One of the biggest features requested so far has been Push Notification support for Xblaze iPhone. The premise:
When a user quits the app, instead of being logged out of Xfire right then, the user would stay logged in and receive push notifications when new messages arrive.
There are a few problems with implementing this feature, some technical, some legal.
First the technical limitations.
Some people may not fully understand how push notifications work. So here’s a quick overview.
Simplified Apple Push Noficiation Service Diagram
There are 5 major components:
- The provider (In this case, Xfire)
- The notification (The new message)
- Apple’s Push Notification Service
- The user’s unique iPhone
- The Client Application (Xblaze)
For push notifications to work, the provider needs to know about the iPhone, and it’s UDID (Unique Device Identifier). Without knowing the UDID of the iPhone, there’s no way to get a notification from the server to the iPhone. If the Xfire could know your iPhones UDID, it would be able to create a notification and ‘push’ it to your device. But there is no way for Xfire to know your iPhone’s UDID.
So, the first technical difficulty is that there is absolutely no way to get Xfire to generate a push notification from its root server or no way to get it from the sercver to your iPhone. They’re not going to implement it, and we don’t have any access or control to make one ourselves. To get around this, we could set up a relay server that would maintain the Xfire Session and communicate between the Xfire server and the Client, and register the iPhone for push notifications (using its UDID).
Something like this (I don’t have time to make a pretty diagram):
Xblaze Sends UDID to relay server,
Relay Server receives message from Xfire,
Relay Server forwards message to Xblaze via push notification.
Unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as just setting up the relay server and carrying on. The relay server would require that all of the communication between Xblaze and Xfire go through this server. That includes logging in, sending/receiving messages, adding friends, retrieving game info, etc., etc.
It would be a massive undertaking and would probably require writing a complete implementation of the Xfire server itself so that it could proxy everything that the Xfire server does.
Once again, this is very unlikely to occur as the entire Xfire protocol is still yet to be documented, which large chunks still being undefined. In order to implement the entire server, we’d need to know exactly how everything worked…
Then, after spending the huge amount of time it would take to write and test the server, there’s the logistics of finding somewhere to host it, pay for it, maintain the health of the server, not to mention the cost of the server hardware. Also the server would have to be able to cope with accommodating thousands of Xfire users. This is not something that can be lightly thrown around as a “nice to have” feature.
Then even if someone did spend all the time, effort and money on writing this hypothetical relay server, they wouldn’t be allowed to use it anyway, which brings me on to the legality of this issue.
The Xfire Terms and Conditions specifically state (Emphasis mine):
You may not authorize any third party to access or use the Service on your behalf using any automated process such as a robot (or ‘bot’), a spider or periodic caching of information stored by the Service on your behalf, without a separate written agreement with Xfire.
It is against Xfire’s Terms and Conditions to implement such a server, and it would breach your agreement with Xfire if you used a service that relayed your connection.
Xblaze and other 3rd party Xfire clients are already treading a very fine line in terms of legality, because they’re only made possible by reverse engineering the Xfire protocol. If at any moment Xfire decided that they wanted to pursue the issue of reverse engineering, they could send a cease and desist order to all 3rd party Xfire clients, and make them stop working – or they could change the protocol and lock everyone out.
If Xblaze received a C&D order from Xfire, I would have no choice but to comply, as I am technically in breach of the Terms and Conditions, as is every other 3rd party Xfire client developer.
I’m hoping it will never come to that though, but I don’t think implementing any kind of push notification support is feasible. Possible: maybe, feasible: not right now.