Browser updates

The rate of change for Web Browsers has shifted up a gear. This means on the one hand, new awesome features become available, but on the other hand, sometimes it causes websites to break. Double edged sword.

It’s great to see the next (3rd) version of websocket live in Firefox 6, and this is now available in Mibbit. We’ll check for WebSocket, and use it where available. Then we’ll fall back to comet for older browsers. You don’t need to do anything.

We’re seeing some big shifts going on in the browser wars, with Chrome growing massively, Firefox holding its own, and IE mainly in decline.

Please do try to use the latest browsers to ensure things work as well as they should. Bear in mind though that if you’re using a developer release browser, there may be bugs, and things may not work :)

If you have any issues at all with incompatitbility, or bugs you believe may be mibbit or your browser, please do let us know at help@mibbit.com

Thanks for using Mibbit!

Collapsable tabs

We have a new feature which will hopefully make life a little easier for those who like to chat on many channels and networks at the same time.

There’s only so much space at the top of mibbit to put server, channel and PM tabs. Whilst you can reconfigure Mibbit to show them down the left hand side (or press alt+up to switch), that means you lose some chat screen space.

With this new feature, you can collapse your channel and PM tabs into the server tab. You can then be chatting on a different tab, and come back to expand the collapsed tabs when you wish.

To collapse channel and PM tabs, just click on the “<<”. To expand them, click on the “>>”.

You’ll also be able to see at a glance if there’s any activity on any of the collapsed tabs. The “>>” will change color to white or yellow (defaults).

The feature also works if you have the tabs set to show in a list on the left, so you can still collapse and expand channel and PM tabs as you wish with that configuration.

You should see this new feature live on the main client within the next day as it’s rolled out.

Thanks as always for using Mibbit, and please let us know if there’s any features you’d like us to add.

New look mibbit main client

We’ve made a few changes to the Mibbit client, just tweaks here and there to the default settings.

We’ve also made some improvements that should mean the client loads a little quicker for you.

There’s a couple of new features / options for you to play with…

  • Tab complete sort – When you use tab to tab complete a nickname, it now defaults to sorting by the last time the nickname said anything on that channel. That means if you’re talking with someone, you should be able to tab complete their name. You can also set the sort to alphabetical in prefs – [Chat Input] -> Tab complete sort
  • User defined input menus – The space where we usually have [ smilies | colors | translation etc ] can now hold any user defined menus you’d like to have. To set these up see [Chat Input] -> User Menus. If this is empty, it’ll use the defaults. If you want to setup your own, then add them. If you want to start with the defaults then add some more, click on [load defaults] first. The command can be any usual Mibbit command.

We hope you like these updates. You could for example have a menu item called “Say blurb about mibbit” -> “/say Mibbit is awesome | /say Mibbit is cool! | /say I $? mibbit”

If you’re sort of fond of the old color scheme, click on [prefs] -> skins, and load up the old default skin. You’ll also have to change back the default tab colors as shown in this image:

We should have some more main client updates coming shortly for you. Thanks for using Mibbit! :)

New look Widget – UI tweaks and fixes

Good news for Widgets! Today we’ve updated default colors, moved the “menu” and added improvements to how settings load making start-up & connect times even faster than before.

You’ll notice the default border color has changed from green to blue, provided a new “Connect” button and tab-background color has gone from black to white to give it a clean look when embedded on most sites.


New look Widget

If you have already configured your Widget settings there’s nothing to do, settings in your account will still take precedence, but if one of the new changes is an item you’ve never configured before you might need to log into to the Widget Manager and update it – if you liked the way it was.  Here’s a handy Havvy-formatted Wiki which kindly lists all the diffs.  Using the Widget manager skins function you can also load the old settings or choose a completely new layout in one go!

More settings now load externally – before the connect screen -  making it easier to configure things without relying on updates to the fiddly URI line.  Load times will be faster for chatters getting up and connected on your site too.

There’s also a few UI tweaks and fixes:

  • On Firefox, menus would move up a pixel when clicked (smilies, colors). This is now fixed.
  • All menu text is now sized properly, as are the colors and smilies and things look generally better.
  • The channel “menu” has moved from top right down to bottom right. Note that you must have input options enabled to be able to see this. Also typing notify when in PM will show down here.
  • New connecting and nick prompt screens. Vertically centered, new loading image and connect button.

We hope you like the new improvements!  Check them out by logging into your account – plus see here for the guide to how Widget customisation settings work (checkout Prefs too).

-axod

Browse PM logs by date

There’s a new feature in logging which makes it slightly easier to browse your PM logs.

If you haven’t set up logging, you can ask Mibbit to save PM logs for you. To do this, login at http://chat.mibbit.com click on prefs, and check [Save PMs to logs].

You can now browse by date, as well as by network. This is obviously very useful if you want to find conversations you had on a particular date.

Just click on [logs] from the main client, and then click on [By Date].

-axod

session-resume feature and server upgrades

We have a new feature in place on the Mibbit Widget. It’s called session-resume, and means that when the widget is closed, and then opened again within 30 seconds, it will recognize, and reconnect you to your previous session.

This should be particularly useful on websites where you have many pages, but want a chat to be persistent across all pages.

The session-resume feature is now enabled as default. If you wish to disable it, you can add sessiontimeout=0 to your widget URL. If you’d like to change the timeout from 30 seconds, you can add sessiontimeout=10 to set it to 10 seconds. The maximum is 30 seconds.

When a session is resumed, you will be joined to any channels you had open at the time you closed the widget/reloaded it.

If you want to force the widget to start a new session, simply wait 30 seconds after you close the widget, before opening it again.

We’ve also added a close button to the first channel tab on the widget, which you can use to disconnect from the server. It will ask for confirmation. (If you have noServerTab=false then you will already have a closer on the server tab).

Another thing we’ve been working on is server infrastructure. We’re increasing capacity to cope with growth, and we’ve patched a kernel level bug which caused a couple of server crashes last week. (Sorry if you were kicked out of chat).

We’re gearing up development and hope to have some big announcements in the next few weeks :)

Thanks for using Mibbit!

/list and new widgetmanager

Just a quick reminder that you can now use /list to list channels on IRC servers you’re connected to.

If you do use /list on its own you’ll get a slightly unwieldy and large list of channels. However, you can use some arguments to better find what you’re looking for.

You can add keywords to the end of /list. For example “/list trivia”.

You can also specify what size channels you want it to return using -min and -max which both take a number argument.

For example, “/list -min 50 trivia music” would list all channels with ‘music’ and ‘trivia’ in them, which have at least 50 users in them.

We’re working on ways to make finding good places to chat even easier, so stay tuned for announcements in the next few weeks.

We’ve also rolled out a new version of the widgetmanager at http://widgetmanager.mibbit.com , with new skins, easier to use interface and instant preview of your widget. Please do let us know if you have any problems at all integrating your widget on your website. We are here to help :)

-axod

Server improvements

We’ve been doing a lot of “behind the scenes” work on the Mibbit servers, and so I thought I’d let you know some of those improvements.

* We now have failover/loadbalancing for both the widget (http://widget.mibbit.com) and the main client (http://chat.mibbit.com). Please make sure you are using these exact URLs in your bookmarks and widget code.

* We’re starting to roll out automatic geo goodness. This means if you’re in the UK, and load widget.mibbit.com, it’ll probably point you at a UK server, so you get a low latency, speedy response.

* We’ve updated the servers to be able to use more of our externally facing IP addresses, dependent on which IPs work with given IRC networks. Basically this means more connections will be successful. The vast majority of IRC connections succeed from Mibbit, but this improves those rare cases where something isn’t quite right.

* Some code speedups. We’ve done a few things like remove old code, inlined css to improve loading times, etc.

* Websocket fixes. You may have noticed some odd issues with the previous version of the main client, when using a websocket enabled browser. Especially when joining large or multiple channels. These issues have been resolved, and you should not have any issues going forward.

* Unfortunately we had to disable the ‘upload file’ feature within Mibbit, after it was abused heavily by a small minority. We are looking at wether we can bring the feature back, and what we would need to put in place before we do. Please stay tuned for more news on this.

Please do let us know if you have any issues with Mibbit (help@mibbit.com or drop into #help on irc.mibbit.net), and thanks again for using it! :)

WebSocket support comes to Safari+Firefox

Websocket support has been ramping up amongst browsers lately, with Safari and Firefox joining in the party.

Websocket is a technology that allows your browser to communicate with a website efficiently to do realtime updates. This means that your connection with Mibbit will have less lag, and be even more immediate.

Chrome has supported WebSocket for some time now. They recently changed the WebSocket spec, which unfortunately is not backward compatible with the old spec (boo). Mibbit however, still supports both versions of the WebSocket spec (hooray!).

Safari is built using the same technology as Chrome, and with version 5 of Safari, you can now enjoy WebSocket support also.

Firefox developer builds (minefield) also support WebSocket.

Please do let us know if you ever have any problems connecting to Mibbit, and we will do all we can to help. There are many reasons why you may not be able to connect, including firewalls, blocking software, proxies etc which can interfere, but if you’re still unable to connect, we have a few tools which enable us to troubleshoot any issues.

We’ve been working hard on backend resilience, and our ability to cope with Network routing issues, DOS attacks, power outages and so on. We now have a good amount of failover and ability to cope when the unexpected happens.

Thanks again for using Mibbit :)

Improved communication

We’ve been doing some backend work in two areas recently.

1. Scaling. We’ve grown by something like 300% in the last 12 months, and we need to provision for even faster growth in 2010. We’ve expanded from having a single backend for Widgets, to having 4 backend servers. This allows us to grow, and also gives us failover, and an easy way to update backends without having to kick everyone off. If you run a network, you do not need to modify anything. All widget backends use the same IP address for outgoing IRC connections.

2. Network communications. We want to ensure that the Mibbit client is the fastest it can be, and provides the best experience for users. We also want to ensure it’s optimized in terms of bandwidth usage. This means looking for new technologies, and new improvements we can make.

We’ve just updated the backends, and here’s the main changes you’ll find:

  • WebSocket support – WebSocket is a system that allows a bidirectional tcp connection between browser and server. Mibbit can use this in place of Comet, in order to cut bandwidth and provide a faster experience for users. WebSocket is currently supported in latest Chrome dev channel. If you haven’t tried it yet, Chrome is an awesome webbrowser, especially for webapps like Mibbit.
  • Compression – For those not using WebSockets, we’re now able to compress data sent out to clients from the server. This once again means far less bandwidth, and a faster experience.
  • Lag monitor lag- You may have noticed on the latest main client, it shows the current lag between your browser and the mibbit server. It does this by sending a ping every 5 minutes and measuring the time to get a pong. You can also click it to request a lag check. Note that this is only between you and the Mibbit server, not to any IRC networks. We plan to implement some lag features for IRC later on. The lag is also logged on the Mibbit server in order for us to improve the user experience. For example if we find that lag from browsers in the UK is high, we may setup a UK backend.

Once again, thanks for your understanding when we do have to restart a backend, we’re nearing a time now where we can do complete rolling updates and not have to kick anyone off.

It’s a real privilege to work on something that is used by so many people, and we really do appreciate your use of Mibbit. If you have any thoughts, ideas or gripes, please do feel free to catch me on irc.mibbit.net.

Happy holidays Mibbitians! :D