Many workplaces block the ports popular instant messaging applications use to communicate across the Internet. This limits communicating with friends or family less convenient. I talk to a number of friends via email at work and one day it hit me â€“ there should be a way to communicate to instant messenger buddies via email and vice versa, an email to instant messenger gateway if you will (I came to this conclusion soon after meebo.com was blocked on our proxy servers).
The concept is really not too challenging; I just don’t have the time to implement the idea at this point. I would design it to be a central server as most things are these days, be greedy, and charge a monthly fee to use itâ€¦ of course.
A user would first register for the service. An email address (e.g. Work) would be associated with one or more Instant Messenger accounts (e.g. AIM, MSN, Yahoo). They could manage logging in/out and other necessities from this piece.
The core of the application would be an email client and a jabber client spun together in a secret web of spaghetti code (joking, of courseâ€¦ maybe). The email client would be responsible for processing special email accounts that receive emails from your normal email account (e.g. â€˜Work’ from above). The email client would also be sending out instant messages out to the email account. The jabber client would connect to a locally run (any really) jabber server which in turn would have transports for the popular instant messaging services. Jivesoftware.org has the Smack API which I was intending on using for this piece, which resulted in my choice of Java for the language as well. It then, of course, would send and receive instant messages.
To the end user it would work transparently. I’d sit at work and send an email to a special email account, which would forward my email out the correct instant messenger account to a contact on my buddy list. If they’d respond it would be translated back into an email message and arrive back at my work email box - a little less-than-instant, but functional no less. Maybe someone else would instant message me on another account at the same time. It would also arrive back at my designated email account and ready for me to read and reply.
I’m intentionally leaving this as a â€˜big picture’, but I do have a much more of the puzzle completed in my mind. There are a lot of little details that could make the service popular or completely uselessâ€¦ all worth considering before diving in. Consider this my copyright.