While I post mostly on Fediverse platforms like Diaspora and Mastodon, and am focusing my development efforts there, the instant messaging accessibility of Facebook Messenger has been illusive. I tried Wickr and it’s okay but not the most user friendly. It’s claim to fame is the messages only go from the participant to the receiver without a server between except for authentication. That makes the flow clunky, to say the least. Which is why leaving Facebook has been one of my least successful aspects. I wanted to explore other options and in the last week I pulled the trigger and actually did it.
On the VUC podcast a few weeks ago there was a coverage of the Matrix Federated Communication Protocol. I had heard of it before but never really looked into it much. As I get more and more into promoting the Fediverse in generated it seemed like that was a proper place to start looking for chat alternatives. Combine this with the fact that I recently joined the Federated Networks Association and they had their own Matrix server. Since that is used for communication with that group, and they hosted their own I decided to create my own Matrix account there and experiment.
If I had to describe Matrix to someone I’d say it is like Slack or Mattermost more than anything else. You can have individual messaging to people. You can have chat rooms full of people. You have the chat history of that room even when you aren’t logged in. There are a lot of secure messaging features as well though so that you can have better control over your data security. The system is federated as well. What that means is that although I created an account on Feneas’s servers I am not locked to only talking with people or joining discussions on there. After setting up my account I not only joined conversations on Feneas but also a vue.js forum on the main matrix.org server and a Java one as well.
At the same time all this was going on I also went on the VUC podcast for a second discussion on data control and federated networks. As part of discussions around there, which I hope to be a more regular member of as well, I was introduced to the Wire.com chat system. This is a more traditional walled garden system but with some open source foundations, much like Wickr.com. Although they only have an experimental Linux client their in-browser experience is solid enough that I can see using this system more and more. It has some of the same security features of Wickr in terms of limited duration messages, burn after reading, etc. but it is a traditional server-based messaging system. It too has individual messaging and chat rooms type functionality as well.
What does that mean, practically? It means that I now have accounts on both systems. Feel free to message me on Diaspora or Mastodon if I know you and you want the contact information. While I have both up I’d say the preferred choice would be to get Riot.io secure chat client and message me on Matrix. If the whole federated concept is scary for you then give Wire.com a whirl.
UPDATE #1: Someone on the discussion thread asked if I had tried using XMPP). I actually am using the XMPP server setup on my Diaspora pod as well. So if you are on XMPP that’s another way you can reach me.