06 Dec 2007

The Unified Logging Format

The “Unified Logging Format” is one of those ideas that you can’t believe hasn’t been done already. Its goal is simple: define a standard format for instant messaging logs that can be used across applications and across platforms, instead of the mishmash of poorly defined, application-specific microformats that exist today. Although currently only one IM program supports it (Adium for Mac OS X), and the informal standardization process seems to have stalled, it’s such a good idea and would benefit so many users that I really hope other developers will see the light.

If you’ve ever switched from one IM client to another you’ve probably had to abandon all your old logs, or keep a copy of the old client around in case you ever wanted to look at them again. With ULF, this wouldn’t happen: you could take the logs from one IM client and move them over happily to a different one. In fact, rather than having each IM application manage and store its logs separately, you could define one location on your system for logs, and let various applications all dump their stuff there. Rather than having to read your logs through whatever minimal reader the client program provides, you could use a purpose-built log viewer (which there would probably be more of, because writing a log viewer is a lot easier when you only have to worry about one format of log files).

Plus, it opens the door to log-file synchronization across multiple systems with ease, even if your computers are running different OSes (and thus use different IM clients). And since ULF is at its core a text-based XML format, it’s far more ‘future proof’ than an application-specific format that’s going to fade into obscurity and become unreadable once the application ceases to be developed.

There’s really no bad here at all.

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