Brussels / 2 & 3 February 2019


Break the Messaging Silos with COI

Get to know the Chat Over IMAP initiative

Meet COI (Chat over IMAP) - a powerful contender for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other proprietary messengers. Based on email this open standards & open source iniative overcomes the network effect by providing a chat experience to over 3.8 billion active email users worldwide. By being backwards compatible with pure email, you do not need to convince all your friends, family and peers to join the new system - you can still engage with them and they can reach you. We cooperate with Delta Chat open source project to bundle efforts and ensure interoperability. Join this talk to learn about all things COI from Michael (Dovecot) and Robert (OX).

The COI standard is the best way to overcome the current messaging silos and allow everyone to compete on the same terms. Read on to learn why COI matters.


Most popular messaging services are currently proprietary, closed and operated by single providers. This leads to several problems:

  • Privacy: The provider knows all about your social network: when you communicate with whom, the frequency of your communication and the number, type and length of your messages – even with end to end encryption in place.
  • Unfair competition: Service providers depend on the rules set by the messaging owner and access to the API for participation. If the messaging provider changes the rules or chooses to offer your particular service itself, you are out of luck.
  • Lock in: You cannot simply change to another provider, because your friends and peers are also using that service provider. If you want to switch you would need to convince everyone to join your new service provider. And of course you would lose all your conversation history if you dare to move away. Don’t like the new app version? Bad luck, you cannot choose another app.
  • Silo: the network is only controlled by a single party, you cannot start hosting your own WhatsApp, WeChat or FB Messenger Service. Some providers like Facebook even control several popular messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Why Others do not Solve this Problem

Maybe you are thinking “I thought this is why we have Signal, Telegram and the other privacy-centric apps?” – they might very well be better than some of the more popular networks, but in the end, they control the network and other providers are locked out. Basically, you are exchanging one silo with another.

“What about XMPP and” – glad you asked! We love XMPP and because they provide a great solution – this only solves the problem in theory though. With XMPP and services you would still need to convince everyone to join your new network. Easy in theory, very complex in practice!

“What about RCS? I thought Google fixes this?” – well, are you sure about Google? Google used XMPP in the past but then locked it down. Google tried to push several chat solutions out with only little success. So, Google’s track record is far from perfect. Most notably, however, RCS requires a device to have a phone number (MSISDN). As communication is quickly migrating towards pure IP based solutions, MSISDNs become relics of the past. Most new innovative devices come without MSISDNs, e.g. voice enabled devices such as Alexa or Google Home, VR and AR devices such as HoloLens or Oculus Rift, portable game consoles, etc. With this dependency on MSISDNs, RCS’ future is uncertain.

Meet COI

COI enhances an already existing communication system: email. This already solves lots of problems:

  • It’s free, open and permission-less.
  • You can reach more than 3.8 billion active email users – this overcomes the network effect!
  • With COI’s backward compatibility, you can reach everyone, even when they are only using traditional email.

In this talk Michael and Robert will explain why COI really offers potential, the technical details about the new standards and what the next steps on this exciting journey are.


Photo of Robert Virkus Robert Virkus