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Facebook Chat Will Stop Working in Ubuntu This Week

Desktop messaging apps like Pidgin will not be able to connect to the social network


Hope you’re not feeling talkative: Facebook Chat will stop working in Empathy and other third-party desktop instant messaging clients from April 30.

The XMPP API that allows desktop messaging clients to login to, send and receive messages from Facebook is being turned off.

Facebook announced plans to deprecate the XMPP Chat API in April of last year. 

At some point after April 30 — Facebook say API deprecation may take a few weeks — trying to connect to Facebook Chat using an application like Pidgin or Empathy will no longer work and will throw a connection error.

Although the (seemingly sudden) loss of a popular chat service will surprise desktop users it is not news to developers.

Facebook announced it would deprecate the XMPP Chat API that lets third-party applications ‘connect’ to Facebook chat way back in April of last year.

A replacement API for accessing Facebook Chat (or Messenger) has not been announced.

But don’t panic: this change does not affect the ability to chat to your Facebook buddies on the Facebook website or using Messenger, the newly-enhanced chat ‘platform’ that’s available online and on mobile.

All that is being lost is the ability to chat to them through unofficial apps such as Empathy, Pidgin and Kopete.

Despite the inconvenience the changes makes sense for Facebook and its push to make Messenger a platform of its own. Android and iOS users are already “forced” to install the Messenger app to chat (something not forced on Ubuntu Phone users which uses the mobile website).

Developers now have the “opportunity to build on [the Messenger] platform” using new APIs to integrate and add features to app — a gambit that wouldn’t be possible if it allowed chat access to remain fragmented across multiple apps.

Facebook Chat in Empathy

Facebook Chat has been available through the Jabber/XMPP protocol since 2009 and first shipped as a default account option for Empathy in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

‘The relevancy of standalone desktop messaging apps takes another hit’

Although chat access has been a feature of the Facebook Platform API 1.x the service was never promoted as ‘feature-complete’.  In fact, Facebook told would-be developers to think of the API “…as a proxy into the world of Facebook Chat [as found on the website]” rather than a fully-fledged XMPP server in itself.

With a year-long heads-up that the axing was on the way apps and services using the API have had ample time to include a ‘graceful’ cut-off notification to explain to users why chatting to their Facebook buddies is no longer possible. Ideas along these lines were mooted for Empathy, if not included.

Having seen Google, MSN and AIM drop support and scuttle back behind closed walls — something both understandable and worrying in a world of privacy-conscious communication — and no “fix” or replacement API available, the relevancy of standalone desktop messaging apps takes another hit.

The rise of mobile-first communication tools like WhatsApp, Viber and Line compound the issue, as do the inclusion of video and voice calling features available in Skype, Google Hangouts and, newly announced this week, Facebook Messenger.

One has to ask if there is any point in Ubuntu continuing to ship a messaging app by default if it can’t connect to the messaging services most people use.