Free and Secure Instant Messaging

Instant messaging services such as Facebook Messanger, or AIM have many of the same problems as other corporate walled gardens. They force users to connect to a centralized service, and then can monitor your usage to further develop their algorithmic profiles about you, as well as track your movements in the real world. Signal is a good, secure replacement for standard text messaging, but it mainly works for phones and is tied to your phone number as an identifier.

Many people like the flexibility of connecting to their IM account from their phone, laptop, tablet, and desktop computer seamlessly, be able to see the same “buddy list” on all of them,  be able to send and receive messages, and pick up conversations where they left off using whatever device they happen to be using. For this, a great solution is Jabber (aka XMPP), a free, federated instant messaging platform that can do all of the things described above, easily. Many people reading this have probably already used it without knowing — Google Chat and Facebook Messenger both use XMPP, but they lock it down so only their users can talk to each other. However, the vast majority of Jabber servers can interconnect openly, allowing you to chat with anyone, regardless of which server their account lives on. You can also use them to send files, create chat rooms, and make video and voice calls.

Example configuration for Pidgin

Our hosted Gibberfish servers have a private instant messaging built in, but we wanted to make it available to everyone, so we’ve set up our own chat server. Registration is free and open to the public. You don’t need to provide any personally identifiable information to sign up unless you choose to. You can connect with your favorite instant messaging client, such as Pidgin, Trillian, Adium, Conversations, and others, on multiple devices at the same time.

To get started, configure a new account in your IM client of choice using the Jabber/XMPP protocol. Your username can be anything you like as long as it hasn’t already been used by someone else. The server name is chat.gibberfish.org and the port is 5222. Please check require encryption, and choose the option to register the account on the server (if that doesn’t work, you can sign up using a web form as well). From there you can add contacts by using their jabber address (JID), which looks similar to an email address. For instance, my username is blacksam, so my JID is gro.hsifrebbig.tahcnull@maskcalb (feel free to add me and say hello!).

All of your conversations will be encrypted between you and the server, but for added protection we recommend using a plugin such as OTR or OMEMO, which does end-to-end encryption, meaning not even someone with access to the server can decipher the messages, giving you total privacy. Additionally, for the truly tech savvy, you may connect to us via Tor at 5kpdrdn4cxpby7mz.onion.

Our hosted clients can also communicate with other Jabber users outside their server, so this is a great option for people affiliated with your organization that you want to chat with but don’t want to give access to your private server. Just add them to your contact list in Nextcloud, or on your IM client.

Please read over our service policy before signing up, and let us know if you have any questions.

Happy chatting!