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Computer networks have redundant links between machines so that if one fails others can take over to guarantee deliverability. However, as we move up the stack to Person to Person communication protocols via the net, this redundancy gets dropped. Fallback messaging is a means to allow communication between two people to continue even if some of the underlying service providers fail.
Opensource clients like ayttm, eb, gaim, kopete, and transports like jabber have the edge here, let's find out how and why.
More info here: http://tech.bluesmoon.info/2004/09/fallback-messaging.html