Pidgin is the Linux IM client with the most features; Facebook is the most popular social network. Lately, though, anyone using Pidgin to connect to Facebook’s chat feature has been seeing this error message:
What’s going on? Facebook shut down XMPP compatibility back in April, and the instructions for integrating Facebook chat with Pidgin depended on that compatibility. Hence, many people who set up Pidgin with Facebook haven’t been able to chat with their “Friends” for some time now.
Don’t panic: there is a plugin that uses the new Messenger API to connect Pidgin to Facebook. Here’s how it works, along with alternative program to consider using if you want more Facebook-specific features.
Get Facebook Chat Working in Pidgin Again
A Pidgin plugin called purple-facebook is what you need to get back up and running. It’s currently offered as a repository for Ubuntu and Debian; follow the instructions specific to your version and you’ll be set up in no time. Users of other distros will have to build from scratch (sorry, I can’t help you with this).
Once you’ve installed the plugin restart Pidgin. When you do, head to Manage Accounts, then click the Add… button. Create a new Facebook account, not Facebook XMPP (which is broken).
If you only see Facebook XMPP make sure you’ve actually restarted Pidgin and try again.
Once you find Facebook, sign in using your Facebook username, email address or phone number (all three will work).
That should be it! You’ll be chatting with your friends in no time, though I make no guarantee as to the quality of the conversation.
One thing you might notice if you use this for Facebook is that people sign in and out of the service pretty much constantly. Pidgin’s default notification settings make this a never ending barrage of useless information, and you won’t find anything about this in the settings. That’s because, in Pidgin, a plugin handles the notifications – head there to turn them off.
You’ll find the Plugin option in the Tools menu; configure Libnotify to get the window seen above. Turn off Buddy signs on and Buddy signs off if you enjoy occasionally not having notifications.
Messenger For Desktop, A Facebook-Centric Alternative
Pidgin is a great way to combine all your IM accounts in one service, but that approach does have a few downsides. You can’t “Like” a message, for example, and you can’t use Facebook chat stickers. Voice and video calls also won’t work.
If you miss these Facebook-specific features, Messenger For Desktop is worth checking out.
This program, available for Linux as well as Mac OS X and Window, essentially runs the web version of Facebook Messenger in its own window, but also offers support for native notifications and a couple of custom themes. To find the settings and themes in Linux simple right-click anywhere.
Empathy Users: There’s No Solution Right Now
Empathy is the default IM app with for a number of Linux distros, including Ubuntu. Like Pidgin, it was a popular way to use one client to connect to all networks, but unlike Pidgin there is currently no way to get it working with Facebook Messenger. Sorry, Empathy users: consider switching to one of the above options.
Desktop IM Apps Are in Decline
At one point Facebook and Google – companies that don’t have many nice things to say about each other – agreed on one point: offering the open XMPP protocol as an option for users to connect to their chat services. Facebook has now shut down the option completely, and Google’s support of the protocol is in decline (though still mostly working).
Combine this with the increased promince of popular chat services like WhatsApp, Viber, and Slack, which never worked with programs like Pidgin in the first place, and it’s getting harder and harder to combine all of your IMs in on place. As Joey-Elijah Sneddon argued on OMG Ubuntu:
One has to ask if there is any point in Ubuntu continuing to ship a messaging app by default if it can’t connect to the messaging services most people use. -Joey-Elijah Sneddon
Do you agree, and think Linux distros should stop including dedicated IM apps? How will you be using Facebook Messenger on Linux, if at all? Let’s talk about all this and more in the comments below.