It’s a Jabber/XMPP server with an add-in for every protocol you want to support. I don’t know how much damage has been done to XMPP communities by Google & Skype though. My problem has always been that the few people I want ‘throw-away conversations’ with use something else.
Diaspora is a free download and I think it’s written in Ruby. I’ve always struggled to find documentation I can follow and there is always a promise that set-up is going to get better soon. There seem to be people who are deeply into it but haven’t bothered writing anything down.
Whenever I go on there I’m stuck for hours. There are many interesting/crazy people. I sometimes wish I could restrict the languages I see to ones I have a slight chance of understanding but many Americans would clearly just turn off anything but English then be rude to people trying their best in their third language, so maybe we all have to swallow the fire-hose.
Are these projects? Do we already have expertise in the community that we could pull in?
Or, is there any demand for such services? Are there Brum(mish) folk would rather use Open protocols and Free software solutions than continue to feed the data dragons and would be willing to pay for such a service with money rather than privacy? If your internal messaging was free XMPP would you pay to use a gateway that converted to proprietary IMs? I guess this extends as far as digital phone services too.
Or you could pay Microsoft to talk XMPP to their selected partners on your behalf http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=8403