A Brief History of MQTT: The Messaging Protocol that Powers the IoT

MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) is a lightweight messaging protocol that has become a cornerstone of the Internet of Things (IoT). Known for its efficiency and reliability, MQTT facilitates communication between devices in resource-constrained environments. Let’s explore the history of MQTT and how it has evolved to become a key player in the world of IoT.

Origins of MQTT

MQTT was created in 1999 by Andy Stanford-Clark of IBM and Arlen Nipper of Arcom (now Eurotech). The protocol was developed to address the need for a lightweight and efficient messaging system capable of working over unreliable or low-bandwidth networks. Initially, it was designed for the oil and gas industry, where monitoring remote pipelines required a robust and low-overhead communication protocol.

Early Development and Adoption

The first version of MQTT was designed to be simple, minimizing the amount of overhead and resources required for communication. This made it ideal for scenarios where bandwidth was limited and power efficiency was crucial. The early adoption of MQTT was primarily within industrial sectors, where its reliability and efficiency proved invaluable.

Standardization and Open Source

Recognizing the potential of MQTT beyond industrial applications, IBM released a royalty-free version of the protocol in 2010, and it was soon after contributed to the Eclipse Foundation under the Eclipse Paho project. This move towards open-source development spurred wider adoption and community-driven enhancements.

In 2013, MQTT 3.1 was officially standardized by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), providing a formal specification that further solidified its role in IoT. The standardization helped ensure interoperability across different implementations and devices.

Key Features and Advancements

MQTT’s core features have remained consistent since its inception, emphasizing simplicity, lightweight communication, and efficient message delivery. Key characteristics include:

  1. Publish/Subscribe Model: MQTT uses a publish/subscribe messaging pattern, where devices (publishers) send messages to topics, and other devices (subscribers) receive messages from those topics. This decouples message producers from consumers, enhancing scalability and flexibility.

  2. Quality of Service (QoS) Levels: MQTT supports three levels of QoS to ensure reliable message delivery, ranging from "at most once" to "exactly once," catering to different reliability requirements.

  3. Last Will and Testament (LWT): This feature allows devices to specify a message that will be sent if they unexpectedly disconnect, ensuring other devices are aware of the disconnection.

Widespread Adoption

With the rise of IoT, MQTT’s adoption has expanded across various domains, including smart homes, automotive, healthcare, and more. Its efficiency and ability to work in constrained environments make it an ideal choice for devices with limited processing power and connectivity.

Recent Developments

The latest version, MQTT 5.0, was released in 2019, introducing new features to improve performance, scalability, and error reporting. Enhancements such as better support for large-scale systems, more flexible subscription options, and improved error diagnostics have made MQTT even more robust and versatile.


From its humble beginnings in the oil and gas industry to its current status as a fundamental protocol for IoT, MQTT has proven its value time and again. Its lightweight, efficient, and reliable design makes it the protocol of choice for connecting the myriad of devices that form the backbone of our increasingly connected world. As IoT continues to grow, MQTT will undoubtedly remain a key player, enabling seamless communication and innovation across diverse applications.

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