XMPP With Node.js

XMPP has been around for a long time at this point. Libraries for most popular languages exist and work quite well. There’s even an XMPP standards body that promotes the official libraries that they suggest based on quality.

The XMPP.js library for JavaScript turns out to be really good, but somehow really poorly documented. There are a couple of half-baked examples, but I found that it still took time to get something running that touched on some of the major features of XMPP.

I’ve also been working through the 2009 XMPP book from O’Reilly, which is mostly oriented around clients rather than technical implementations, but is still good for understanding the theory and operations. My only wish is that this book would also have contained instructions on setting up a Jabber server. It would have come in handy.

Anyhow, below I’m going to do a quick walk-through of what I did to get an ejabberd server running in Vagrant, connect to it from my laptop using Pidgin, and run the “Echo Bot” example from the XMPP book, but using Node.js instead of Python. The Echo Bot just repeats everything you IM to it. Nothing too fancy.

The GitLab repo for this project is here if you don’t want to take the time to implement this yourself.

Table of Contents

ejabberd in Vagrant

I ended up just setting up a quick and easy Ubuntu 16.04 server in Vagrant. I used the ejabberd that was in the repo and everything went great. With some minimal configuration and user adding in the setup script everything runs very well.

Here’s my Vagrantfile

Take special note of the forwarded ports. Port 5280 is for the web admin panel, and port 5222 is the TCP port that ejabberd talks over. There’s several different protocols that you can use, like UDP, based on your own configuration.

# -*- mode: ruby -*-
# vi: set ft=ruby :

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
  config.vm.box = "bento/ubuntu-16.04"

  config.vm.network "forwarded_port", guest: 5280, host: 5280, host_ip: ""
  config.vm.network "forwarded_port", guest: 5222, host: 5222, host_ip: ""

  config.vm.provider "virtualbox" do |vb|
    vb.memory = "1024"
    vb.cpus = "1"

  config.vm.provision "shell", path: "setup.sh"

Here’s my setup.sh

Nothing too crazy here. The sed lines are just modifying some relevant configs in ejabberd’s config file.

apt-get update

apt-get install -y ejabberd

# It defaults to IPv6, but I want IPv4 just to keep things simple here.
sed -i 's/    ip: "::"/    ip: ""/g' /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.yml

# This is just setting up the admin user.
sed -i 's/         - "": "localhost"/         - "admin": "localhost"/' /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.yml

systemctl restart ejabberd

# I was surprised that the restart took long enough that the ejabberdctl
# commands below were failing.
sleep 5

ejabberdctl register admin localhost password
ejabberdctl register echo_bot localhost password

Installing Pidgin

Pidgin is a Jabber-compliant Instant Messaging client for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. They also provide source code. If you’re using MacOS, they do suggest using Adium instead.

One of the best features of Pidgin (and probably Adium) is that it has an XMPP Console that you can enable in the Plugins section of the application. That way you can see all of the XMPP stanzas being passed between the client and server, and you can even use it to enter raw XMPP stanzas if you so choose. It’s pretty rad.

I’m on Debian 9, so I just used the one in the repo’s.

sudo apt-get install -y pidgin

Node.js Echo Bot

This simple bot will let you subscribe to its status, and in chat will repeat everything you say. See the comments for some more details.

// Client is the actual Client class, xml is a convenience function for building
// valid XML.
const { Client, xml } = require('xmpp.js');

const client = new Client();

// Node doesn't like self-signed certificates. You could also pass this as an
// environment variable.

// Here we get into the event-based actions.
// I'm logging everything so that you can see what's getting passed through at
// each of these stages. It gets pretty interesting and looking at this helped me a
// ton when doing some debugging.
client.on('error', err => console.log('ERROR:', err.toString));

client.on('status', status => console.log('STATUS:', status));

client.on('input', input => console.log('INPUT:', input));

client.on('output', output => console.log('OUTPUT:', output));

// Most of the magic happens here. You can set up all your conditions for the
// various XMPP stanzas that you receive. You can be creative with this, for
// instance you could have the bot running on a Raspberry Pi and change
// some status LED's based on the message.
client.on('stanza', stanza => {
  console.log('STANZA:', JSON.stringify(stanza.toJSON()));

  // This acts on requests from other clients to watch the status of this bot
  // so that the other client can see whether or not this bot is online.
  if (stanza.is('presence') && stanza.attrs.type === 'subscribe') {
      xml('presence', { to: stanza.attrs.from, type: 'subscribed' })

  // This is doing the echoing.
  if (stanza.is('message') && stanza.attrs.from !== client.jid) {
    stanza.children.forEach(child => {
      if (child.name === 'body') {
        const response = child.children.join('\n');
          xml('message', { to: stanza.attrs.from, type: 'chat' },
            xml('body', {}, response)

// When the bot comes online it updates its status to let you know that it's
// ready to talk back to you.
client.on('online', jid => {
  console.log('ONLINE:', jid.toString());
    xml('presence', {}, 
      xml('show', {}, 'chat'),
      xml('status', {}, 'I say everything you do!'),

// This is just handling the client authentication.
client.handle('authenticate', authenticate => {
  return authenticate('echo_bot', 'password');

// This actually launches the server.
  .catch(err => console.error('start failed', err.message));

Running it all

To get this whole thing running you need to first launch the vagrant box, then create a new account in Pidgin for admin@localhost using the fake password, and then launch the Echo Bot (node index.js). You’ll see some console output from the bot registering with the ejabberd server, and then it will just wait. Once it’s waiting, you can “Add a Buddy” in Pidgin, by looking for echo_bot@localhost. The Echo Bot will pick that up so that you can then see its status in Pidgin. Lastly, you can go ahead and open up a chat with your new echo_bot buddy, and it will repeat everything back to you.


This library has a couple of other components as well, but what they do and how to use them I have no idea because the documentation is basically non-existent. I’ll be sure to update here if/when I get to those other features.

Jeremy Jackson
Software Engineering and Data Science


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