Matrix

Matrix is cool. At least in the sense that there's a slightly more modern messaging platform being built from the ground up, in the open, as free software. But man, does it suck. This is a mild rant about matrix being a pain to self-host, and that the flagship client Element should be renamed to Elephant.

Self-Hosting

I don't know whether it's such a ball-ache to self-host because the organisation in charge of it is trying to push people towards paying for their hosted service, or whether it's a ball-ache because they've crammed in so many options and have no idea how to properly present that to the administrator - but it really is nasty.

Generating the initial configuration isn't bad; I actually quite like the idea that if you have the application, you can use that to generate a well-commented configuration file that can be tweaked however you like. But 2700 lines of config is mental.

Okay, it's mostly comments, but that's a lot to read, and most of it isn't even useful to me. OpenID Connect, SAML and CAS? It's all largely useless to the lone sysadmin looking for a messaging solution for friends and family. Dendrite at least tries to fix that. But how long until focus shifts over to that and we're back with a million options for every conceivable use-case.

I get that the Matrix community doesn't want to get into the mess of standards and extensions that XMPP is built around. But at least a formal standards process that clearly labels each feature results in useful tools like this, so you can work out what it is your server does. I really, really, do not like the idea of sitting back and hoping that the defaults that were generated are secure and fit for purpose.

Clients

My only requirement was a client that supported both iOS and Android. Now, some of that may be my fault, as I was running Dendrite (what else am I going to run on a Pi 3?). But everything from signup to notifications to message persistence was a chore, and the majority of clients listed on the Matrix site are at best toy projects.

And I could forgive all that, because I've used free software for a long time, and stuff can be janky. We tolerate it because computing freedom is more important than computing convenience. So let's pretend it was entirely my fault -

There's no great client I can point family to. My two choices for well-supported, maintained, stable clients are an electron app that barely runs on hardware with the RYF mark, or a command-line app that nobody in my family could conceivably use.

I made this argument in the open discussion around whether the Free Software Foundation should move to Libera, or XMPP, or look at something else. The argument was for moving to Libera, considering XMPP, and rejecting Matrix.

Fine, maybe it isn't a Matrix complaint. But it's a bad situation to be in where the flagship client for your protocol barely runs on old equipment. There's enough computer shit sitting in landfills - we don't need to dump a whole lot more chasing faster processors just to be able to ask your girlfriend to pick up some plum tomatoes on her way home.