Inside Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: iChat 6 adds Yahoo IM, account integration, web page sharing

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
The next version of Mac OS X will deliver an updated version of iChat capable of logging into Yahoo IM accounts, providing an improved experience when using multiple accounts, and adding web page sharing in iChat Theater.



The fragmented world of IM



iChat, Apple's bundled instant messenger app that evolved from origins as an AIM chat client to being a video-enabled IM client supporting the open XMPP/Jabber protocol, now adds support for a third IM protocol: Yahoo IM.



Unlike email, which all providers support via common standards, IM has long been partitioned into proprietary solos, with AOL, ICQ, Skype, Yahoo and Microsoft MSN/Live Messenger all using their own closed systems for text and video chat (Apple's .Mac/MobileMe service uses AOL's IM server, and AOL provides an SMS gateway that enables iChat users to send SMS messages to mobile numbers).



Yahoo and Microsoft announced a chat-only gateway between their services, as did AOL and ICQ (AOL until recently owned ICQ). In other cases however, anyone who wants to exchange messages with users on different systems must use a multiprotocol chat client and create separate accounts for each service. Alternatively, you can configure your own gateway server or use an external gateway that logs into your account on another service to schlepp IM messages between the incompatible account types.



Mac OS X Lion's iChat 6 now adds support Yahoo IM, although the service appears to only support text chats, not Yahoo audio or video chats. Because of the chat gateway between Yahoo and MSN, this should enable iChat users to reach both populations of chat accounts, in addition to existing support for Jabber/Gmail IM and video chat and AOL/ICQ/MobileMe IM and video chat. However, while the Lion iChat client does work with Yahoo accounts, the gateway between the Yahoo and MSN does not actually seem to work.









Evolution of iChat



Starting with iChat AV in 2003, Apple added support for SIP, standards based video chat. The next year, AOL added compatible video chat in its AOL IM client for Windows, allowing Mac and Windows users to video chat using the AIM network.



Alongside the release of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple shipped a new version of iChat with support for the open XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, originally named Jabber), enabling iChat to work with both AIM and open clients including Apple's own iChat Server in Mac OS X Server and later, Google's GTalk service. iChat's Bonjour chat among local users on the same network also uses XMPP.



In Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple integrated support for VNC screen sharing, allowing users to share their desktop remotely as a video chat over either the XMPP or AIM protocols. Apple also released iChat Theater, which could share a photo, video, or any document supported by Quick Look over a video chat (below).



Third party support for tapping into these features was also added to a new Instant Message framework.







On page 2 of 2: New in iChat 6, iChat vs FaceTime.



New in iChat 6



In addition to Yahoo chat support, the new iChat 6 combines separate chat accounts and protocols into an integrated buddy list. By default, it also now coordinates logins across all your configured accounts to share the same status, although this option can be disabled so you can manually set a different status for each account you use (as shown below).









iChat Theater now supports a new type of shared document as well: live web pages. As with other types of shared documents, sharing a web page allows a user to present a controlled view of a web page to a user via an established video chat. The sending user can navigate around the page on their end, and the the receiving user sees a static view of the page being shown.









iChat vs FaceTime



Last year, Apple brought video chat to iPhone 4 under the name FaceTime, and later added support for both iPod touch and iPad 2. A Mac client for FaceTime was also released, curiously delivering very similar functionality to iChat but in a different, standalone app.



FaceTime uses the same open technologies as iChat does for video chats, but rather than being tethered to AOL or another IM service for "buddy" discovery, the system uses phone numbers or email addresses to establish video connections. This makes FaceTime more like a phone call (or Skype) rather than an IM chat service.



FaceTime does not monitor and advertise users' status, making it more efficient than conventional IM on a mobile device, as there is no background user discovery process. Instead, when a user attempts to make a FaceTime call, the system triggers a push message (using the same XMPP PubSub technology Apple uses to power iOS push notifications) to the client, which can then ring, alerting the other user that an incoming call request is being made.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    When will all computer manufacturers have Facetime? Didn't Apple say they wanted it to be open to all computer users?. When it happens everybody will just be able to have their own video calls without going through Skype.They'll just use the Facetime program that came on their computers.
  • Reply 2 of 25
    "Alternatively, you can configure your own gateway server or use an external gateway that logs into your account on another service to schlepp IM messages between the incompatible account types. "



    Does anyone know how to do this if you have a shared webserver?
  • Reply 3 of 25
    I think partly why Apple is keeping both apps is so users can just open FaceTime and start a video call using someone's email. iChat is for people who like IM and want the full power of text, audio, video, file-sharing, screen-sharing, statuses, etc.
  • Reply 4 of 25
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post


    When will all computer manufacturers have Facetime? Didn't Apple say they wanted it to be open to all computer users?. When it happens everybody will just be able to have their own video calls without going through Skype.They'll just use the Facetime program that came on their computers.



    I am beginning to wonder about that as well. If Apple would just do that, so that any computer or mobile device can utilize the FaceTime protocol it would really take off as a new medium for people to communicate with. I could have sworn that when they released FaceTime to the world, they said it was based on Open Standards, and would be made open.
  • Reply 5 of 25
    benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    Its open...to anyone using Apple hardware. Apple's inability to work with others really limits the adoption of its standards. The cycle usually is apple comes up with something, Apple keeps it to itself, someone else develops something similar, competitors adopts that, Apple ends up supporting competing standard after its own fails to catch on.
  • Reply 6 of 25
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mike Eggleston View Post


    I am beginning to wonder about that as well. If Apple would just do that, so that any computer or mobile device can utilize the FaceTime protocol it would really take off as a new medium for people to communicate with. I could have sworn that when they released FaceTime to the world, they said it was based on Open Standards, and would be made open.



    Last I heard, they had submitted it for approval as a standard. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that.
  • Reply 7 of 25
    roberteroberte Posts: 10member
    This is one area where I was hoping Apple would clean up the confusion.



    My parents are computer litterate and they just got a Mac. It's still confusing to explain to them the difference between facetime and ichat and when to use what when we chat or video chat.



    Heck, I don't understand why they have to have a difference on the Mac. I was hoping they would merge them into 1 on the mac :-(



    Too me it's clumsy confusing "solution" to have 2 options in the same OS. Add skype to the mix and I have three clients running at once. Something is not right here!
  • Reply 8 of 25
    swiftswift Posts: 436member
    No matter what they do, this client will never be useful. The only thing under general use is Skype. It actually does everything iChat does without being piggish about memory usage or bandwidth hogging. And almost everybody has it.



    Facetime is plainly superior to Skype for video chatting. But it isn't on Windows, for starters.



    Open source facetime. Make clients for Linux and Windows. Let the creeps on Android use it, too, in their applications.
  • Reply 9 of 25
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,432member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post


    When will all computer manufacturers have Facetime? Didn't Apple say they wanted it to be open to all computer users?. When it happens everybody will just be able to have their own video calls without going through Skype.They'll just use the Facetime program that came on their computers.



    Wouldn't they have gone slow on opening up the standard until it was finished, i.e., out of beta and on the iPad?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by blondepianist View Post


    Last I heard, they had submitted it for approval as a standard. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that.



    If anyone knows of this, please let us know.
  • Reply 10 of 25
    irelandireland Posts: 16,899member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheGreatBug View Post


    I think partly why Apple is keeping both apps is so users can just open FaceTime and start a video call using someone's email. iChat is for people who like IM and want the full power of text, audio, video, file-sharing, screen-sharing, statuses, etc.



    Sherlock Holmes.
  • Reply 11 of 25
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Sherlock Holmes.



    Subtle.
  • Reply 12 of 25
    "This makes FaceTime more like a phone call (or Skype) rather than an IM chat service. "



    While I like this feature of FaceTime, and Audio only option would be nice too, there are time when you don't want to see someone, but you do want to use your Mac to call an iPhone or other iOS devices.



    The problem for me is Skype could be a great way for me to talk to clients, but if they see me online they could be come a pain and I would be at their constant beck and call. That the great thing about phones, you can call someone without knowing if they are there.
  • Reply 13 of 25
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BenRoethig View Post


    Its open...to anyone using Apple hardware. Apple's inability to work with others really limits the adoption of its standards. The cycle usually is apple comes up with something, Apple keeps it to itself, someone else develops something similar, competitors adopts that, Apple ends up supporting competing standard after its own fails to catch on.



    1) I?d argue that means it?s not open.



    2) Jobs clearly stated during the FaceTime demo a year ago they were going to release it to some standards body the very next day. I have no idea what could be taking a year for that to permeate or why Jobs would state that and that not go through with it since without making it open to all there is little chance a global video-chat protocol option will ever likely be standardized.



    3) I?m not sure where you get this idea for the ?cycle?. Apple licensed FireWire and mini-DisplayPort. The former was beaten by Intel?s USB due to cost in HW and licensing fees, and the latter has been adopted by many yet is still too new to make a strong presence across all PCs. Then there is the look and feel of their HW, OS and apps that have been copied and copied and copied again, but Apple isn?t going backwards and supporting there designs. The only thing I can think of that Apple has kept to itself is MagSafe.
  • Reply 14 of 25
    firefly7475firefly7475 Posts: 1,502member
    Is Facetime peer-to-peer or does it run through Apple servers?



    If it's running through Apple servers will they allow 3rd party implementations of Facetime to run through Apple's servers or will 3rd parties need to provide their own servers? If so will access to Apple Facetime servers be open like the standard or will this access need to be licensed from Apple?



    I can't see Facetime catching on over something like Skype if 3rd parties are required to host their own servers or license access Apple servers.



    If it's peer-to-peer or Apple are allowing indefinite open access to their Facetime servers as well as the standard then I think Skype will be in trouble if 3rd parties start implementing Facetime.
  • Reply 15 of 25
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post


    Is Facetime peer-to-peer or does it run through Apple servers?



    If it's running through Apple servers will they allow 3rd party implementations of Facetime to run through Apple's servers or will 3rd parties need to provide their own servers? If so will access to Apple Facetime servers be open like the standard or will this access need to be licensed from Apple?



    I can't see Facetime catching on over something like Skype if 3rd parties are required to host their own servers or license access Apple servers.



    If it's peer-to-peer or Apple are allowing indefinite open access to their Facetime servers as well as the standard then I think Skype will be in trouble if 3rd parties start implementing Facetime.



    There might be legal or logistical issues that could be holding up FaceTime. From what I can tell, FaceTime initiates with a centralized server that requests your IP address. If you are have FaceTime and it gives the IP address it then relays that info back to create a direct connection. I wonder if this could be an issue if a FaceTime request that can grab IP addresses from a server might be a security if any and all devices have access to this server as IP addresses can give you a user?s location to a fair degree.



    Just like with a cell phone call, you know the user?s number which then gets routed to the network operator that is responsible for that number and then to the number is routed to the cell area your phone is located. The caller doesn?t need to know that other info. Maybe Apple just needs a way to make it open so that other SW owners can have their servers talk to Apple?s servers without the users privacy being violated in a certain way. But if that is the case, then wouldn?t a direct connection between devices also be a security risk without some intermediary server, so maybe I?m not understanding the situation at all. So much for my CCIE certifications, though in my defense they did expir many years ago.
  • Reply 16 of 25
    bedouinbedouin Posts: 331member
    Apple will need to do something amazing with iChat to make me leave Adium. I just wish Apple would abandon iChat and work on enhancing Adium . . .
  • Reply 17 of 25
    firefly7475firefly7475 Posts: 1,502member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    There might be legal or logistical issues that could be holding up FaceTime. From what I can tell, FaceTime initiates with a centralized server that requests your IP address. If you are have FaceTime and it gives the IP address it then relays that info back to create a direct connection. I wonder if this could be an issue if a FaceTime request that can grab IP addresses from a server might be a security if any and all devices have access to this server as IP addresses can give you a user?s location to a fair degree.



    I'm definitely leaning toward it all running everything through Apple servers now.



    I hadn't considered the security implications... but now that I think about it sending an email address to Apple's Facetime server and receiving the owners IP address back sounds kind of dodgy



    The main problem I though was that at least one phone needs to be the server to make peer-to-peer work. It's far more likely that the Apple Facetime server is acting like the middle man handling the video/audio stream from both phones.
  • Reply 18 of 25
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 42,706member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bedouin View Post


    Apple will need to do something amazing with iChat to make me leave Adium. I just wish Apple would abandon iChat and work on enhancing Adium . . .



    Kind of hard, given that they don't own it. What does Adium have that iChat can't do? I've never used it.
  • Reply 19 of 25
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Kind of hard, given that they don't own it. What does Adium have that iChat can't do? I've never used it.



    Adium is awesome! It can be overwhelming for the number of options it offers, but it?s a very complete system. The only drawback is if you use video chat often as you may find yourself jumping back to a standard IM client to use that.



    Even thought Lion finally has a unified window for IM accounts, it?s still a window that I don?t need or want to see floating over the other windows so I?ll stick with Adium for this sort of optimization.
  • Reply 20 of 25
    niksternikster Posts: 14member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mike Eggleston View Post


    I am beginning to wonder about that as well. If Apple would just do that, so that any computer or mobile device can utilize the FaceTime protocol it would really take off as a new medium for people to communicate with. I could have sworn that when they released FaceTime to the world, they said it was based on Open Standards, and would be made open.



    I think they're having some technical difficulties - seems like half the time it doesn't work for me; also using the phone number as identity is fraught with problems; when I go overseas I want to use FaceTime but I also pop in another SIM card so I can make local calls cheaply (or, rather, not outrageously overpriced) and so people can call me.



    Then add some other devices and it quickly gets complicated - you'll need to use email as a unique identifier eventually. If FaceTime "just worked" I would say, OK, Apple has figured out how to solve all these issues. But it doesn't so I assume they haven't.



    As for others - FaceTime was supposed to be an open standard; I guess that all competitors realize that FaceTime taking off would mainly benefit Apple, and not them, so they're not doing it. I imagine 3rd party FaceTime clients will start appearing, but unless Apple is pushing it aggressively, why bother. Skype is free too?!



    For iChat I wish for only ONE SINGLE feature: iChat needs to shut up when it can't connect to a service (current: bounces in dock). And iChat needs to silently reconnect when that's possible (current: makes a face and sits in a corner). That's the reason I don't use it - I constantly switch between different networks and iChat invariably disconnects, bounces annoyingly in the dock, and never reconnects. WTF. Not. Useful. Adium gets it right, and so does YM.
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