Further details on Critical Security Update in Synapse affecting all versions prior to 0.34.1 (CVE-2019-5885)

15.01.2019 00:00 — Security Neil Johnson

On Thursday Jan 10th we released a Critical Security Update (Synapse 0.34.0.1/0.34.1.1), which fixes a serious security bug in Synapse 0.34.0 and earlier. Many deployments have now upgraded to 0.34.0.1 or 0.34.1.1, and we now consider it appropriate to disclose more information about the issue, to provide context and encourage the remaining affected servers to upgrade as soon as possible.

In Synapse 0.11 (Nov 2015) we added a configuration parameter called “macaroon_secret_key” which relates to our use of macaroons in authentication. Macaroons are authentication tokens which must be signed by the server which generates them, to prevent them being forged by attackers. “macaroon_secret_key” defines the key which is used for this signature, and it must therefore be kept secret to preserve the security of the server.

If the option is not set, Synapse will attempt to derive a secret key from other secrets specified in the configuration file. However, in all versions of Synapse up to and including 0.34.0, this process was faulty and a predictable value was used instead.

So if, your homeserver.yaml does not contain a macaroon_secret_key, you need to upgrade to 0.34.1.1 or 0.34.0.1 or Debian 0.34.0-3~bpo9+2 immediately to prevent the risk of account hijacking.

The vulnerability affects any Synapse installation which does not have a macaroon_secret_key setting. For example, the Debian and Ubuntu packages from Matrix.org, Debian and Ubuntu include a configuration file without an explicit macaroon_secret_key and must upgrade. Anyone who hasn't updated their config since Nov 2015 or who grandfathered their config from the Debian/Ubuntu packages will likely also be affected.

We are not aware of this vulnerability being exploited in the wild, but if you are running an affected server it may still be wise to check your synapse's user_ips database table for any unexpected access to your server's accounts. You could also check your accounts' device lists (shown under Settings in Riot) for unexpected devices, although this is not as reliable as an attacker could cover their tracks to remove unexpected devices.

We'll publish a full post-mortem of the issue once we are confident that most affected servers have been upgraded.

We'd like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by this - especially to folks who upgraded since Friday who were in practice not affected. Due to the nature of the issue we wanted to minimise details about the issue until people had a chance to upgrade. We also did not follow a planned disclosure procedure because Synapse 0.34.1 already unintentionally disclosed the existence of the bug by fixing it (causing the logout bug for affected users which led us to pull the original Synapse 0.34.1 release).

On the plus side, we are approaching the end of beta for Synapse, and going forwards hope to see much better stability and security across the board.

Thanks again for your patience,

The Matrix.org Team

This Week in Matrix 2019-01-11

11.01.2019 00:00 — This Week in Matrix Neil Johnson

Welcome!

Do not panic, Benpa is away, I repeat, Benpa is away. Nonetheless TWIM lives on!

Spec

Lots of spec work this week, and a shout out to anoa for his magical mscbot that provides pokes, nudges and updates on all things spec. Here's what mscbot had to say about the past week.

Approved MSCs

[MSC 1497]: Advertising support of experimental features in the CS API [MSC 1339]: Proposal to add a GET method to read account data [MSC 1501]: Room version upgrades

Final Comment Period

MSC 1708: .well-known support for server name resolution MSC 1711: X.509 certificate verification for federation connections

New and In Progress MSCs

[MSC 1794]: Federation v2 Invite API [MSC 1796]: Improved e2e notifications [MSC 1797]: Proposal for more granular profile error codes [MSC 1640]: Replace event IDs with hashes [MSC 1776]: Implementing peeking via /sync [MSC 1777]: peeking over federation [MSC 1779]: Proposal for Open Governance for Matrix.org (v2)

(A few may be missing as we're still tweaking mscbot :)

Dendrite

Brendan had this to say:-

The Dendrite audit is over! A bunch of issues have been created on the Dendrite GitHub repository, as well as a project board in order to keep track of everything: https://github.com/matrix-org/dendrite/projects/2 There's a fair amount of issues that have been labeled as “good first issue”, so feel free to pick them up and open pull requests if you're looking into hacking on Dendrite! :)

And whilst we have your attention - here's Brendan & Matthew talking through the audit in this week's Matrix Live!

Synapse

Neil says:-

both contain critical security updates so please update asap for more details, we'll be able to share a bit more about the vuln once admins have had a chance to upgrade.

Meanwhile Hawkowl has been cranking out bug fixes and perf improvements and in particular taking a look at taming the user_ips table.

While Debian packager Andrewsh adds:-

latest synapse (0.34.1.1, Python 3) in Debian, fixing CVE-2019-5885; an update to a previous release fixing this CVE uploaded to stretch-backports, using Python 2. Dependencies for a Python 3 upload approved in stretch-backports, a Python 3 upload of 0.34.1.1 will be following later this week

Riot/iOS

Riot-iOS 0.7.11 has been released, with lots of bug fixes.

We have been working on e2e new screens (like key backup setup) and the re-skinning of the app.

Riot/Android

Working to improve notifications style.

Split screen mode will be supported on next release!

Continuous autofocus on the Camera has been enabled.

Also fighting bugs on registration.

Bridges

Halfshot has this to say:

Matrix-appservice-purple is being renamed to matrix-bifröst, on the basis that we now bridge to things and "burning rainbow bridge" seemed like a good description.

Other things that have happened: Performance improvements, as always. XMPP -> Matrix typing notifications XMPP -> Matrix avatars XMPP -> Matrix uploads * Matrix -> XMPP uploads (via oob)

and then follows up with this:-

As promised, we've got a discord bridge release out today. v0.4.0-rc1 has landed! See the change notes https://github.com/Half-Shot/matrix-appservice-discord/releases/tag/v0.4.0-rc1 . Thank you to Sorunome for doing a huge amount of work on this!
@swedneck reports that:

linuxgaming.life is now running matrix-appservice-discord v0.4.0-rc1.

Matrix.org Foundation

Matthew has a final draft of the Matrix.org Foundation governance document ready: https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/blob/matthew/msc1779/proposals/1779-open-governance.md. Comments on https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/pull/1779 would be much appreciated!  We expect to propose merging it next week, and then incorporating it into the final Articles of the foundation.

Riot Web

Loads and loads of work happening on https://riot.im/experimental which is now where all new development is happening as we race towards launching the new design.  Highlights include:

  • All new key verification is implemented! (in olm & matrix-js-sdk).  We're currently hooking up the UX.
  • Online key backup is pretty much finished.
  • Cross-signing is up next.
  • Redesign backlog is progressing (slightly stuck on making the RoomList resizing work nicely, but almost there)
  • Finalising the all new registration/login screens
  • ...and loads of other stuff too.

Meanwhile...

kitsune reports that:

Sending files landed in master branches of libQMatrixClient and Quaternion. Finally you can send your Quaternion screenshots (as any other images, jingles, cat videos etc.) to Matrix using Quaternion ;)

Also, libQMatrixClient is available as a Conan repository, for developers who'd like to use Conan to track dependencies.

progserega reports that:

Hello to all! I am write matrix bot for bridge messages between matrix and social network vk.com (russian analog of facebook). https://github.com/progserega/MatrixVkBot

alphapapa reports that:

matrix-client.el gained a room-list buffer, which can be sorted by unread status, name, number of members, etc, and has a right-click context menu like the room-list sidebar.

matrix-client.el gained right-click context menus in the room sidebar, allowing to set room priority, notifications, etc.

The matrix-client.el git repository has moved to: https://github.com/alphapapa/matrix-client.el

Stanislav N. aka pztrn reports that:

Hey guys, joined here to post another thing that works in Matrix https://gitlab.com/pztrn/check_mk_matrix_notifications it is a script that sends check_mk notifications to Matrix. Check_mk is a "plugin" for Nagios NMS.

Cadair reports that:

It's not my update but I saw this HomeAssistant addon for matrix (https://github.com/hassio-addons/addon-matrix) and wanted to make sure it got a shoutout on TWIM. [Seeing how nobody else has posted it in here, just on twitter etc.]

Morgan McMillian (thrrgilag) reports that:

I published v1.0.1 of the pnut-matrix bridge this week which brings public pnut.io chat rooms to the matrix network. Features include syncing of pnut.io names and avatars, matrix users ability to authorize their pnut.io accounts, and administrative controls for managing linked rooms. Project can be found at https://gitlab.dreamfall.space/thrrgilag/pnut-matrix and discussion is at #pnut-matrix:monkeystew.net

MMJD reports that:

ma1uta's MXToot deserves mention in the blog, and in https://matrix.org/docs/projects/try-matrix-now.html . People should not be wanting of Twitter over Decentralized-Federated F(L)OSS feeds in their Matrix room.

uforia reports that:

in the koma project, the desktop client continuum now does a full sync when the user account doesn't seem to have joined any chat rooms, this way, it can recover from some disk IO errors, or more commonly, unclean shutdowns. A ca-certificates issue with Java 11 on Debian stable was found while running a bot on a headless server, more details and the solution is in the README

vabd reports that:

Our first specs proposal of 2019 just landed in the form of SCS #16, which specifies the data/event structure for trust authorities. This is a big step as TAs play a key role in Informo's trust/reputation system!

In the meantime, we've also opened SCS #19, which proposes a rework of the specs' introduction with the idea to give newcomers a more accessible and immediate way to figure out what Informo is about, and give them some starting points so they can dive deeper into it if interested. It's a rather small one and we'd love people to give it a look so we can aim for the most newcomer-friendly version possible

We've also just opened SCS #21 which specifies a way for a source to change the Matrix user it uses to publish articles (e.g. if it was previously using a server managed by non trustworthy people). As with all of our proposals introducing changes in behaviour, it's open for people to share their comments on it for the next 7 days.

Maximus reports that:

The first alpha release for mxisd v1.3.0 has been released with already major performance improvements. Early testing and reporting about success/failure would be very much appreciated as v1.3.0 will break backward compatibility. We have been running it on our own servers for about a week now and feels really good and stable.

Friedger Müffke reports that:

I just launched OI Chat, a matrix service dedicated to Blockstack users (https://www.producthunt.com/posts/oi-chat).

It is a home server that does not rely on any passwords but on cryptography and user-owned storage.

OI Chat uses one-time logins to verify the ownership of a username that can only be created by the user if they control the blockstack account.

...and that's all this week, folks!  Your normal hand-crafted artisanal benpa confectionery will be back next week.

Critical Security Update: Synapse 0.34.0.1/Synapse 0.34.1.1

10.01.2019 00:00 — Security Neil Johnson

After releasing Synapse v0.34.1, we have become aware of a security vulnerability affecting all previous versions (CVE-2019-5885). v0.34.1 closed the vulnerability but, in some cases, caused users to be logged out of their clients, so we do not recommend v0.34.1 for production use.

Today we release two mitigating versions v0.34.0.1 and v0.34.1.1. Both versions close the vulnerability and will not cause users to be logged out. All installations should be upgraded to one or other immediately.

  • Admins who would otherwise upgrade to v0.34.1 (or those that have already done so) should upgrade to v0.34.1.1.
  • Admins on v0.34.0, who do not wish to bring in new non-security related behaviour, should upgrade to v0.34.0.1.

You can get the new updates for v0.34.0.1 and v0.34.1.1 here or any of the sources mentioned at https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse. Note, Synapse is now available from PyPI, pick it up here. See also our Synapse installation guide page.

We will publish more details of the vulnerability once admins have had a chance to upgrade. To our knowledge the vulnerability has not been exploited in the wild.

Many thanks for your patience, we are moving ever closer to Synapse reaching v1.0, and fixes like this one edge us ever closer.

Thanks also to the package maintainers who have coordinated with us to ensure distro packages are available for a speedy upgrade!

This Week in Matrix 2019-01-04

04.01.2019 00:00 — This Week in Matrix Ben Parsons

Welcome to 2019

It's been 2019 for several days now, plenty of time to get used to it! Let's get started with the first TWIM of the year!

Matrix Live S3E09 from 35C3

Several Matrix-ers attended 35C3 in Leipzig last month, you can check out Matrix Live recorded from the conference below (also includes some screenshots and other clips of the event), and also watch a talk given by this author titled Matrix, the current status and year to date.

Welcoming Jason Robinson to New Vector

Decentralisation lover and Python fan Jason Robinson joins New Vector!

one of my dreams of working for a company that is a driver and leader in open source and open standards is coming true

matrix-appservice-purple

Hey Half-Shot, what bridges have you worked on this week?

matrix-appservice-purple got soft launched on matrix.org and is happily bridging XMPP and matrix communities together. I am on full bug and feature fixing duty for it and the consensus from both sides is that it's looking pretty awesome.
The matrix-appservice-purple bridge is coming along leaps and bounds, with formatting fixes, presence handling and speedier message delivey both ways. Also a shoutout to the XMPP community for guidling me through the XEP landscape and giving the bridge a thorough testing. :)

Riot Web Experimental

Riot Web Experimental was announced in a blog post last month, and is ready to get some more testing! Note that the name is still "experimental", but to get an image of where things are going, please give it a try!

http://riot.im/experimental

Riot iOS

Photo sharing via the app share extension has been fixed this week.
At the time of writing, a new Riot iOS is baking with all bug fixes made the last month.

Riot Android

Riot 0.8.21 has been released on 01/02 on the PlayStore and on F-Droid.

This version contains:

  • A new notification troubleshoot screen with the possibility to run a diagnostic and to submit bug report. Feedbacks are already coming and we improve this screen incrementally to help users.
  • A new invitations counter on the group icon in the home screen
  • Other bug fixes
We are still working on push/notification reliability. Riot Play Store resources have been translated into 8 languages so far: Basque, Bulgarian, Chinese (Traditional), French, German, Hungarian, Italian and Portuguese (Brazil).

matrix-client.el's many updates

alphapapa provided many updates for matrix-client.el this week, I recommend chatting in #matrix-client.el:matrix.org where the cultists Emacs users and client devs hang out.

matrix-client.el gained more room sorting options and a /priority command to set room priority. It also includes a workaround for a Google Chrome drag-and-drop bug on Linux, so now Chrome users can drag-and-drop URLs, files, and images directly into room buffers to upload them.

matrix-client.el gained a new notifications-buffer feature that shows notifications from multiple rooms in a single list, allowing you to easily monitor multiple rooms at once and jump to events in them.
e.g. I can see messages from #matrix and #twim in the same window, and reply to messages in both rooms from the same prompt

koma project: now continuum-desktop (client) and koma library

uforia from koma announced that the client formerly known as koma is now continuum-desktop:

in the koma project, the desktop client now has continuous integration and prebuilt packages for Mac and Linux; and you can click on image messages to zoom in. A simple weather bot is created reusing the same implementation of matrix client api. Send it the name of a city, and it will fetch the current weather using openweathermap

mxisd

Max, creator of mxisd, announced:

All versions of mxisd dropped support for Riot v0.17.8, introducing a bug affecting many of its features. Any new release integrating this PR will also be dropped of support. mxisd users are strongly encouraged to roll back to v0.17.7

This design concern is noted by the riot-web team and is under investigation.

Dendrite audit progress

Brendan on the progress of the Dendrite audit:

Dendrite's audit is finally coming to an end! I'm happy to say I just finished the “data collection” phase, in which I looked at everything that needs to be either fixed or implemented in Dendrite. This represents 90% of the work and around 3 weeks of full-time work. All that's left to do now is some triaging in the data (which is available here, by the way), into order to have a clear view on what's left to do in the audit. Expect a lot of new issues and a shiny project board appearing on the Dendrite repository next week ?

Informo news

Informo is a project intended to enable information sharing, especially for vulnerable activists. It is enabled by Matrix. vabd, the mystery individual behind the project announced:

Our specs bot, which shouts in Matrix rooms when the state of a proposal to a specs project changes, got an upgrade: it now handles concurrency better, and can now send multiple messages if multiple matching labels are added to the proposal in the same action (before, it just wouldn't know what to do in such an event and would fail silently).

msc-chatbot

The MSC process is the formal process by which changes are submitted to become part of the Matrix specification. anoa has been working on a bot to help with the process:

msc-chatbot now exists. It has commands that let you view the status of current MSCs, as well as a daily summary of MSCs to keep people up to date.

Matrix-Minecraft bridge

TravisR, as if he has time to be working on such things, has announced the revival of his Matrix-Minecraft bridge:

I've brought my Matrix<-->Minecraft bridge back to life in the form of a Bukkit plugin. It's still in the very early stages of development and requires you to compile it yourself to get it, but it is a thing. Check it out on GitHub: https://github.com/turt2live/matrix-minecraft
It'll be designed to work as a public hosted bridge, so someone could use t2bot.io to bridge their minecraft server (for example)

stickerpack dimension migration tool

Dandellion has created a tool for stickerpack creators:

I've finished https://dali99.github.io/stickerpack-dimension-migration-tool/ for a niceish way to make migrations files for custom stickerpacks in dimension

XMPP (as Jabber) turns 20

As noted in The XMPP Newsletter:

Today is Jabber's 20th anniversary! Jabber would later be standardized and renamed to XMPP.

On this subject, it's always worth thinking about the importance of openness and interoperability in messaging. This recent article in Linux Journal is a reminder of the need to avoid proprietary vendor lock in, and mentions both XMPP and Matrix.

We'll meet again…

Come chat in #twim:matrix.org with your Matrix news to be featured in this post. Next Friday there will be another weekly edition, but before then expect to see an edition to the effect "benpa's best-of-the-community 2018".

This Week in Matrix 2018-12-28

28.12.2018 00:00 — This Week in Matrix Ben Parsons

Welcome to the last TWIM of the year

It's the 28th of December as I write this, and I hope you had a good year. Long as it is, I recommend reading Matthew's write-up of the year, as it covers a lot of ground!

Many of the core team have been out of the office this week, but there are still plenty of updates to share from the Matrix ecosystem!

mxisd v1.2.2

Max released mxisd v1.2.2:

mxisd had a Holiday-special release: v1.2.2 before v1.3.0.

This release introduces two new big features:

  • Username login rewriting via 3PID to allow advanced flows, like bypassing the synapse restriction of having numerical usernames for non-guest users
  • Support for multiple Base DNs for LDAP backends
Work has started on v1.3.0 so this is definitely the last release before a non-backward compatible release.

Scylla

VaNilLa has started a new client, a web app build in Elm:

Hi all! I am working on a Matrix client in Elm, and I was recommended to share it here: Scylla

koma-desktop

druig:

koma-desktop is updated to JavaFx 11 and installation is simplified. Dependencies, including native modules can be packaged into one single file, which only needs to be downloaded and run. Java Runtime 11 is the only runtime dependency. Now it's just cross-compilation that needs to be set up before packaged releases can be provided for Mac, Windows, and Linux users.

Prometheus Alertmanager bot for Matrix

Jason Robinson:

I started work on a Prometheus Alertmanager bot for Matrix. The basic idea is that Alertmanager can send webhook alert events to the bot which will then send the formatted events to configured rooms based on the alert receiver. It works, but is still early work in progress. See code and info here: https://git.feneas.org/jaywink/matrix-alertmanager.

Also mirrored on GitHub: https://github.com/jaywink/matrix-alertmanager

Fractal 4.0

Alexandre Franke:

As expected the Fractal team released 4.0 and is already hard at work on the next micro version. We recommend getting it from Flathub like we usually do.

From the release notes:

New features:

  • Enhanced history view with adaptive layout, day divider
  • Reorganised headerbar, app menu merged with user menu
  • Larger display of emoji-only messages
  • Some performance improvements
  • Opening a room jumps to first unread message
Bugfixes:
  • More reliable notifications
  • Fixed display bug for avatars
Under the hood:
  • Large code refactor
  • Logging infrastructure
  • Continuous integration
  • More informative build output

maubot

tulir working on maubot:

The new command handling system in maubot is ready. The new system should be much nicer to use when developing plugins.

Previously maubot had a system that was designed after the improved bot support spec proposal, but it wasn't very nice or pythonic. If/when the proposal or something similar goes through, I'll probably add support for it in the new command handling system.

Next I'll make some developer docs so that other people could actually make their own plugins.

The code is at https://github.com/maubot/maubot and you can ask about maubot in #maubot:maunium.net.

matrix-client.el new features

alphapapa:

Emacs makes it so easy to integrate things. Now you can send org-mode syntax messages with the /org command in matrix-client.el.

Tab-completion of usernames and IDs was added to matrix-client.el.

matrix-to GitHub app

t3chguy has come out of hiding to announce:

https://github.com/apps/matrix-to is a Github App which makes use of their shiny and new Content Attachments API/Webhook. When a matrix.to or view.matrix.org URL is used this app is activated. It adds a little snippet with the Room Title and Topic (if the room is peekable from matrix.org). In future it'll work for event permalinks, but currently there is no support for peeking context/event in Matrix API.

Example can be seen at https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix.to/issues/52#issuecomment-449878490. Idea courtesy of TravisR.

See you next year

So there you have it.

I'm at 35c3 with some known characters from the Matrix world (as well as 15,000 others.) If you're here too, come visit us in our assembly, and also make sure to come to Dijkstra tomorrow to watch me present a look back at on the last year: https://fahrplan.events.ccc.de/congress/2018/Fahrplan/events/9400.html. We have recorded a message for Matrix Live from 35c3, but will post tomorrow with some more footage from the event.

Otherwise, see you next year Matrix fan!

The 2018 Matrix Holiday Special!

25.12.2018 00:00 — General Matthew Hodgson

Hi all,

It's that time again where we break out the mince pies and brandy butter (at least for those of us in the UK) and look back on the year to see how far Matrix has come, as well as anticipate what 2019 may bring!

Overview

It's fair to say that 2018 has been a pretty crazy year.  We have had one overriding goal: to take the funding we received in January, stabilise and freeze the protocol and get it and the reference implementations out of beta and to a 1.0 - to provide a genuinely open and decentralised mainstream alternative to the likes of Slack, Discord, WhatsApp etc.  What's so crazy about that, you might ask?

Well, in parallel with this we've also seen adoption of Matrix accelerating ahead of our dev plan at an unprecedented speed: with France selecting Matrix to power the communication infrastructure of its whole public sector - first trialling over the summer, and now confirmed for full roll-out as of a few weeks ago.  Meanwhile there are several other similar-sized projects on the horizon which we can't talk about yet.  We've had the growing pains of establishing New Vector as a startup in order to hire the core team and support these projects.  We've launched Modular to provide professional-quality SaaS Matrix hosting for the wider community and help fund the team.  And most importantly, we've also been establishing the non-profit Matrix.org Foundation to formalise the open governance of the Matrix protocol and protect and isolate it from any of the for-profit work.

However: things have just about come together.  Almost all the spec work for 1.0 is done and we are now aiming to get a 1.0 released in time by the end of January (in time for FOSDEM).  Meanwhile Synapse has improved massively in terms of performance and stability (not least having migrated over to Python 3); Riot's spectacular redesign is now available for testing right now; E2E encryption is more stable than ever with the usability rework landing as we speak.  And we've even got a full rewrite of Riot/Android in the wings.

But it's certainly been an interesting ride.  Longer-term spec work has been delayed by needing to apply band-aids to mitigate abuse of the outstanding issues.  Riot redesign was pushed back considerably due to prioritising Riot performance over UX. The E2E UX work has forced us to consider E2E holistically… which does not always interact well with structuring the dev work into bite-sized chunks.  Dendrite has generally been idling whilst we instead pour most of our effort into getting to 1.0 on Synapse (rather than diluting 1.0 work across both projects). These tradeoffs have been hard to make, but hopefully we have chosen the correct path in the end.

Overall, as we approach 1.0, the project is looking better than ever - hopefully everyone has seen both Riot and Synapse using less RAM and being more responsive and stable, E2E being more reliable, and anyone who has played with the Riot redesign beta should agree that it is light-years ahead of yesterday's Riot and something which can genuinely surpass today's centralised proprietary incumbents. And that is unbelievably exciting :D

We'd like to thank everyone for continuing to support Matrix - especially our Patreon & Liberapay supporters, whose donations continue to be critical for helping fund the core dev team, and also those who are supporting the project indirectly by hosting homeservers with Modular.  We are going to do everything humanly possible to ship 1.0 over the coming weeks, and then the sky will be the limit!

Before going into what else 2019 will hold, however, let's take the opportunity to give a bit more detail on the various core team projects which landed in 2018…

France

DINSIC (France's Ministry of Digital, IT & Comms) have been busy building out their massive cross-government Matrix deployment and custom Matrix client throughout most of the year.  After the announcement in April, this started off with an initial deployment over the summer, and is now moving towards the full production rollout, as confirmed at the Paris Open Source Summit a few weeks ago by Mounir Mahjoubi, the Secretary of State of Digital.  All the press coverage about this ended up in French, with the biggest writeup being at CIO Online, but the main mention of Matrix (badly translated from French) is:

Denouncing the use of tools such as WhatsApp; a practice that has become commonplace within ministerial offices, Mounir Mahjoubi announced the launch in production of Tchap, based on Matrix and Riot: an instant messaging tool that will be provided throughout the administrations. So, certainly, developing a product can have a certain cost. Integrating it too. "Free is not always cheaper but it's always more transparent," admitted the Secretary of State.

The project really shows off Matrix at its best, with up to 60 different deployments spread over different ministries and departments; multiple clusters per Ministry; end-to-end encryption enabled by default (complete with e2e-aware antivirus scanning); multiple networks for different classes of traffic; and the hope of federating with the public Matrix network once the S2S API is finalised and suitable border gateways are available.  It's not really our project to talk about, but we'll try to share as much info as we can as roll-out continues.

The Matrix Specification

A major theme throughout the year has been polishing the Matrix Spec itself for its first full stable release, having had more than enough time to see which bits work in practice now and which bits need rethinking.  This all kicked off with the creation of the Matrix Spec Change process back in May, which provides a formal process for reviewing and accepting contributions from anyone into the spec.  Getting the balance right between agility and robustness has been quite tough here, especially pre-1.0 where we've needed to move rapidly to resolve the remaining long-lived sticking points.  However, a process like this risks encouraging the classic “Perfect is the Enemy of Good” problem, as all and sundry jump in to apply their particular brand of perfectionism to the spec (and/or the process around it) and risk smothering it to death with enthusiasm.  So we've ended up iterating a few times on the process and hopefully now converged on an approach which will work for 1.0 and beyond. If you haven't checked out the current proposals guide please give it a look, and feel free to marvel at all the MSCs in flight.  You can also see a quick and dirty timeline of all the MSC status changes since we introduced the process, to get an idea of how it's all been progressing.

In August we had a big sprint to cut stable “r0” releases of all the APIs of the spec which had not yet reached a stable release (i.e. all apart from the Client-Server API, which has been stable since Dec 2015 - hence in part the large number of usable independent Matrix clients relative to the other bits of the ecosystem).  In practice, we managed to release 3 out of the 4 remaining APIs - but needed more time to solve the remaining blocking issues with the Server-Server API. So since August (modulo operational and project distractions) we've been plugging away on the S2S API.  

The main blocking issue for a stable S2S API has been State Resolution. This is the fundamental algorithm used to determine the state of a given room whenever a race or partition happens between the servers participating in it.  For instance: if Alice kicks Bob on her server at the same time as Charlie ops Bob on his server, who should win? It's vital that all servers reach the same conclusion as to the state of the room, and we don't want servers to have to replicate a full copy of the room's history (which could be massive) to reach a consistent conclusion.  Matrix's original state resolution algorithm dates back to the initial usable S2S implementation at the beginning of 2015 - but over time deficiencies in the algorithm became increasingly apparent. The most obvious issue is the “Hotel California” bug, where users can be spontaneously re-joined to a room they've previously left if the room's current state is merged with an older copy of the room on another server and the ‘wrong' version wins the conflict - a so-called state-reset.

After a lot of thought we ended up proposing an all new State Resolution algorithm in July 2018, nicknamed State Resolution Reloaded.  This extends the original algorithm to consider the ‘auth chain' of state events when performing state resolution (i.e. the sequence of events that a given state event cites as evidence of its validity) - as well as addressing a bunch of other issues.  For those wishing to understand in more detail, there's the MSC itself, the formal terse description of the algorithm now merged into the unstable S2S spec - or alternatively there's an excellent step-by-step explanation and guided example from uhoreg (warning: contains Haskell :)  Or you can watch Erik and Matthew try to explain it all on Matrix Live back in July.

Since the initial proposal in July, the algorithm has been proofed out in a test jig, iterated on some more to better specify how to handle rejected events, implemented in Synapse, and is now ready to roll.  The only catch is that to upgrade to it we've had to introduce the concept of room versioning, and to flush out historical issues we require you to re-create rooms to upgrade them to the new resolution algorithm. Getting the logistics in place for this is a massive pain, but we've got an approach now which should be sufficient. Clients will be free to smooth over the transition in the UI as gracefully as possible (and in fact Riot has this already hooked up).  So: watch this space as v2 rooms with all-new state resolution in the coming weeks!

Otherwise, there are a bunch of other issues in the S2S API which we are still working through (e.g. changing event IDs to be hashes of event contents to avoid lying about IDs, switching to use normal X.509 certificates for federation and so resolve problems with Perspectives, etc).  

Once these land and are implemented in Synapse over the coming weeks, we will be able to finally declare a 1.0!

Also on the spec side of things, it's worth noting that a lot of effort went into improving performance for clients in the form of the Lazy Loading Members MSC.  This ended up consuming a lot of time over the summer as we updated Synapse and the various matrix-*-sdks (and thus Riot) to only calculate and send details to the clients about members who are currently talking in a room, whereas previously we sent the entire state of the room to the client (even including users who had left). The end result however is a 3-5x reduction in RAM on Riot, and a 3-5x speedup on initial sync.  The current MSC is currently being merged as we speak into the main spec (thanks Kitsune!) for inclusion in upcoming CS API 0.5.

The Matrix.org Foundation (CIC!)

Alongside getting the open spec process up and running, we've been establishing The Matrix.org Foundation as an independent non-profit legal entity responsible for neutrally safeguarding the Matrix spec and evolution of the protocol.  This kicked off in June with the “Towards Open Governance” blog post, and continued with the formal incorporation of The Matrix.org Foundation in October.  Since then, we've spent a lot of time with the non-profit lawyers evolving MSC1318 into the final Articles of Association (and other guidelines) for the Foundation.  This work is basically solved now; it just needs MSC1318 to be updated with the conclusions (which we're running late on, but is top of Matthew's MSC todo list).

In other news, we have confirmation that the Community Interest Company (CIC) status for The Matrix.org Foundation has been approved - this means that the CIC Regulator has independently reviewed the initial Articles of Association and approved that they indeed lock the mission of the Foundation to be non-profit and to act solely for the good of the wider online community.  In practice, this means that the Foundation will be formally renamed The Matrix.org Foundation C.I.C, and provides a useful independent safeguard to ensure the Foundation remains on track.

The remaining work on the Foundation is:

  • Update and land MSC1318, particularly on clarifying the relationship between the legal Guardians (Directors) of the Foundation and the technical members of the core spec team, and how funds of the Foundation will be handled.
  • Update the Articles of Association of the Foundation based on the end result of MSC1318
  • Transfer any Matrix.org assets over from New Vector to the Foundation.  Given Matrix's code is all open source, there isn't much in the way of assets - we're basically talking about the matrix.org domain and website itself.
  • Introduce the final Guardians for the Foundation.
We'll keep you posted with progress as this lands over the coming months.

Riot

2018 has been a bit of a chrysalis year for Riot: the vast majority of work has been going into the massive redesign we started in May to improve usability & cosmetics, performance, stability, and E2E encryption usability improvements.  We've consciously spent most of the year feature frozen in order to polish what we already have, as we've certainly been guilty in the past of landing way too many features without necessarily applying the needed amount of UX polish.

However, as of today, we're super-excited to announce that Riot's redesign is at the point where the intrepid can start experimenting with it - in fact, internally most of the team has switched over to dogfooding (testing) the redesign as of a week or so ago.  Just shut down your current copy of Riot/Web or Desktop and go to https://riot.im/experimental instead if you want to experiment (we don't recommend running both at the same time).  Please note that it is still work-in-progress and there's a lot of polish still to land and some cosmetic bugs still hanging around, but it's definitely at the point of feeling better than the old app.  Most importantly, please provide feedback (by hitting the lifesaver-ring button at the bottom left) to let us know how you get on. See the Riot blog for more details!

Meanwhile, on the performance and stability side of things - Lazy Loading (see above) made a massive difference to performance on all platforms; shrinking RAM usage by 3-5x and similarly speeding up launch and initial sync times.  Ironically, this ended up pushing back the redesign work, but hopefully the performance improvements will have been noticeable in the interim.  We also switched the entire rich text composer from using Facebook's Draft.js library to instead use Slate.js (which has generally been a massive improvement for stability and maintainability, although took ages to land - huge thanks to t3chguy for getting it over the line). Meanwhile Travis has been blitzing through a massive list of key “First Impression” bugs to ensure that as many of Riot's most glaring usability gotchas are solved.

We also welcomed ever-popular Stickers to the fold - the first instance of per-account rather than per-room widgets, which ended up requiring a lot of new infrastructure in both Riot and the underlying integration manager responsible for hosting the widgets.  But judging by how popular they are, the effort seems to be worth it - and paves the way for much more exciting interactive widgets and integrations in future!

An unexpectedly large detour/distraction came in the form of GDPR back in May - we spent a month or so running around ensuring that both Riot and Matrix are GDPR compliant (including the necessary legal legwork to establish how GDPR even applies to a decentralised technology like Matrix).  If you missed all that fun, you can read about it here.  Hopefully we won't have to do anything like that again any time soon...

And finally: on the mobile side, much of the team has been distracted helping out France with their Matrix deployment.  However, we've been plugging away on Riot/Mobile, keeping pace with the development on Riot/Web - but most excitingly, we've also found time to experiment with a complete rewrite of Riot/Android in Kotlin, using Realm and Rx (currently nicknamed Riot X).  The rewrite was originally intended as a test-jig for experimenting with the redesign on mobile, but it's increasingly becoming a fully fledged Matrix client… which launches and syncs over 5x faster than today's Riot/Android.  If you're particularly intrepid you should be able to run the app by checking out the project in Android Studio and hitting ‘run'. We expect the rewrite to land properly in the coming months - watch this space for progress!

E2E Encryption

One of the biggest projects this year has been to get E2E encryption out of beta and turned on by default.  Now, whilst the encryption itself in Matrix has been cryptographically robust since 2016 - its usability has been minimal at best, and we'd been running around polishing the underlying implementation rather than addressing the UX.  However, this year that changed, as we opened a war on about 6 concurrent battlefronts to address the remaining issues. These are:

  • Holistic UX.  Designing a coherent, design-led UX across all of the encryption and key-management functionality.  Nad (who joined Matrix as a fulltime Lead UI/UX designer in August) has been leading the charge on this - you can see a preview of the end result here.  Meanwhile, Dave and Ryan are working through implementing it as we speak.
  • Decryption failures (UISIs).  Whenever something goes wrong with E2E encryption, the symptoms are generally the same: you find yourself unable to decrypt other people's messages.  We've been plugging away chasing these down - for instance, switching from localStorage to IndexedDB in Riot/Web for storing encryption state (to make it harder for multiple tabs to collide and corrupt your encryption state); providing mechanisms to unwedge Olm sessions which have got corrupted (e.g. by restoring from backup); and many others.  We also added full telemetry to track the number of UISIs people are seeing in practice - and the good news is that over the course of the year their occurrence has been steadily reducing.  The bad news is that there are still some edge cases left: so please, whenever you fail to decrypt a message, please make sure you submit a bug report and debug logs from *both* the sender and receiving device.  The end is definitely in sight on these, however, and good news is other battlefronts will also help mitigate UISIs.
  • Incremental Key Backup.  Previously, if you only used one device (e.g. your phone) and you lost that phone, you would lose all your E2E history unless you were in the habit of explicitly manually backing up your keys.  Nowadays, we have the ability to optionally let users encrypt their keys with a passphrase (or recovery key) and constantly upload them to the server for safe keeping.  This was a significant chunk of work, but has actually landed already in Riot/Web and Riot/iOS, but is hidden behind a “Labs” feature flag in Settings whilst we test it and sort out the final UX.
  • Cross-signing Keys. Previously, the only way to check whether you were talking to a legitimate user or an imposter was to independently compare the fingerprints of the keys of the device they claim to be using.  In the near future, we will let users prove that they own their devices by signing them with a per-user identity key, so you only have to do this check once. We've actually already implemented one iteration of cross-signing, but this allowed arbitrary devices for a given user to attest each other (which creates a directed graph of attestations, and associated problems with revocations), hence switching to a simpler approach.
  • Improved Verification. Verifying keys by manually comparing elliptic key fingerprints is incredibly cumbersome and tedious.  Instead, we have proposals for using Short Authentication String comparisons and QR-code scanning to simplify the process.  uhoreg is currently implementing these as we speak :)
  • Search.  Solving encrypted search is Hard, but t3chguy did a lot of work earlier in the year to build out matrix-search: essentially a js-sdk bot which you can host, hand your keys to, and will archive your history using a golang full-text search engine (bleve) and expose a search interface that replaces Synapse's default one.  Of all the battlefronts this one is progressing the least right now, but the hope is to integrate it into Riot/Desktop or other clients so that folks who want to index all their conversations have the means to do so.  On the plus side, all the necessary building blocks are available thanks to t3chguy's hacking.
So, TL;DR: E2E is hard, but the end is in sight thanks to a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  It's possible that we may have opened up too many battlefronts in finishing it off rather than landing stuff gradually.  But it should be transformative when it all lands - and we'll finally be able to turn it on by default for private conversations.  Again, we're aiming to pull this together by the end of January.

Separately, we've been keeping a close eye on MLS - the IETF's activity around standardising scalable group E2E encryption.  MLS has a lot of potential and could provide algorithmic improvements over Olm & Megolm (whist paving the way for interop with other MLS-encrypted comms systems).  But it's also quite complicated, and is at risk of designing out support of decentralised environments. For now, we're obviously focusing on ensuring that Matrix is rock solid with Olm & Megolm, but once we hit that 1.0 we'll certainly be experimenting a bit with MLS too.

Homeservers

The story of the Synapse team in 2018 has been one of alternating between solving scaling and performance issues to support the ever-growing network (especially the massive matrix.org server)... and dealing with S2S API issues; both in terms of fixing the design of State Resolution, Room Versioning etc (see the Spec section above) and doing stop-gap fixes to the current implementation.

Focusing on the performance side of things, the main wins have been:

  • Splitting yet more functionality out into worker processes which can scale independently of the master Synapse process.
  • Yet more profiling and optimisation (particularly caching).  Between this and the worker split-out we were able to resolve the performance ceiling that we hit over the summer, and as of right now matrix.org feels relatively snappy.
  • Lazy Loading Members.
  • Python 3.  As everyone should have seen by now, Synapse is now Python 3 by default as of 0.34, which provides significant RAM and CPU improvements across the board as well as a path forwards given Python 2's planned demise at the end of 2019.  If you're not running your Synapse on Python 3 today, you are officially doing it wrong.
There are also some major improvements which haven't fully landed yet:
  • State compression.  We have a new algorithm for storing room state which is ~10x more efficient than the current one.  We'll be migrating to it in by default in future. If you're feeling particularly intrepid you can actually manually use it today (but we don't recommend it yet).
  • Incremental state resolution.  Before we got sucked into redesigning state resolution in general, Erik came up with a proof that it's possible to memoize state resolution and incrementally calculate it whenever state is resolved in a room rather than recalculate it from scratch each time (as is the current implementation).  This would be a significant performance improvement, given non-incremental state res can consume a lot of CPU (making everything slow down when there are lots of room extremities to resolve), and can consume a lot of RAM and has been one of the reasons that synapse's RAM usage can sometimes spike badly. The good news is that the new state res algorithm was designed to also work in this manner.  The bad news is that we haven't yet got back to implementing it yet, given the new algorithm is only just being rolled out now.
  • Chunks.  Currently, Synapse models all events in a room as being part of a single DAG, which can be problematic if you can see lots of disconnected sections of the DAG (e.g. due to intermittent connectivity somewhere in the network), as Synapse will frantically try to resolve all these disconnected sections of DAG together.  Instead, a better solution is to explicitly model these sections of DAG as separate entities called Chunks, and not try to resolve state between disconnected Chunks but instead consider them independent fragments of the room - and thus simplify state resolution calculations significantly. It also fixes an S2S API design flaw where previously we trusted the server to state the ordering (depth) of events they provided; with chunks, the receiving server can keep track of that itself by tracking a DAG of chunks (as well as the normal event DAG within the chunks).  Now, most of the work for this happened already, but is currently parked until new state res has landed.
Meanwhile, over on Dendrite, we made the conscious decision to get 1.0 out the door on Synapse first rather than trying to implement and iterate on the stuff needed for 1.0 on both Synapse & Dendrite simultaneously.  However, Dendrite has been ticking along thanks to work from Brendan, Anoa and APWhitehat - and the plan is to use it for more niche homeserver work at first; e.g. constrained resource devices (Dendrite uses 5-10x less RAM than Synapse on Py3), clientside homeservers, experimental routing deployments, etc.  In the longer term we expect it to grow into a fully fledged HS though!

Bridging

2018 was a bit of a renaissance for Bridging, largely thanks to Half-Shot coming on board in the Summer to work on IRC bridging and finally get to the bottom of the stability issues which plagued Freenode for the previous, uh, few years.  Meanwhile the Slack bridge got its first ever release - and more recently there's some Really Exciting Stuff happening with matrix-appservice-purple; a properly usable bridge through to any protocol that libpurple can speak… and as of a few days ago also supports native XMPP bridging via XMPP.js.  There'll probably be a dedicated blogpost about all of this in the new year, especially when we deploy it all on Matrix.org. Until then, the best bet is to learn more is to watch last week's Matrix Live and hear it all first hand.

Modular

One of the biggest newcomers of 2018 was the launch of Modular.im in October - the world's first commercial Matrix hosting service.  Whilst (like Riot), Modular isn't strictly-speaking a Matrix.org project - it feels appropriate to mention it here, not least because it's helping directly fund the core Matrix dev team.

So far Modular has seen a lot of interest from folks who want to spin up a super-speedy dedicated homeserver run by us rather than having to spend the time to build one themselves - or folks who have yet to migrate from IRC and want a better-than-IRC experience which still bridges well.  One of the nice bits is that the servers are still decentralised and completely operationally independent of one another, and there have been a bunch of really nice refinements since launch, including the ability to point your own DNS at the server; matrix->matrix migration tools; with custom branding and other goodness coming soon.  If you want one-click Matrix hosting, please give Modular a go :)

Right now we're promoting Modular mainly to existing Matrix users, but once the Riot redesign is finished you should expect to see some very familiar names popping up on the platform :D

TWIM

Unless you were living under a rock, you'll hopefully have also realised that 2018 was the year that brought us This Week In Matrix (TWIM) - our very own blog tracking all the action across the whole Matrix community on a weekly basis.  Thank you to everyone who contributes updates, and to Ben for editing it each week. Go flip through the archives to find out what's been going on in the wider community over the course of the year!  (This blog post is already way too long without trying to cover the rest of the ecosystem too :)

Shapes of Things to Come

Finally, a little Easter egg (it is Christmas, after all) for anyone crazy enough to have read this far: The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that one of our accepted talks for FOSDEM 2019 is “Breaking the 100bps barrier with Matrix” in the Real Time Communications devroom.  We don't want to spoil the full surprise, but here's a quick preview of some of the more exotic skunkworks we've been doing on low-bandwidth routing and transports recently.  Right now it shamelessly assumes that you're running within a trusted network, but once we solve that it will of course be be proposed as an MSC for Matrix proper.  A full write-up and code will follow, but for now, here's a mysterious video…

(If you're interested in running Matrix over low-bandwidth networks, please get in touch - we'd love to hear from you...)

2019

So, what will 2019 bring?

In the short term, as should be obvious from the above, our focus is on:

  • r0 spec releases across the board (aka Matrix 1.0)
  • Implementing them in Synapse
  • Landing the Riot redesign
  • Landing all the new E2E encryption UX and features
  • Finalising the Matrix.org Foundation
However, beyond that, there's a lot of possible options on the table in the medium term:
  • Reworking and improving Communities/Groups.
  • Reactions.
  • E2E-encrypted Search
  • Filtering. (empowering users to filter out rooms & content they're not interested in).
  • Extensible events.
  • Editable messages.
  • Extensible Profiles (we've actually been experimenting with this already).
  • Threading.
  • Landing the Riot/Android rewrite
  • Scaling synapse via sharding the master process
  • Bridge UI for discovery of users/rooms and bridge status
  • Considering whether to do a similar overhaul of Riot/iOS
  • Bandwidth-efficient transports
  • Bandwidth-efficient routing
  • Getting Dendrite to production.
  • Inline widgets (polls etc)
  • Improving VoIP over Matrix.
  • Adding more bridges, and improving the current ones..
  • Account portability
  • Replacing MXIDs with public keys
In the longer term, options include:
  • Shared-code cross-platform client SDKs (e.g. sharing a native core library between matrix-{'{'}js,ios,android{'}'}-sdk)
  • Matrix daemons (e.g. running an always-on client as a background process in your OS which apps can connect to via a lightweight CS API)
  • Push notifications via Matrix (using a daemon-style architecture)
  • Clientside homeservers (i.e. p2p matrix) - e.g. compiling Dendrite to WASM and running it in a service worker.
  • Experimenting with MLS for E2E Encryption
  • Storing and querying more generic data structures in Matrix (e.g. object trees; scene graphs)
  • Alternate use cases for VR, IoT, etc.
Obviously we're not remotely going to do all of that in 2019, but this serves to give a taste of the possibilities on the menu post-1.0; we'll endeavour to publish a more solid roadmap when we get to that point.

And on that note, it's time to call this blogpost to a close. Thanks to anyone who read this far, and thank you, as always, for flying Matrix and continuing to support the project.  The next few months should be particularly fun; all the preparation of 2018 will finally pay off :)

Happy holidays,

Matthew, Amandine & the whole Matrix.org team.

Porting Synapse to Python 3

21.12.2018 00:00 — Tech Neil Johnson

Matrix's reference homeserver, Synapse, is written in Python and uses the Twisted networking framework to power its bitslinging across the Internet. The Python version used has been strictly Python 2.7, the last supported version of Python 2, but as of this week that changes! Since Twisted and our other upstream dependencies now support the newest version of Python, Python 3, we are now able to finish the jump and port Synapse to use it by default. The port has been done in a backwards compatible way, written in a subset of Python that is usable in both Python 2 and Python 3, meaning your existing Synapse installs still work on Python 2, while preparing us for a Python 3 future.

Why port?

Porting Synapse to Python 3 prepares Synapse for a post-Python 2 world, currently scheduled for 2020. After the 1st of January in 2020, Python 2 will no longer be supported by the core Python developers and no bugfixes (even critical security ones) will be issued. As the security of software depends very much on the runtime and libraries it is running on top of, this means that by then all Python 2 software in use should have moved to Python 3 or other runtimes.

The Python 3 port has benefits other than just preparing for the End of Life of Python 2.7. Successive versions of Python 3 have improved the standard library, provided newer and clearer syntax for asynchronous code, added opt-in static typing to reduce bugs, and contained incremental performance and memory management improvements. These features, once Synapse stops supporting Python 2, can then be fully utilised to make Synapse's codebase clearer and more performant. One bonus that we get immediately, though, is Python 3's memory compaction of Unicode strings. Rather than storing as UCS-2/UTF-16 or UCS-4/UTF-32, it will instead store it in the smallest possible representation giving a 50%-75% memory improvement for strings only containing Latin-1 characters, such as nearly all dictionary keys, hashes, IDs, and a large proportion of messages being processed from English speaking countries. Non-English text will also see a memory improvement, as it can be commonly stored in only two bytes instead of the four in a UCS-4 “wide” Python 2 build.

Editor's note: If you were wondering how this fits in with Dendrite (the next-gen golang homeserver): our plan is to use Synapse as the reference homeserver for all the current work going on with landing a 1.0 release of the Matrix spec: it makes no sense to try to iterate and converge on 1.0 on both Synapse and Dendrite in parallel. In order to prove that the 1.0 spec is indeed fit for purpose we then also need Synapse to exit beta and hit a 1.0 too, hence the investment to get it there. It's worth noting that over the last year we've been plugging away solidly improving Synapse in general (especially given the increasing number of high-profile deployments out there), so we're committed to getting Synapse to a formal production grade release and supporting it in the long term. Meanwhile, Dendrite development is still progressing - currently acting as a place to experiment with more radical blue-sky architectural changes, especially in low-footprint or even clientside homeservers. We expect it to catch up with Synapse once 1.0 is out the door; and meanwhile Synapse is increasingly benefiting from performance work inspired by Dendrite.

When will the port be released?

The port is has been released in a “production ready” form in Synapse 0.34.0, supporting Python 3.5, 3.6, and 3.7. This will work on installations with and without workers.

What's it like in the real world?

Beta testers of the Python 3 port have reported lower memory usage, including lower memory “spikes” and slower memory growth. You can see this demonstrated on matrix.org:

See 10/15, ~20:00 for the Python 3 migration. This is on some of the Synchrotrons on matrix.org.

See ~11/8 for the Python 3 migration. This is on the Synapse master on matrix.org.

We have also noticed some better CPU utilisation:

See 21:30 for the migration of federation reader 1, and 21:55 for the others. The federation reader is a particular pathological case, where the replacement of lists with iterators internally on Python 3 has given us some big boosts.

See 10/15, 4:00.The CPU utilisation has gone down on synchrotron 1 after the Python 3 migration, but not as dramatically as the federation reader. Synchrotron 3 was migrated a few days later.

As some extra data-points, my personal HS consumes about 300MB now at initial start, and grows to approximately 800MB -- under Python 2 the growth would be near-immediate to roughly 1.4GB.

Where to from here?

Python 2 is still a supported platform for running Synapse for the time being. We plan on ending mainstream support on 1st April 2019, where upon Python 3.5+ will be the only officially supported platform. Additionally, we will give notice ahead of time once we are ready to remove Python 2.7 compatibility from the codebase (which will be no sooner than 1st April). Although slightly inconvenient, we hope that this gives our users and integrators adequate time to migrate, whilst giving us the flexibility to use modern Python features and make Synapse a better piece of software to help power the Matrix community.

How can I try it?

The port is compatible with existing homeservers and configurations, so if you install Synapse inside a Python 3 virtualenv, you can run it from there. Of course, this differs based on your installation method, operating system, and what version of Python 3 you wish to use. Full upgrade notes live here but if you're having problems or want to discuss specific packagings of Synapse please come ask in #synapse:matrix.org.

Thanks

Many thanks go to fellow Synapse developers Erik and Rich for code review, as well as community contributors such as notafile and krombel for laying the foundations many months ago allowing this port to happen. Without them, this wouldn't have happened.

Happy Matrixing,

Amber Brown (hawkowl)

This Week in Matrix 2018-12-21

21.12.2018 00:00 — This Week in Matrix Ben Parsons

Matrix Live: Half-Shot talks bridges, and working on libpurple bridging to Matrix

You may have seen that Half-Shot been working fearlessly and tirelessly on bridges for many, many months. In this episode of Matrix Live Half-Shot chats with Matthew about his work, progress and achievements, with a focus on recent matrix-appservice-purple and XMPP work. Audio is not amazing, but worth listening to get acquainted with recent work.

As a note from Half-Shot:

The matrix-appservice-purple bridge gained a XMPP specific backend for better performance when you want to do just xmpp bridging. It's rather quick right now, and needs dogfooding.

Chat in #purple-bridge:half-shot.uk!

Matrix badges on shields.io

TWIM

Brendan:

A couple of weeks ago, fr1kin PR'd a nice Matrix badge to the Shields project that tells you how many users are in a public room. There were a few issues with it so I PR'd some changes to make the badge more usable, and it's now merged and live (as of yesterday evening), with examples available here! ?
For instance, here's a badge for TWIM: https://img.shields.io/matrix/twim:matrix.org.svg ?

Spec update

New MSC for cross-signing, which has different (hopefully better) semantics from the previous cross-signing MSC.

matrix-bot-sdk support for application services

TravisR, author of matrix-bot-sdk:

matrix-bot-sdk has received early support for application services. Similar to the official matrix-js-sdk, the bot-sdk uses an Intent-based model for making bridges easier to write. Check out the simple example here for more information on how it works.

koma-library

druig continues work on their JavaFX/kotlin client project:

The matrix client API implementation in koma is being extracted into a new repo, which is going to be a lightweight library for Kotlin.

Seaglass now available on homebrew

Aaron Raimist reports that Seaglass is available on homebrew for macOS:

Installing Seaglass is now easier than ever. If you already use Homebrew to manage other packages, you can now install Seaglass with a simple brew cask install seaglass.

If you don't use Homebrew, you can still download Seaglass from GitHub.

matrix-client.el is reborn!

alphapapa reports from a team who have forked and are maintaining a Matrix client for Emacs:

Many additions and improvements to matrix-client.el (https://github.com/jgkamat/matrix-client-el) recently, including a "standalone client" mode that launches Emacs to look like this.

Chat in #matrix-client-el:matrix.org.

matrix-docker-ansible-deploy

Slavi:

the matrix-docker-ansible-deploy playbook has received some bugfixes and improvements lately. Most importantly, it's now running the freshly-released Synapse 0.34.0 under Python 3, so memory usage should be much better.

libQMatrixClient/Quaternion

kitsune:

I started work on matrix: scheme support in libQMatrixClient/Quaternion. Expect more news on this around New Year.

Fractal road to 4.0

Fresh from their hackfest in Seville last week, Alexandre Franke reports:

The Fractal crew spent the week chasing last minutes bugs and made two beta releases (3.99.0 and 3.99.1) in preparation for the big new stable release, 4.0, which is right around the corner.

New Rooms for Space Launches and Aviation

Aaron Raimist has been creating some new rooms:

#space:im.kabi.tk for anyone interested in space, rocket launches, satellites, etc.
Are you wondering what NASA's new Mars Rover is doing? Maybe you live on the west coast of the United States, and you saw that meteor on Wednesday night that came within minutes of a scheduled rocket launch and just after three astronauts left the space station. If any of that sounds interesting to you, feel free to join the room.
A Matrix bot is being tested to send updates about upcoming rocket launches to the room.

#aviation:matrix.org for anyone interested in aviation. Whether you are a pilot, someone who visits an airshow once in a while, or if https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXv1j3GbgLk piqued your interest, come join.

t2bot.io upgrade

TravisR:

Just a head's up that I've increased the storage capacity of the database. With current projections, the server should be good for another year or two.

The database is also 1ms closer to Synapse and has a faster CPU in it. It probably won't make a dent in speed on federation, but it is a step forward.

I'll be rolling out python 3 to the homeserver this week too, which should help a little bit.

https://riot.im/experimental/#/room/#help:t2bot.io/$154511414912clELm:t2l.io

FluffyChat 8.0 RC announced

Krille and his Ubuntu Touch fans are looking forward to FluffyChat 8.0:

Hey guys, in order to release the FluffyChat 8.0 Christmas Edition, the FluffyChat 8.0 release candidate is ready for you! :-)
Also the weblate translations are ready: https://hosted.weblate.org/projects/fluffychat/

Riot iOS

From the Riot iOS team:

  • We have fixed and improved some e2e stuff.
  • Back to reskin. We start to implement e2e backup screens.

Riot Android

From the Riot Android team:

  • New screen to troubleshoot notification issue has been merged on /develop.
  • Splitting current Android SDK to separate crypto part is on it's way. We're doing this in order to be able to integrate crypto faster in the Riot reboot.

Synapse

Neil from Synapse reports:

We released 0.34.0! This release recommends Python 3 for production and brings with it huge performance improvements. If you've been putting upgrading off upgrading your Synapse, now is the time to do so. For more details here is a post that explains what you should expect and a recent Matrix Live interviews Amber (hawkowl) on the subject.

Aside from that we are working furiously towards federation R0 and have a bunch of MSCs to get us ever closer. You can track our progress here.

andrewsh notes that 0.34.0 is also available in the Debian repos:

Synapse 0.34.0~rc2 in Debian since Tuesday, 0.34.0 uploaded today; both use Python 3 only

Dendrite

Brendan reports:

Dendrite's internal audit is progressing very well and is getting very close to its end.
What's left to do for me is check the implementation status of a few Matrix features, and translate those into tagged GitHub issues so that everyone can have as clear of a view as possible on what's left to work on.
I'm on holiday all of next week, but hopefully will have some good news about that the following week.

That really is it for now

Did you get to the end? What was your favourite section? Come tell us in #twim:matrix.org! Do you have your own update you'd like to add? Same place, come chat in #twim:matrix.org.

Next week is various things. It's Christmas, which means there will be more hacking and coding happening than usual I expect! It's also 35c3, which I will be attending, and might affect scheduling next week. Stay tuned in #twim:matrix.org for news, and come join us in #matrix-35c3:matrix.org if you'll be there and want to meet up!

Merry Christmas!

Synapse 0.34.0 released!

20.12.2018 00:00 — Releases Neil Johnson

Folks this is a big day for us at Matrix Towers, because today we release 0.34.0.

The big news for 0.34.0 is that we now recommend Python 3 for production use and have been running matrix.org under Python 3 for the past month.

Performance improvements have been marked, in some contexts we have seen 50% reductions in RAM and CPU usage. Here are some illustrative graphs to get you going but look out for a dedicated post delving into much more detail on the port. You can also see a Matrix Live interview with the project lead Amber (hawkowl) here.

Matrix.org federation reader workers, the big drops signify roll over to python 3

Synapse master on matrix.org, again the drop in RAM signifies the roll over to python 3

Many thanks to Amber for leading the effort, Rich and Erik for providing support as well as Notafile and Krombel from the community for pushing this effort right from the early days of the project.

If that wasn't enough, 0.34.0 also all the usual bug fixes and perf improvements. In particular the media repository now no longer fails to decode UTF-8 filenames when downloading remote media and auto joining rooms now work on servers with consent requirements enabled.

As ever, you can get the new update here or any of the sources mentioned at https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse. Note, Synapse is now available from PyPI, pick it up here. Also, check out our new Synapse installation guide page.

In particular, if you want to run Synapse 0.34.0 on Python 3 take a look at the upgrade notes.

Synapse 0.34.0 changelog

Synapse 0.34.0 is the first release to fully support Python 3. Synapse will now run on Python versions 3.5 or 3.6 (as well as 2.7). Support for Python 3.7 remains experimental.

We recommend upgrading to Python 3, but make sure to read the upgrade notes when doing so.

Features

  • Add 'sandbox' to CSP for media reprository (#4284)
  • Make the new landing page prettier. (#4294)
  • Fix deleting E2E room keys when using old SQLite versions. (#4295)
  • Add a welcome page for the client API port. Credit to @krombel! (#4289)
  • Remove Matrix console from the default distribution (#4290)
  • Add option to track MAU stats (but not limit people) (#3830)
  • Add an option to enable recording IPs for appservice users (#3831)
  • Rename login type m.login.cas to m.login.sso (#4220)
  • Add an option to disable search for homeservers that may not be interested in it. (#4230)

Bugfixes

  • Pushrules can now again be made with non-ASCII rule IDs. (#4165)
  • The media repository now no longer fails to decode UTF-8 filenames when downloading remote media. (#4176)
  • URL previews now correctly decode non-UTF-8 text if the header contains a <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" header. (#4183)
  • Fix an issue where public consent URLs had two slashes. (#4192)
  • Fallback auth now accepts the session parameter on Python 3. (#4197)
  • Remove riot.im from the list of trusted Identity Servers in the default configuration (#4207)
  • fix start up failure when mau_limit_reserved_threepids set and db is postgres (#4211)
  • Fix auto join failures for servers that require user consent (#4223)
  • Fix exception caused by non-ascii event IDs (#4241)
  • Pushers can now be unsubscribed from on Python 3. (#4250)
  • Fix UnicodeDecodeError when postgres is configured to give non-English errors (#4253)

Internal Changes

  • Debian packages utilising a virtualenv with bundled dependencies can now be built. (#4212)
  • Disable pager when running git-show in CI (#4291)
  • A coveragerc file has been added. (#4180)
  • Add a GitHub pull request template and add multiple issue templates (#4182)
  • Update README to reflect the fact that #1491 is fixed (#4188)
  • Run the AS senders as background processes to fix warnings (#4189)
  • Add some diagnostics to the tests to detect logcontext problems (#4190)
  • Add missing jpeg package prerequisite for OpenBSD in README. (#4193)
  • Add a note saying you need to manually reclaim disk space after using the Purge History API (#4200)
  • More logcontext checking in unittests (#4205)
  • Ignore __pycache__ directories in the database schema folder (#4214)
  • Add note to UPGRADE.rst about removing riot.im from list of trusted identity servers (#4224)
  • Added automated coverage reporting to CI. (#4225)
  • Garbage-collect after each unit test to fix logcontext leaks (#4227)
  • add more detail to logging regarding "More than one row matched" error (#4234)
  • Drop sent_transactions table (#4244)
  • Add a basic .editorconfig (#4257)
  • Update README.rst and UPGRADE.rst for Python 3. (#4260)
  • Remove obsolete verbose and log_file settings from homeserver.yaml for Docker image. (#4261)

This Week in Matrix 2018-12-14

14.12.2018 00:00 — This Week in Matrix Ben Parsons

Fractal Hackfest

Developers and creators of Fractal, the GNOME Matrix client, have been holding a Hackfest this week in Seville. Matthew and I caught up with them on video for Matrix Live this week, and discussed the product improvements they've been making and their plans for the next release (due next week!)

Matrix Spec

This Week in Ruma

We don't often get to feature news from Ruma, but this week there is an updated This Week in Ruma.

Ruma is not dead, however, and small improvements have continued over the last year. The Matrix spec has advanced quite a bit and many of the blocking issues for Ruma have been resolved. Rust's maturity is another story. async/await is still under development and this is the most significant blocking issue to progress on Ruma.

maubot new tooling

tulir has been working on tooling for maubot:

maubot got a command-line tool for building plugins and managing maubot instances. I also added some server-side stuff for easy registration of accounts in the management interface using synapse shared secrets, but the UI for that isn't ready. Also, I'm planning on adding some kind of small Matrix client in the management interface for manually managing the added bot clients. That might lead to a separate library that could be used in other projects or embedded in websites.

Max with a new release of mxisd:

mxisd hits v1.2.1 with a new maintenance release, fixing bugs and regressions from v1.2.0. Updating to v1.2.1 is strongly encouraged as v1.3.x will contain breaking changes and will not be a straight-forward update like v1.x has been until now.

Clients

Lazy-loading lands in QMatrixClient

kitsune has reported that lazy-loading, a Matrix feature that entails only loading room member details as needed, is now in libQMatrixClient master.

reference implementation in Quaternion will follow up

Black Hat has been testing the feature in Spectral, which uses the library, and says there is a 30%-50% reduction in RAM usage at startup.

Riot Web progress on /experimental and v0.17.8 released

Bruno has been working on /experimental, and I recommend taking a look at the progress there! The next version of Riot Web is closer than ever.

Improved read markers now available on /experimental, needs further tweaking though. Brought back community UX on redesign, other small improvements.

v0.17.8 was released with several bugfixes and improvements.

Riot iOS

Release made with these notes:

This new version supports the consent of matrix servers terms of service (including GDPR) in the registration flow. It also contains fixes for the "Empty room" bug, the registration issue on iOS 10, etc.

Get more information:

Riot Android

Release made:

This new version supports the consent of matrix servers terms of service (including GDPR) in the registration flow. Many bugfixes SDK contains KeyBackup

Get more information:

Servers

Synapse

A lot of focus on getting debian packages ready for python 3 - this is a blocker for our official python 3 release 0.34.0. Aside from that, finalising some outstanding state resolution behaviour (https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/pull/1693) and dusting off event ids as hashes (https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/issues/1127.)

Dendrite

Brendan:

My internal audit of Dendrite is continuing, drawing a more and more precise picture of what's left to fix and implement. I aim to have it over by the end of the year, or the very early days of 2019 at the latest. Folks can track its progress through https://cloud.abolivier.bzh/index.php/s/qXi2KFjCQk2c6eG

modular.im now has Extra-Large instances available

Due to demand, modular.im Hosted Homeservers now has Extra-Large instances available. If you need to service 1,000+ users on a Matrix homeserver, this is the product for you!

linuxgaming.life homeserver is the number one Matrix homeserver focused on Linux gaming

swedneck has continues his work on linuxgaming.life:

I've added some bots, health monitoring, and dimension integration manager to linuxgaming.life, and made the website dark.

The homeserver is open for new registrations.

That's all I know!

If you'd like see your Matrix-related project featured in this blog post, come chat to us in #twim:matrix.org, and we'll see you next week!