The rise of Riot/Matrix messenger

A lot announcements were made in summer 2017. Several p2p messengers were released, while the others continued to expand their user bases. Briar and Ring were announced at the same time, prepared for the usage. But what’s really surprised me was a Riot/Matrix messenger. It become indefinitely better for the past year, and its current state is close enough to the community needs. There is a short review of its functionality and incoming features.

What Riot/Matrix can offer right now?

Some basic features:

  • Chats
  • Rooms
  • Voice & video calls
  • Files

And some advanced:

  • History synchronization
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Bridges (IRC, Slack, Gitter, Skype, XMPP, more…)
  • Server federations
  • HTTP APIs and SDKs (iOS, Android, Web)

It supports basic messaging and can be expanded if required. You can use web client, desktop and mobile apps. And you can always install your own matrix server. No more history limits. No more third-party data sharing.

Sign in with ease

One nice thing about the Matrix is that it respects your choices. You can select between the various clients, or even write your own. And you are not forced to enter anything sensitive in order to create an account.

There are a few options to start messaging. First, you can login via default matrix.org server. It’s probably the most common way. Simply open the web client or the desktop app. There will be a default homepage with registration and login options. All you need to register is login and password. You can fill an additional fields as well, but they are completely on your own. Guest access is also available.

Keep your secrets in a place

The second option is to install your own server with personal user base and account management. The strong point behind this option is control. You can run completely isolated server if you need so. Alternatively, the server may be configured as the part of federation. It would synchronize selected rooms with the other servers, and deliver content to users in this case. Nice option for failover setup.

Explore new things

There are a lot of rooms in the Matrix. Room is a place where the people talks about some topics. They can be found in the Room Directory – an endless page, sorted by members count. You can find interesting places there directly, or using the search.

Some big groups are presented there, mostly with technical content. Some bridges to another worlds (like IRC or Gitter channels) are available too. But what’s really interesting is a small groups. They have their own life and atmosphere. Some rooms seems dead, some have live discussions when you check them. It’s very close to Slack groups by things discussed and amount of people in. You can just rush through the pages and look for interesting ones. They are all there, in the Page Directory. Of course, you cannot find private groups this way, but there is enough place to explore anyway.

And you can always create your own room and invite some friends there. With all the history available for all the devices, including the new ones.

Coming soon

A lot of next features were announced in the matrix blog. Personally, I found the following most interesting:

Groups
Groups will allow users to connect things together. You can join users in a group, and manipulate them with ease, for example invite the group to the room. You can join rooms in groups, and this will be very similar to Slack teams. You can use groups to build your own homepage in structured and organised way. This feature is under active development.

Integrations
There’s a bit mystery around the topic, but it seems like integrations would be another strong feature of the Matrix. Would it be a high-level entry point for all the community applications? We will see soon. This feature is already under development.

Mentions
It’s possible to highlight users in the chat right now, but Matrix team has some vision around the future improvements. I really like current notification settings for rooms, and it would be nice if the mentions would be also configurable this way. There some issues around this stuff in other messengers, so it would be a nice thing to have in Riot.

Not covered

Of course, there is nothing perfect in this world. You cannot found custom emoji and stickers in Riot/Matrix these days. This stuff should be probably built in top of Groups feature, and it’s in development yet. I have no doubt that the custom things would be announced later.

Conclusion

Matrix is looking interesting as never before. Solid features are already shipped, and additional things are coming. Financial issues are partially resolved. Some attention from the community are received.

Personally, I consider Matrix/Riot as the next big thing. And it already is. Well-rounded, solid thing, wrapped in a strong technologies. The thing that’s rising.