Instantbird 1.3 Released!

We’ve released Instantbird 1.3 (get your copy here)!  This update includes some nice improvements, which are fully outlined in the release notes.  A few changes of note are:Nickname highlighting in a chat
  • IRC: Long messages will now be sent in multiple parts, and more authentication methods are supported to connect e.g. to Freenode.
  • Twitter: Replying to a tweet now replies to all users, just like on the Twitter website!
  • User’s nicknames are now highlighted when mentioned in a chat.
  • Two new social networks were added: Odnoklassniki and VKontakte.
  • Various connection issues with Twitter and XMPP based networks were fixed.
  • Accessibility improvements.
Unfortunately, this will be the last release to support Mac OS 10.5 and PPC, as we will be unable to support these once we upgrade Instantbird to Mozilla 17.
We’ve got plenty of interesting new features and ideas for upcoming versions of Instantbird!  We will update to a more recent version of Mozilla with awesome new features, imagine all the cool things we can do with technologies like WebRTC!

Google Summer of Code 2012 Roundup

Instantbird 1.2 was released about two months ago and we must again apologize for keeping this blog fairly quiet.  Sorry about that!  But we’re here now, so read on for some (not really so) juicy Instantbird news!

Instantbird 1.2 release went fairly smoothly, much smoother than the last release!  We’ve gotten some great feedback (and had lots of bugs filed) and of course have started working on Instantbird 1.3 already!  Most of the fixes that have so far gone into the 1.3 nightlies so far are minor…but taken altogether, I’m not sure I could go back to 1.2!  Feel free to give them a try and report any issues to us!

Thunderbird 15 was “recently” released, which also contained the core chat backend of Instantbird.  We’ve had a bunch of bugs filed from that release too!  Between feedback from the two programs we’ve made a lot of minor improvements that will definitely make Instantbird (more of) a joy to use.

Google Summer of Code 2012 has been over for a bit (it ended in August), but we never thanked Will for his time with us and the great work he’s done so far.  Currently the account importer code he wrote this summer is undergoing review, but hopefully it will be complete for Instantbird 1.3 to allow extremely easy transitioning to Instantbird!  Thanks for a great summer Will!  We hope you’ve enjoyed working with your mentor, Florian, and the rest of the Instantbird team; we’ve definitely enjoyed working with you, helping you and watching you learn.  Good luck and hopefully we’ll continue to see you around (and have contributions from you!) in the future.  We’d also like to thanks Mozilla for graciously allowing us to be part of Google Summer of Code 2012 through them!

As always, feel free to stop by #instantbird on irc.mozilla.org (and, yes, Instantbird supports IRC: you can’t use the excuse that you don’t have an IRC client!) to give us some feedback or ask questions.

Instantbird 1.2 Released!

We’re very proud to release Instantbird 1.2, which has a huge number of improvements!  If you love Instantbird 1.1, you’ll definitely appreciate the improvements made in this release; and if you don’t use Instantbird yet…well I’d suggest you give it a try! You can read the full list of changes (403 to be precise) in the release notes.

Instantbird 1.2 took way more time to finish (10 months!) than we originally expected, and even though there’s a very long list of improved details, there’s no major new features. So you may wonder… what happened?!?

Well, the reason why it took so long is… Thunderbird! The major change that came with Instantbird 1.2 is that the chat back-end code is now shared with Thunderbird, that will feature instant messaging support in its version 15, to be released in a few weeks.

This forced us to give priority to some long standing side projects that were interesting for Instantbird, but not immediately required: as Thunderbird can’t use libpurple which has an incompatible license, we had to finish sooner, rather than later, some major architectural changes to ensure that our chat back-end doesn’t depend on libpurple at all. That’s right, Instantbird 1.2 is no longer based on libpurple (but still uses it to support many protocols of course).

Our back-end working without libpurple wasn’t enough for Thunderbird: the only protocol plug-in shipped in Instantbird 1.0 and 1.1 that didn’t use libpurple was Twitter; more were obviously needed. Fortunately, we were already cooking a JavaScript implementation of XMPP (started during Google Summer of Code 2011) and IRC (it’s been Patrick’s side project for years!). Our initial goal when we started working on these 2 protocol reimplementations in JavaScript was to gain full control of the way these important protocols are handled by Instantbird, and to improve their extensibility. For Thunderbird, finishing them became a priority, and it’s where we spent most of our time!

As I’m talking a lot about Thunderbird, you may be wondering if this involvement of the Instantbird team in the Thunderbird project could mean we are discontinuing the development of Instantbird as a stand-alone application. Not at all! We believe both applications complement each other very well, and have different use cases. While Thunderbird, with integrated email and IM, may be better for users who work all day long with their email client and IM the same contacts; we believe lots of home users tend to use a webmail instead of a local email client and would prefer to keep their IM application separate.

We’re very excited that Instantbird is developing closer ties with Mozilla, who we think shares a similar mission of allowing users, YOU, to control their own privacy on the Internet! A few of our developers are now “peers” of Mozilla’s new chat module, and we are pursuing more opportunities to bring Instantbird closer to Mozilla in the future.

We hope you’ll enjoy using Instantbird 1.2 as much as we are and we greatly look forward to the next version of Instantbird! As always, if you see any bugs please file a bug, catch us on IRC or email us!

Status Update: July 27, 2012

Sorry that we have been so awful at updating our blog again, but we have been busy working on getting Instantbird 1.2 ready for release!  We’re hoping to get this release out the door in the next few weeks (there’s a few final blockers we’re attempting to fix)!

A few weeks ago (in the beginning of July), Instantbird was string frozen for 1.2.  This means that no new patches will be accepted (for 1.2) which change any strings, this gives our localization (l10n) teams time to translate Instantbird 1.2 into different languages.  Instantbird 1.1 was released in 13 languages: Czech, German, English, Spanish, Estonian, French, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Swedish and Ukrainian!  Hopefully we can release Instantbird 1.2 in even more languages!  Unfortunately not all of these languages have been updated yet, so if you’re interested in translating Instantbird to your language, check out the translation information and get in contact with us!

Additionally, our Google Summer of Code student, Will Nayes, has been doing excellent work and already has importers working for Colloquy, Google Talk, mIRC, Pidgin, Windows Live Messenger and XChat!  He’s currently working on importing logs from each of these clients so you can smoothly transition from other clients to Instantbird without any data loss.  We hope Will is enjoying working on Instantbird as he’s doing a great job!

Status Update: May 23, 2012

We’ve made quite a bit of improvements over the past few weeks. Although a lot of the changes are behind the scenes or fixing regressions, there are some exciting user facing changes, as detailed below! We’ve also been working with our Google Summer of Code 2012 student, wnayes, quite a bit to get him up to speed of how things work in Instantbird. He’s made great progress on understanding the code and has even fixed a bug (see the “top protocols” page, below)!

Landed Changes:

"Top Protocol" Page in the Account Wizard

"Top Protocol" Page in the Account Wizard

  • The account wizard now has a “top protocols” page to allow users to quickly set up accounts that are most applicable to them. This is localizable as different instant messaging networks are popular in different regions.
  • Tab Completion improvements:
    • Will no longer complete the same name multiple times.
    • You can now cycle backwards through the list of completions by holding shift while pressing tab.
    • All matching names can be cycled through now, although they are prioritized as:
      1. Names of people who have pinged you (i.e. said your name in the chat).
      2. Names of active participants.
      3. Names of inactive participants.
  • IRC changes

Google Summer of Code Status:

The past few weeks were the “bonding” period for Google Summer of Code students and their respective communities; actual work has started this week. As part of the “bonding” period, we asked wnayes to check out bug 1391: adding the “top protocols” page to the account wizard (see above for a screenshot!).  We thought this would be a great introduction to our tools (mostly Bugzilla and Mercurial), our workflow (requesting reviews and feedback, discussing why changes were made, etc.), some of the languages that we use (XUL, XBL, CSS, and JavaScript) and to some of the account manager code that he will be working on this summer! wnayes has done a great job and the changes are already in the nightly builds!

To follow along with what wnayes will be working on this summer, you can read his blog (RSS feed) and check out his user repository. Additionally, he’s posted some general information (his application, timeline and a series of links) that he’ll be updating as the summer continues. (And of course you can stop by our IRC channel, #instantbird on irc.mozilla.org, and say “Hi!”)

Google Summer of Code 2012

Instantbird is participating in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) again this year as part of Mozilla and we will be mentoring one student: Will Nayes.  The abstract for his project is:

Instantbird Account Import Wizard

When evaluating a new messaging client, the common frustration of reconfiguring accounts and settings is difficult to avoid. To combat similar issues, the developers at Mozilla have implemented account import wizards in their Firefox and Thunderbird software packages. I propose creating an Account Import Wizard for the IM client Instantbird, which will provide users with a flexible way to import profile data from existing messaging client installations. [source]

Will is in contact with us via our IRC channel #instantbird (on irc.mozilla.org) during the community bonding period. We’d love for you to stop by and help welcome wnayes to our community. We’re extremely excited to have Will working with us this summer!

We’d like to thank Mozilla for letting us apply to Google Summer of Code with them!  You can see all of Mozilla’s accepted applications on the GSoC 2012 site.

Status Update: April 17, 2012

A lot has happened in the past two months since our last post: we’ve been quite busy trying to fix the list of blockers for Instantbird 1.2!

We’ve again joined Mozilla as part of their application for Google Summer of Code. You can see some of our ideas on Mozilla’s wiki. (We should find out soon whether Instantbird will be doing any projects or not this year!)

What’s New?

  • The JavaScript IRC implementation has landed! Many minor bugs were also fixed. The behavior is mostly the same as the old libpurple implementations, but there are differences. If you see issues, please file a bug! This will allow for better IRC support in the future.
  • The tab completion algorithm has been made smarter:
    • It now prefers the last person to have pinged you if there are multiple possible completions.
    • Addressing multiple participants is now handled gracefully.
  • There is now a reading position marker to show which messages arrived since you last viewed a conversation.
  • Updated to Mozilla 11.
  • A few crashers have been fixed.

What’s Coming Soon / Being Worked On?

What’s this I hear about Thunderbird integrating instant messaging code from Instantbird?

You may have heard that instant messaging was recently added to Thunderbird. This work was done by our very own Florian Quèze! Don’t panic though! This doesn’t mean that Instantbird development is stopping, we strongly believe there is a place for both a standalone instant messenger and a more integrated approach with email. This is a mutually beneficial relationship between Instantbird and Thunderbird where we share code, benefit from more testing and get a set of new people — and ideas — involved in making instant messaging easier and more about how you — the user — wants it!

For those curious, approximately one-third of the Instantbird codebase is now in Thunderbird’s Daily and Earlybird builds.  Feel free to give it a try and file any bugs in Mozilla’s bugtracker. Currently it looks like this feature will likely appear in Thunderbird 15.

We’re getting close to the Instantbird 1.2 release and we think there’s been a lot of great improvements that will make it easier and more natural to instant message with your friends, family, co-workers and others!