Although popular, the vCard spec is too inflexible and limited. These problems become apparent when a User wants to set information outside the scope of the vCard in a standard format others will know is there. The so called 'IQ-Set' in custom namespaces is not sufficient because set information is often not in a standard format that others recognize or support. A short list of problems with vCard:
But instead of bringing down the entire customization of the 'IQ-Set' to only pre-defined schemas, it is important to keep the flexibility and power of it.
Therefore, we propose that Jabber needs a very flexible, extensible, and powerful information structure and retrieval system. There exist four aspects to solve for when designing an improved information storage and retrieval system for any platform, especially Jabber: Interface, Structure, Storage, and Gate.
Interface is the process, steps, and protocol a Service has to go through to access the information with the User's approval, for the User to approve or reject the access, and the User's Server to manage and secure it all.
Although it will be part of the Jabber protocol, it is still undecided how heavily the Profiles specification will rely on and use the Jabber system. This is the first thing that will have to be decided on, but thankfully there are some plans we have already outlined as possibilities.
Structure is the format that the information will be stored in and accessed by. It will have to be very flexible, likely eventually allowing the User to specify the info-sets they want to use instead of having them all set by this project.
The personal information will be stored in XML documents or info-sets, called 'Profiles', possibly making use of RDF, and usually following Schema specifications, although that should not be a requirement.
Storage is describing and accessing the physical location where the Profiles are kept. It will likely start off being only the Jabber Server, but will eventually allow for remote (specialized network hard drive services) and local (on the User's local machine or a portable floppy) storage. It also describes how this data will be transferred between computers and networks in an efficient and secure manner.
This will likely be the most other-SIG dependent part of the system, since we will have to make heavy use of encryption in Jabber, and likely file transfers. So we may want to help out those related SIGs when we get to this point to make sure their results can be used by this system.
Gate gives the User complete control at all times of others' access to and power over their Profiles. Since this system is designed to hold the bulk, if not all, of a User's personal information, they *must* have a powerful way to prevent unwanted others to access their data. So there must exist a powerful access regulation framework to precisely control which, when, and how other parties can get this information.
Since we want this kept flexible and very secure, the techniques used in this system will likely be a new Jabber server module that receives special 'jabber:profiles' namespaces, compares the sending JID to a User-stored list of permission-granted JIDs, and acts upon the message accordingly, either following through or rejecting the requested transfer of information.
To make sure this project progresses smoothly and orderly, it has been decided it will be split up into steps, or 'Phases'. Each of the above four aspects will be split into two to four Phases, and the Road-map for the entire project will follow along these Phases. Version 1.0 of the Profiles system will be little more than an expanded vCard schema with simple rules and permissions to regulate access to it. It will progress up to Version 4.0 or 5.0, adding in advanced verification to persuade Services to use a User's Jabber Profiles instead of forcing them to set up a local account, and also adding write permissions so Services can set receipts of purchases and similar information in a User's Account.
This Road-map will be produced soon after the SIG is set up, and will give a good feature list and time-line to follow.
Such an improved system would obviously provide for more types of information storage and management, but there are some other side-benefits that can be conceived of.
Eventually we would like this Profiles specification to completely replace the strict vCard schema that is 'hard-coded' into the protocol. We do not expect vCard to disappear from Jabber at all, simply be one possible Profile among many in a User's Account. At the end of this SIGs existence, we would like to see it integrate the Profiles and special 'jabber:profiles' namespaces fully into the rest of the Jabber protocol, having it become the method by which all User information (such as Roster, client-side preferences, and filters) is stored and retrieved.
It is important to note that this SIG will not be a stand-alone SIG. It will draw upon many other SIGs (that currently exist and that have yet to be created). It will need encryption from the Security SIG for safe transfer of the information, a versatile forms format from the Forms SIG for Profiles administration, and advanced authentication from a future SIG for Services to authenticate the User against their Jabber account.
The concept of Jabber Profiles was started by Eric Murphy and Mike Hearn. They both had begun to come up with similar ideas, but did not meet and exchange ideas until around early 2001. Adam Theo also came across them soon after that, and after some discussion, the three authors of this document agreed to start a serious effort on developing it. We started it as a project at Theoretic Solutions, although at that time it was as a full-fledged identity specification, complete with Profiles, Authentication, and Trust. It was not until we have now moved to set it up as an official SIG that we have split the individual parts up, to make it easier to develop.
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