1.0 Documentation

SleekXMPP Architecture

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SleekXMPP Architecture

The core of SleekXMPP is contained in four classes: XMLStream, BaseXMPP, ClientXMPP, and ComponentXMPP. Along side this stack is a library for working with XML objects that eliminates most of the tedium of creating/manipulating XML.


The Foundation: XMLStream

XMLStream is a mostly XMPP-agnostic class whose purpose is to read and write from a bi-directional XML stream. It also allows for callback functions to execute when XML matching given patterns is received; these callbacks are also referred to as stream handlers. The class also provides a basic eventing system which can be triggered either manually or on a timed schedule.

The Main Threads

XMLStream instances run using at least three background threads: the send thread, the read thread, and the scheduler thread. The send thread is in charge of monitoring the send queue and writing text to the outgoing XML stream. The read thread pulls text off of the incoming XML stream and stores the results in an event queue. The scheduler thread is used to emit events after a given period of time.

Additionally, the main event processing loop may be executed in its own thread if SleekXMPP is being used in the background for another application.

Short-lived threads may also be spawned as requested for threaded event handlers.

How XML Text is Turned into Action

To demonstrate the flow of information, let’s consider what happens when this bit of XML is received (with an assumed namespace of jabber:client):

<message to="user@example.com" from="friend@example.net">
  1. Convert XML strings into objects.

    Incoming text is parsed and converted into XML objects (using ElementTree) which are then wrapped into what are referred to as Stanza objects. The appropriate class for the new object is determined using a map of namespaced element names to classes.

    Our incoming XML is thus turned into a Message stanza object because the namespaced element name {jabber:client}message is associated with the class Message.

  2. Match stanza objects to callbacks.

    These objects are then compared against the stored patterns associated with the registered callback handlers. For each match, a copy of the stanza object is paired with a reference to the handler and placed into the event queue.

    Our Message object is thus paired with the message stanza handler BaseXMPP._handle_message() to create the tuple:

    ('stanza', stanza_obj, handler)
  3. Process the event queue.

    The event queue is the heart of SleekXMPP. Nearly every action that takes place is first inserted into this queue, whether that be received stanzas, custom events, or scheduled events.

    When the stanza is pulled out of the event queue with an associated callback, the callback function is executed with the stanza as its only parameter.


    The callback, aka stream handler, is executed in the main event processing thread. If the handler blocks, event processing will also block.

  4. Raise Custom Events

    Since a stream handler shouldn’t block, if extensive processing for a stanza is required (such as needing to send and receive an Iq stanza), then custom events must be used. These events are not explicitly tied to the incoming XML stream and may be raised at any time. Importantly, these events may be handled in their own thread.

    When the event is raised, a copy of the stanza is created for each handler registered for the event. In contrast to stream handlers, these functions are referred to as event handlers. Each stanza/handler pair is then put into the event queue.


    It is possible to skip the event queue and process an event immediately by using direct=True when raising the event.

    The code for BaseXMPP._handle_message() follows this pattern, and raises a 'message' event:

    self.event('message', msg)

    The event call then places the message object back into the event queue paired with an event handler:

    ('event', 'message', msg_copy1, custom_event_handler_1)
    ('event', 'message', msg_copy2, custom_evetn_handler_2)
  5. Process Custom Events

    The stanza and event handler are then pulled from the event queue, and the handler is executed, passing the stanza as its only argument. If the handler was registered as threaded, then a new thread will be spawned for it.


    Events may be raised without needing stanza objects. For example, you could use self.event('custom', {'a': 'b'}). You don’t even need any arguments: self.event('no_parameters'). However, every event handler MUST accept at least one argument.

    Finally, after a long trek, our message is handed off to the user’s custom handler in order to do awesome stuff:

    msg['body'] = "Hey! This is awesome!"

Raising XMPP Awareness: BaseXMPP

While XMLStream attempts to shy away from anything too XMPP specific, BaseXMPP‘s sole purpose is to provide foundational support for sending and receiving XMPP stanzas. This support includes registering the basic message, presence, and iq stanzas, methods for creating and sending stanzas, and default handlers for incoming messages and keeping track of presence notifications.

The plugin system for adding new XEP support is also maintained by BaseXMPP.


ClientXMPP extends BaseXMPP with additional logic for connecting to an XMPP server by performing DNS lookups. It also adds support for stream features such as STARTTLS and SASL.


ComponentXMPP is only a thin layer on top of BaseXMPP that implements the component handshake protocol.

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