1) there is a growing network of people working on a #public federated chat network based on XMPP. There has been a lot of activity in the space in recent years. This activity is partly due to the development sprints, many of which last year have been organized by @pep
2) a bunch of new (and existing) clients continue working on usability (cross platform, consistent UIs, support for mobile, end-to-end encryption). Particularly web clients such as ConverseJS by @jcbrand are promising.