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Welcome to the Matrix: the FSFE now runs its own server

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The FSFE is eager to support its community with diverse Free Software communication channels. We are happy to announce that we have recently added Matrix to this list. After successful beta tests, every FSFE supporter and volunteer can now create their own Matrix account. We will also use our instance for the FSFE’s virtual booth during FOSDEM!

For over a decade now, the FSFE has been offering an XMPP (also known as Jabber) server as well as a traditional IRC channel for our community to quickly exchange messages. Today we officially open the gates to our new Matrix server, which has been successfully tested for a few months and has a few advantages over XMPP.

A computer screen with Matrix on it in a nice office space
Connect with the FSFE community at FOSDEM – from home!

Federated and encrypted

Matrix is a comparatively new protocol for real-time communication that enables federation similar to XMPP. Federation means that users of one instance can communicate with users of other instances over the same protocol. Matrix has some features directly built in, ranging from automatic encryption to sending pictures and the possibility of audio and video chats, or allowing responding to messages with emojis. With XMPP, some of these features are also available through extensions, but not all servers support all such additional features, which means that some users cannot benefit from them.

Matrix is of course not perfect either, but meanwhile many Free Software organisations such as KDE and Mozilla as well as a number of public administrations use Matrix, for example the French state. And most importantly, the feedback from our test users and teams was very positive. That is why we now invite our community to make up their own mind about Matrix. For the time being, we will keep both Matrix and XMPP running so that individual users, groups, and teams can evaluate the technologies for themselves.

How to enter the Matrix

For those who have an FSFE account - i.e. all supporters and registered volunteers - getting started is super easy. We provide a wiki page where all the necessary information is collected. Due to the encryption features of the messenger, the first steps should be taken with some caution, but after that everything is quite self-explanatory.

If you already have an account on a homeserver other than the FSFE's, you can of course keep it and still join our rooms. There are some recommendations listed in the FSFE space (#fsfe:fsfe.org), such as the main community room #community:fsfe.org. There is also a service by the Matrix developers to migrate one's account from one server to another if you'd like to make use of the fancy fsfe.org handle.

A great way to experience Matrix on a grand scale is at the virtual FOSDEM this coming weekend, where the FSFE will once again have a devroom and a booth. Participation and visiting is possible via distinct Matrix rooms. So get a Matrix account on our homeserver beforehand and join us at FOSDEM!

Like all FSFE services, this one is part of our Free Software infrastructure with public deployment code. We would like to thank Michael Weimann, one of our System Hackers, who maintains the service.