XMPP Account Portability funded by NGI DAPSI

Posted by Matthew Wild on April 30 2021

We have some exciting news to share! An important piece of the Snikket roadmap has been selected for funding by NGI DAPSI, an EU-funded project focused on data portability and services.

What is DAPSI?

The Data Portability and Services Incubator (DAPSI) is a EU funded project, under the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative. In their own words, DAPSI was established to:

[…] empower top internet innovators to develop human-centric solutions, addressing the challenge of personal data portability on the internet, as foreseen under the GDPR and make it significantly easier for citizens to have any data which is stored with one service provider transmitted directly to another provider.

You can learn more about the initiative on the NGI DAPSI website.

Data portability in Snikket and XMPP

Over the years we have seen many XMPP providers come and go, and when a provider decides to shut down, it’s too often not easy for people to obtain their data and move it elsewhere. This contributes to user churn on the XMPP network - individuals are likely to leave XMPP rather than figure out the necessary steps to migrate to a new XMPP service.

There are other reasons for wanting to move your data, such as seeking providers with better privacy or reliability. You may also want to relocate from a provider to a self-hosted solution, or vice-versa.

As part of Snikket’s mission to improve all aspects of XMPP usability, clear data ownership and portability options have been an important goal since the project’s beginning.

In particular we believe:

  • People should not be locked into the service by the first provider they sign up with.
  • People should be able to export their full data at any time, in a standard format.
  • People should be able to easily migrate their account data to a new provider without losing important contact relationships.

The XMPP account portability project

The need for account and data portability goes beyond Snikket, we want to see improved portability and data interoperability across the whole XMPP ecosystem. DAPSI have funded an extensive project that over the next nine months will cover:

  • Standardizing the necessary protocols and formats for account data import and export
  • Developing open-source easy-to-use tools that allows people to export, import and migrate their account between XMPP services
  • Building this functionality into Snikket

The standards will be submitted through the usual XMPP standards process and the implementations will be open-source.

XMPP already has some existing standards that overlap with this project, in particular XEP-0227 and XEP-0283. Both specifications are outdated and incomplete (XEP-0227 doesn’t support many modern features, and assumes your password will be exported in plain text!). We will update and/or complement these documents as needed.

The final stage of work will be to integrate the migration mechanism into Snikket. This will allow people to move their accounts between Snikket servers, including to or from our hosted service as well as other XMPP servers.

Our not-for-profit organization is committed to sustaining the Snikket project through ethical means and without the influence of private investment. We are very grateful for initiatives such as NGI, allowing projects like ours to fulfil our ambitious goals with open and transparent funding. Every project funded by them is helping to rebalance the internet.

We look forward to sharing further updates on this project in the coming months, so stay tuned! You can follow us on Mastodon and Twitter, or subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed.