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What exactly is Matrix? - 24/08/21

Matrix is an open source standard for interoperable, decentralized communication over IP. It offers a wide array of privacy-respecting features which make it a top choice for privacy and technology enthusiasts. Furthermore, Matrix has a wide array of clients available that you are able to use for communication.

Open source

Matrix is open source, This means that anybody is able to view, modify, and distribute the code as they see fit. One of the major benefits to software being open source is transparency, which means that you are able to view changes to the code, or how your data is being handled. Furthermore because the source code is accessible, open source code is actively checked and improved upon by large communities of programmers. The existence of active open source communities means that you are able to find help, resources and perspectives.

Freedom for the user means that you are able to use the source code of open software for other projects. A good example of why this would be useful is when Audacity implemented telemetry (data monitoring) into their program. Since Audacity is open source, the community used the source code of audacity to produce programs without any telemetry.

Encryption and decentralization

Matrix is decentralized, this means there is no central server for Matrix to operate on. Anybody is able to host their own server to have full control over their data. Furthermore Matrix offers end-to-end encryption in Rooms and Direct Messages. End-to-end encryption means that your data cannot be read or secretly modified, which means that only the sender and the intended recipients are able to view the contents of your messages.


To connect to the Matrix federation, you will use a client. Thanks to Matrix's open source nature, it has an abundance of clients which offer unique features or a different style and experience. Some commonly used clients are:

Bridging services

Matrix has the ability to connect and exchange data between other messaging services, such as Telegram and Discord. This means that, if you choose, you are able to bridge Matrix and another platform together, so that users from a different platform are still able to engage in conversations on Matrix, and vice versa. In total there are currently 28 platforms that currently have some support bridging to Matrix. The ability to bridge between platforms is especially useful if you run a large community, as you are then able to have users communicate from multiple different platforms.

Some (personal) issues with Matrix clients

There have been a few personal grievances with Matrix that have made me fail to see how useful the software is until now.

I personally feel that the user interface of Element can feel clunky at times, and have found the client harder to navigate than other messaging applications like Discord. I have had issues with other Matrix clients, such as Fractal where the client lacks an option for me to login to my account via GitHub. This meant that unless I was to create a new account, I would not be able to use that client. Furthermore, some clients lack access to beta features that I would consider to be essential (such as spaces.)


Despite the minor annoyances I have experienced when first getting orientated with Matrix, I can now say that I will now recommend Matrix to anybody who will listen. Matrix is quickly proving itself to be a viable, open source alternative to Discord. Furthermore, thanks to the fact that Matrix is open source, and hosts a range of privacy-respecting features, it is a great alternative to other messaging platforms, which may collect user data, or exchange data with third parties.

Matrix, in my opinion, would be harder to recommend if it wasn't for the ability of bridging to another platform. The fact that Matrix is able to bridge to other messaging platforms means that people will be able to use and curate a community with Matrix, whilst still being able to use and attract people to their community using more mainstream platforms.



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