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Free(dom) Software

Matrix web client updates – Bioteket internal messaging

Hi everyone, I recently updated the web client for the matrix server used for Bio’s internal communications. If you were previously using riot.frikbh.net, then you should now use element.frikbh.net instead.

The reason for this change is that the company behind the riot app, Vector, lost a trademarking case. Marketing bullshit aside, it’s actually pretty important that they can prevent malicious people from posting malware into various app stores that have the same name as this app, and a trademark is a useful legal tool to that end. In any case, the name element is likely to stay long term.

So what’s all this about? Who is Vector, what’s Matrix, Riot/Element, and what does it have to do with Bioteket?

Okay, let’s take it from the top. Matrix is a messaging protocol. It’s not an app like Signal or Whatsapp, it’s a set of rules that anyone can implement in their own app. If you and I use different apps that follow the same protocol, then we can communicate just fine. What the matrix protocol supports is federated, end-to-end encrypted messaging. Federated means that anyone can host their own server running a software implementation of matrix, and users who make accounts on that server can communicate with users on other servers. This allows the infrastructure costs to be distributed throughout the network, preventing the need for monetization, and it allows for data ownership/sovereignty to be locally held. End-to-end encryption means that messages are encrypted from your device to the recipient’s device, and so they cannot be read even by the operator of the server(s) that handles the communication. There’s a ton of other neat functionality on top, but federation and encryption are enough to understand here (and you can read more here https://matrix.org/faq/)

Because matrix is an open protocol, it has been implemented in many different client apps (the software that you run on your own device). Almost all are free software, giving us the kind of freedoms that we crave. Element is one client that you can use, and it’s maintained by the company that’s one of the biggest contributors to the Matrix.org foundation. Their revenue model is to create free software and sell hosting and support to businesses. By releasing the code freely, their product is better both because it’s made trustworthy, and because a messaging platform having more users is a plus. So this virtuous cycle provides us with great software for handling our communications for free and with no strings attached.

What this latest update is about is the web client, which you can now see at element.frikbh.net. There, you can use your browser (firefox, chrome etc.) to run the same software that you would otherwise install on your computer or phone, making it very convenient for some situations. It’s a great way to get started, and otherwise you can download one of these clients https://matrix.org/faq/#which-matrix-clients-support-e2e and set your server to matrix.frikbh.net to make an account on the server I’m hosting.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to @rmblror:frikbh.net from anywhere in matrix or by email to rmblror@pm.me