Q&A: Klaus Herberth talks about building privacy aware communication

Klaus Herberth is a Ph.D. student at the Distributed Systems Laboratory at the University of Konstanz, Germany and he started the chat application project as part of his Bachelor thesis. His research is about secure communication in dynamic groups with the goal to create a solution with high usability. Herberth will be delivering a talk at the upcoming Nextcloud Conference and we talked to him to learn more about his work.

What’s the topic of your talk and what’s the major highlight?
It’s about the chat app in general and how Nextcloud can be used as authentication backend for XMPP servers and saslauthd capable services (e.g. Cyrus).

I will talk about the JavaScript XMPP Client, aka chat app, in Nextcloud and how this app can improve collaboration with your colleagues. I will show how the well known Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol can enhance your private or business communication by hosting your own federated server and integrating it into Nextcloud. To make this easier I am really proud to introduce 2 new extensions. The first one allows every saslauthd capable service to authenticate against Nextcloud and the second one will bring your Nextcloud group members to your contact list.

Who should attend your talk?
Everyone who is interested in privacy aware communication. Every Nextcloud administrator who is interested in privacy aware communication and how this can be integrated in an existing infrastructure.

When you talk about chat capabilities in Nextcloud, what kind of users or customers are you looking it?
We offer services for small installations (internal XMPP server written in PHP), but also for huge installations with their own XMPP server.

The JSXC community tried to create the easiest to use chat app available on the market, so every user would have the ability to use our app without training. We also kept in mind the different types of Nextcloud instances, from small webspace installations to large cloud structures and serve for every purpose the appropriate solution. For example administrators who are not able to install an XMPP server can use our internal XMPP backend. It comes with limited functionality, but it’s super easy to setup and provides all the necessary functions to have a great chat experience.

Is the NC chat app a third party app or part of the core?
It’s a third party app. The app and the corresponding client library, which can be integrate into every web application, is maintained by the JSXC core team and a growing community. The core team consists currently of Marcel, Daniel and me from the University of Konstanz and Tobia from Belgium.

How secure is the chat communication? How do you ensure privacy? Will you be talking about these topics too?
Sure. Security and privacy are important topics for JSXC and probably the main reason why this project was founded. All communication is handled on the Nextcloud server or your own XMPP server. If you talk to untrusted XMPP servers (which is possible, because XMPP is federated) you can use OTR (end-to-end encryption) to protect your messages and we are currently working on supporting OMEMO as well.
Is this your first NC conference? What kind of engagement are you expecting at the conference?
It’s my first Nextcloud conference, but two years ago I was at the Owncloud conference where I met Tobia who also developed a separate chat application. In those days we decided two merge our apps and create one awesome chat for the hole Owncloud family. I am really looking forward to the conference, because last time it was a great week with a lot of interesting and helpful discussions. It’s a great experience to meet the people behind a faceless nickname. You get another contact to the people and this also influences your communication if you are back home.

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