Instant messaging, the scaling disaster

by davidnielsen

When jabber came about long ago I was quick to create an account on, I had used ICQ since basically the day it was created and had gotten used to the instant messaging way of life. However jabber never really impressed me, the reason is quite simple, the server was horribly unstable, being down as often as it was up.

The service on the propriatary networks was simply better, there was no obvious technical flaw in jabber that made it undesirable for users except the fact that it got overloaded. This is also why I use googletalks jabber server now, googles server is highly stable as compared to the alternatives I’ve found for jabber.

All instant messaging system designed in popular use in fact suffer from this bottleneck it seems, we all require some kind of centralised server. The more users we get the worse it gets.

Why I wonder anyone hasen’t taken the peer to peer model and applied it to instant messaging. Such a system would never be unavailable and it would scale beautifully.

This isn’t just a problem with scaling to many users and still having a stable offering. Any kind of classic instant messaging system would never work for things like the OLPC where we can’t promise that you can always contact the central server, remembering that the savanna has worse internet availability than Bumfuck, NC and we want the children to be able to work together even when sitting under a tree 80 miles from nowhere. The only solution I see is decentralisation.