IRC and XMPP are the two leading technologies used for instant messaging (IM) and network chat communication. However, there is always a dilemma on which one of these a developer must opt for! In this article we have tried to differentiate the two systems and provided an overview of the available features, functions, system architectures, and protocol specifications of the two most popular network IM protocols IRC and XMPP.
Nonetheless, before we get started, let’s take a brief look at what XMPP and IRC protocols actually are and how they are used in systems to build chat applications.
What Is IRC Messaging Protocol
Internet Relay Chat (IRC): Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a network of Internet servers that use a specific protocol through which individuals can hold real-time online conversations on a computer, mobile or any other device. IRC is a commonly used protocol for chat and file transfers. This protocol is also a good candidate for remote control of malware and data transfers to and from a network.
What Is XMPP Messaging Protocol
Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP): Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) was referred to as Jabber earlier. XMPP applications can be developed using any software license and servers. It is distributed as free and open-source software. XMPP is extensively used for instant messaging (IM), multi-party chat, voice and video calls, etc. – basically for files based on XML (Extensible Markup Language). With XMPP, clients can connect to a local server, which will connect directly to the server of the destination client. This means all servers are fully and directly interconnected.
IRC vs XMPP: Architectural Component & Elements
Here are some of the architectural differences a developer needs to address while building a chat application using the above-mentioned technologies.
|An XML streaming layer||Networks: The networks that IRC runs on, are typically organised by geography, region, topic of interest or other similar grouping classifications. There are some networks that are typically used like Freenode, Galaxynet, IRCnet, etc. These networks are made up of many IRC servers that users connect through.|
|Transport Layer Security or TLS for channel encryption||Servers: IRCD (Internet Relay Chat Daemon), a server software is used to connect servers and implement the protocol. Servers are what run IRC by connecting the different components in various permutations; client to server, client to client or server to server, enabling transfer of data.|
|Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) for authentication||Clients: Clients is what the interface that users use is called. Some examples are mIRC, Mibbit, etc.|
|UTF-8 for Unicode support, including internationalized address||Channels: The various topic areas or threads where multiple users interact is known as channels. These can be private, i.e., accessible by only a few authorised users or public that can be accessed by anyone using an IRC client.|
|Network availability status|
|Contact lists that are presence enabled|
IRC vs XMPP: Positives & Negatives
Here we discuss the positives and negatives of IRC and XMPP and their different technical approaches used to support features and functions in a chat application.
|Open & Free: Offers open-source code which makes XMPP protocols free and easy to understand, it is more accessible and easily implementable.||Reduced Latency: One of the biggest advantages of IRC is the amount of data that it can transfer with minimal time lag. This is because it operates in a client-server, server-server form and offers reduced latency|
|Decentralized: Since XMPP does not have a client-client component, they do not directly communicate with each other, thus enabling companies to manage their communications however they see fit.||Real Time Network of Interconnected Servers: The other big plus point that IRC offers is that its communications are real time even across geographies since it works on a network of interconnected servers.|
|Less Susceptible To Attacks: XMPP is a more secure protocol because TLS and SASL are built into its specifications. Also, if required it can also be isolated from public networks, making it less susceptible to attacks.||Difficult To Scale: The same interconnectedness of servers makes IRC difficult to scale thanks to the number of servers involved.|
|Offers Ready Made & Custom Extensions: Being built on XML makes it easy to build additional functions in XMPP. Not only are there ready-made extensions available, it is not too difficult to build custom extensions either.||Issue In Labelling: Users are allowed to pick any three labels (nickname, channel name and server name). This can cause issues and one needs to ensure that unique labels are implemented when using IRC.|
|Flexible: XMPP is a technology that can be used for far more than just text-based chats. Already, it is possible to add in video and audio chat functions. That apart, it can be used for collaboration and cloud computing too in addition to other custom features.||Security Issues: This is linked to the issue above in the sense that if two channels are created with the same label, then security issues are created since the servers would be linked to both channels.|
|Standardised: XMPP has been standardised by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) as an approved internet messaging and presence technology.||Vulnerable To Hackers: IRC is more susceptible and vulnerable to DoS/ DDoS hackers|
IRC vs XMPP: Implementation & Downside
Let’s understand how IRC and XMPP is applied by developers and if there are any downsides of using these technologies while building a chat application
|XMPP is used by big names such as Google Talk, Skype, PlayStation chat app, WhatsApp, Zoom, Nintendo Switch, Apple, etc.||IRC for Microsoft Windows, XChat for Linux and Microsoft Windows use IRC. The Opera web browser, ChatZilla a plugin of Mozilla Firefox – all have implemented IRC.|
|The only downside of XMPP is that sometimes during multi-user chat the system can get slower compared to other available technologies.||The downside of IRC is that it has been around for longer and has seen a dramatic downturn in usage due to accessibility of advanced technology. However, it is on its way to a new standardized version, having compatibility with the newer IPv6 protocol and more! The release date for the same is not yet announced.|
IRC or XMPP – Which is Better to Build a Chat App
XMPP and IRC offer two different approaches and based on your need of developing a chat application you will have to make a decision. While XMPP assures rich security and lacks speed, IRC delivers the opposite.
Here are some pointers you can take a note of before you choose between IRC and XMPP:
- XMPP is ideal for private apps as they have inbuilt security layers, are decentralized and come with an open-source architecture.
- XMPP offers custom features and multiple extensions, so you as a developer do not need to develop them from scratch.
- However, if you are building a chat application that needs extreme privacy, then IRC would not be an ideal option.
- Also, IRC offers low latency compared to XMPP and can transmit large amounts of data in less time. Hence, IRC is perfect if you are building chat rooms.
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