new opportunities with Trillian for Business and other experiments, maintaining its core mission which it has been delivering on for just under a decade-and-a-half rather than being blinded by wishful thinking about mindblowing buyout offers.

  3. John Sherrod Says:

    stop forcing the user to read blog posts. irritating. paid for no advertising. this is an advertising one off.

  4. y0himba Says:

    The day had to come. It is unfortunate there is no standard across the boards. It hinders communication. I will remain with Trillian until it dies.

  5. smw Says:

    @Nathaniel: Our point was the exact opposite, that we are *not* considering dropping support for interoperability. More just making a statement on the state of the industry and why we think interop is still important even in light of new messaging networks and paradigms like WhatsApp etc.

  6. smw Says:

    @Nathaniel: Also, our comment on imo making a billion dollars was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Appreciate your insight nonetheless.

  7. Johnish Says:

    Stop forcing me to click on these pop-ups! They need to have an x to close them an automatically time out and fade away. I shouldn’t have paid you money if you’re going to make me read shit I don’t want to.

  8. Chris Bolton Says:

    As a LONG time user of Trillian I have has some frustrations, like more of us. All I can say is having tried several other client, yours is the best. I have it on my iPhone, iPad, mac, and PC. I am really tired of people bitching about crap like some have above. If these people had ANY clue how hard what you do is, they would get out of their ivory towers. They are also usually the same people who, when their IMO stopped working thanks to the IMO’s change, they would rant all over you for “your broken IM client.” I for one rarely see blog posts like this, and find 99% of them (LIKE THIS ONE) informative to me as a Trilian user.

    You did NOT say you were dropping other protocols and staying to Astra only…….you only talked through the obvious fact that it would be the “easy” route. You reiterated your commitment to an open and interoperable platform (read the title folks), and yet people are dismayed at your for saying you will drop other protocols? Morons, sorry, had to say it.

    Stay the course, some of us, probably a very large “silent majority” love your tool, use it every day on every device. We get it. Thank you for your years of tireless work, your great product, and your informative blog posts very vocationally delivered to my Pro account. Keep kicking butt!

  9. y0himba Says:

    In responce to John Sherrod, some folks actually appreciate the news and updates. This blog came about as a way to communicate tobus, the loyal users and supporters of Trillian. If you aren’t interested, then don’t read. I see no adverts here, only some sad portent of a product I have loved and supported fir about 14 years.

  10. ET Says:

    THANK YOU! As someone that had to leave Meebo (understandable since it was acquired) and IMO (terrible, considering their core services, audience, and Friday announcement of a Monday discontinuation), I’m very happy to see this level of honesty and transparency from Cerulean. So far, using Trillian has been a learning curve, but I hope you’ll continue to improve it!

  11. Ev Says:

    This post is music to my ears Cerulean. Trillian has always been about solving the problem of interoperability, and you guys do an an incredible job of it. Better than anyone else for sure.

    It’s also great to hear from you guys (in general). It’s been pretty quiet on the update front lately, and we’re all anxious to see some updates hit for Trillian (Mac anyone?).

    As for those complaining about popups — take it easy. This is not an advertisement. It’s an announcement from the developer. It’s no different than Skype popping up a “What’s New In Skype” messages, etc… It’s also extremely rare that we get to hear from Cerulean — some of us appreciate the glimmer of hope that they’re still around, paying attention to the tech world, developing Trillian and keeping in touch with their user base. I fully support these notifications and blog posts!

  12. infernus Says:

    Keep on truckin’, Cerulean Studios. I, for one, appreciate these posts and hope for more updates and continued success in the future.

  13. Irontiger Says:

    Thanks guys :)
    Glad to hear your working as we like it :)

  14. George Says:

    While the drive to work on the IMPP protocol is commendable, the truth is that the vast majority of people use other ones, and that’s unlikely to change. You should do everything in your power to overcome problems like the SkypeKit one and maintain Interoperability as Trillian’s best and flagship feature (and fully working, as humanly as possible of course since that does not depend solely on your side).

  15. Raimu Says:

    Yes, the day Trillian dumps the “IM hub” idea and just becomes an Astra client, it becomes yet another part of the exact problem I bought Trillian to help against.

  16. Zarel Says:

    Ev, Skype’s “What’s new in Skype” popups have a close button. These don’t. Making any kind of popup that can’t be closed is really really shitty.

  17. jimbobillyjoe Says:

    While I have some complaints with Trillian (bugs get fixed at a snails pace and the plugin community evaporating meaning things like OTR and Steam chat will likely never happen – to name a few) I have found it to be the best choice out there. Once a year or so I give other programs a shot like Pidgin but find their usability, features, and general developer hostility towards users make them worthless. I’m happy to hear you don’t want to dump interoperability because like it or not people will never agree to all get on the same network. I myself am a good example of this – despite most of my contacts having a Skype account, it will be a cold day in hell before I ever get on that privacy comprised piece of malware.

    You guys will never be overnight billionaires and that sucks but you are making people’s lives easier and are appreciated. That’s a lot more than most people can claim.

  18. Paul E. Jones Says:

    Building the awesome UI that Trillian has and supporting various protocols is not a thankless job. You probably just don’t hear it often enough. So, thank you!

    I find myself actually using only XMPP these days. Still, I prefer Trillian over all other clients I’ve tried. You’re right that it’s unfortunate that the world has such a horrible mess when it comes to IM, with every company having its own stuff. But, cool apps like yours makes it a little more tolerable. I’d keep using it just for XMPP, but I suspect there are others who would use it just for AIM support.

    Anyway, it’s not a thankless job. You just don’t hear from people when things go well.

  19. sabret00the Says:

    Talking of other networks, is there an official wah to request Telegram support?

  20. XAVIER Says:

    It is so great to hear from you guys and even better to hear that ceruleanstudios still sees that interoperability still has a important role.

    Trillian will always be tops in our book!

  21. Victor Says:

    I have used trillian for years until I decided to trade windows for (ubuntu) linux. Last year I heard that trillian was supporting linux for paid users. Mind you, there are plenty decent apps that do the same (namely pidgin), however trusting the company and knowing the quality work cerulean studios do, I didn’t think twice before buying my pro account to test the product on my favourite OS.

    IMO was my main chat app on android (both tablet and cellphone) and as soon as they said to be dropping third-party chatt, I’ve deleted it. Makes me really sad to see trillian even considering the possibility of trying to do the same in the future. Let’s just hope that such decision do not come soon.

  22. GodSponge Says:

    I didn’t get any popup for this post. I have the blog in my RSS reader, so I can’t comment on that.

    I have been a lifetime user for quite sometime now and I’m very glad that Cerulean is staying in the multi-im business. That is the reason that I bought Trillian. I will continue to use Trillian even if they do eventually decide to focus on Astra. Most of my friends are either on astra, gchat or facebook now. Very few still use msn, aim, etc. It would be annoying to leave facebook open on my computer all the time, but I’d manage.

    One thing I’d still love to see is steam chat integration. It seems like it isn’t that hard to do. Pidgin has been doing it for some time now. Anyway…

    Thank you Cerulean for your great client. Here’s to many more years of the best one out there.

  23. Tockman Says:

    That’s all right, guys, that’s all right… But would you say, clearly and unambiguously: how much more time do you need to implement Skype support into Trillian for Mac? Say a month, say even a year – and I will wait for it. Otherwise, may I get the cost of my lifetime license back?

  24. waldo Says:

    I’m curious about these ‘popups’ people are getting. I am a windows 7 user, pro, and I don’t get these. Users that complain, what platform are you? Could you link an screenshot of those popups?

  25. Dave Hong Says:

    Keep up the good fight, Cerulean!

    FYI, to the complainers, I never got a pop-up for the blog post – I’m on Windows 7 though? Not a Pro user (yet).

  26. Chris Says:

    Now what about Windows 8.1 RT / Windows Phone 8.1 ?