This proposal standardizes the use of graphical emoticons and "genicons" in Jabber IM clients to prevent confusion and competing conventions that will soon arise, enabling client developers to spend their energy on more important parts of their projects.
Emoticons are the text string 'smiley' or 'frowny' faces such as
:-( that people often use in email or instant messaging to represent emotions. Genicons are a term being coined here to mean non-emotive text pictures (often called 'ASCII Art') that serve to replace typing the full word or to simply be cute or creative in the conversation.
Many new Internet users demand graphical emoticon and genicon support in their IM clients. We should satisfy their needs if we ever wish to see them use Jabber instead of another IM system.
While traditionally emoticons and genicons have been typed and displayed as text, the recent trend of using graphics, and sometimes sounds, instead of text to represent these pictures will be assumed for purposes of this proposal. Also, the term "icon" will be used in place of "emoticon" and "genicon" for purposes of convenience.
The following issues must be solved for in this specification.
Because icons in Jabber should be easy to use, extensible, and customizable, they will be created using style definition files which can be exchanged between users and supporting clients. The specification will not allow external data, in order to protect the privacy of users, and will not rely on file transfers or directory services in order to not break old clients or components.
To find out if an entity supports Jabber Icon Styles, look for the feature category of
http://jabber.org/protocol/disco. The same feature category can be used with feature negotiation.
Because icons in Jabber should be easy to use, extensible, and customizable, they will be created using style definition files which can be exchanged between users and supporting clients. The specification will not require external data, in order to protect the privacy of users, and will not rely on file transfers or directory services in order to not break old clients or components. How these icon styles are exchanged - as well as advertised - is out of the scope of this specification. The text strings representing the icons will be sent like any other text (this document doesn't require extra tags or attributes in the messages being sent).
All icons are created by defining each icon then grouping them together into "Icon Definition Files". These files, along with the object files associated with the icons, are called "icon styles". Icon styles may be traded and shared among users of all supporting clients like skins or themes, similar to WinAmp, XMMS, GNOME, and other customizable applications. This creates a platform-independent system, providing a great degree of customization for the user, and allowing client developers to focus on other features.
Each icon in a style is defined and grouped together in an XML document, the "Icon Definition File". Each definition file for all styles is named "icondef.xml". There is only one such Icon Definition File per style. The W3C Schema for the Icon Definition File plus an example finished Icon Definition File can be found under Schema, below.
The meta elements contain information about the Icon Style itself, rather that the individual icons. They are contained within the
<meta> element, which is directly under the root element. There is one and only one the
major.minor.trivialformats are recommended. Only one version can be included.
<text/> element defines what text string(s) are recognized by the client as an icon. There may be multiple
<text/> elements in an
<icon/>, such as for different languages or simply for multiple text strings producing the same result (for example:
Each may have an
xml:lang attribute, as defined in Section 2.12 in the official XML 1.0 reference document. The
xml:lang attribute allows for two-letter language codes, dialects, and custom "languages" to define foreign IM protocols, for example.
In order to be more accurate in recognizing text strings intended to be icons from those that are just coincidences in normal conversation, the client should follow the "whitespace rule" of making sure there is some form of whitespace on at least one side of the text string. This is only a guideline; individual clients can implement different rules as needed. A newline and tabs count as whitespace in addition to spaces. This is to make sure that chunks of code and URIs are not accidentally converted into graphical pictures. Also, text strings cannot include newlines or tabs. All characters must be on the same line with only spaces within the string, and extra spaces should not be ignored. This is to make it much easier on text parsers looking for these text strings.
The text strings must be case sensitive. This is a rule that compliant clients must follow. "Cat" cannot be used in place of "cat" or "CAT". All three are separate text strings, and therefore must have separate
<text/> elements, although they may of course use the same objects.
<object/> element defines what multimedia objects are inserted into the displayed message, replacing the text string(s) defined in
<text/>. An object may be a bitmap graphic, vector graphic, audio clip, rich text formatting rules, or any other media that can be stored in a separate file. The
<object/> element is identical to the OBJECT element used in XHTML 2.0, and the specification used there should be used to govern the
<object/> element here. Note that because the XHTML 2.0 OBJECT specification is quite complex (although very flexible and future-proof), client developers are encouraged to only implement compliant sub-sets of the OBJECT specification for their clients. There may be one or multiple
<object/> elements in an
<icon/>, such as for alternative file formats (such as
PNG), or multiple objects to use at the same time (such as graphic and sound files).
<x/> element allows any type of extensions to the
icondef.xml file, such as to specify how the user's nickname can be colored in multi-user chat windows or defining additional data about the style or authors. Each must have an
xmlns attribute with a namespace that the extension operates under. Multiple
<x/> elements may be in the
<icondef/> elements. This functionality is optional for clients to support, and clients should ignore all extensions they do not understand.
icondef.xml file must all be located in the root directory, which is named after the style and version (example:
./gold_angelic-1.0.0). There is only one root directory per style. The object files may either be in the root directory as well, or be in sub-directories for categorization and easier maintenance reasons. If sub-directories are used, they must match the URIs used in the
<object/> element in the
icondef.xml file and all object files must be packaged in the
ZIP format following the above hierarchy (the directory must exist in the package, with all files in it). The package must have the file extension
.jisp (Jabber Icon Style Package), and the MIME type
application/vnd.jisp as defined in the official IANA registration. This allows Jabber clients to automatically install icon styles through web browsers. When the client installs the package, it should probably be kept in the archived format, instead of unzipped. This not only saves disk space, but also makes the packages easier to manage and exchange.
Icons styles should be easy to create, distribute, and most importantly, use. The packaging and official MIME type helps with the first steps, but it is ultimately up to the client developers to fully support the specification and make sure it is easy for users to manage.
The procedure for using Jabber icons is simple and straightforward.
<text>element. If there are multiple
<text>elements, follow the procedure under "Text Strings", below.
Because icons may have multiple text strings associated with them, clients need to be able to figure out which one to use when a user selects the desired icon from their GUI. This is ultimately completely up to the implementation, but here is a suggestion:
Like multiple text strings, icons can have multiple object data files associated with them, and therefore clients also need to be able to figure out which ones to use when a user selects the desired icon from their GUI. Here is a suggestion of how those files can be chosen among multiple options, although this is completely an implementation issue (as with multiple text strings).
audio/x-wav, but some newer clients may be able to support
The Rules for processing objects in the XHTML 2.0 OBJECT specification may also be of help in coding the procedure of choosing an object to use, especially when it comes to nested and author-preferred objects.
The client should also take note of the file sizes. The client should set (possibly as a user-defined option) the maximum file size in kilobytes for object files. Anything above this amount implies the file will be too big to properly render, and the icon style developer is probably being abusive.
Also, if you are developing an icon style, please make sure the MIME types specified in your
icondef.xml file are correct. And also make sure that the files you use are reasonable in any byte, pixel, and timelength size. And although any file format can be supported, try to use
OGG formats because they are open, free, and becoming increasingly supported in developer tools and programming languages.
A client may permit the user to activate multiple icon styles at one time. This would be useful for styles which make use of different text strings, and the user wants them all. The client should force the user to rank the multiple styles for purposes of conflict resolution between icons. The highest ranking style gets preference over lower ranking styles. This ranking doesn't have to be anything more than simply dragging the style names into top-to-bottom rows, with the styles on top being higher ranked than those below.
Although any text string can be turned into an icon by defining it in an
icondef.xml file, it is highly reccomended they either follow traditional ASCII Art (smileys and frownys, for example) or full keywords in simple markup such as double-colons. If you want to design icons, always keep in mind that not every Jabber user uses graphics to "translate" this to something visual, as explained in the "Meaningful" requirement, above. Here is a short list of recommended "core" icons that should be in most definitions, as well as possibly be used by transports:
There are no security features or concerns related to this proposal.
The XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF)  shall register and maintain a MIME type and file extension for icon style packages with the IANA. Ones have already been registered by Sebastiaan Deckers (aka 'CBAS') as
.jisp, respectively. The registration can be found at http://www.iana.org/assignments/media-types/application/vnd.jisp. Sebastiaan's registration shall be considered the official MIME type and file extension of this specification.
Also, this specification uses other MIME types that are maintained by IANA for the object and xml files that are included in the icon style packages.
JANA shall register the namespace
http://jabber.org/protocol/icon-styles as an official feature category.
Also, JANA may choose to define IM-specific
xml:lang "language codes" for use within Jabber (in addition to those defined in the XML specification). Such language codes would allow Jabber developers to support icons from MSN, Yahoo, and popular web message programs.
icondef.xmlfiles may be useful for variable text strings. Text strings that may change from session to session, such as the user's nickname in a multi-user chat. A set of variables could be defined that represent these variable datas, therefore allowing them to be manipulated in the same way set text strings are.
SVGicons to it and get back icons in another format of their choice, such as
JPG. This would speed up the adoption of
SVGwithin Jabber greatly.
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