This Week in Matrix 2020-01-17

2020-01-17 — This Week in Matrix — Ben Parsons

Matrix Live 🎙

Dept of Status of Matrix 🌡

Google Summer of Code 2020

Sometimes it seems like existence is a constant loop. Cycles within cycles are replayed, with only minor differences to help us discern the current and the foregoing.
How can we endure it?

It's not all bad though! Google have announced the return of the Summer of Code programme, and have updated their website with the current year (2020) and latest information.

Matrix will be applying to be a Mentoring Organisation, as we have for several years now. This year, we'd like to open the umbrella a little. If you think your (Matrix-related) project could help mentor a student, and that you could offer a meaningful project to that student, please contact me directly. For reference, there were four students under the Matrix heading last year, of which one was assigned to work with Kitsune on encryption support in libQuotient.

FOSDEM 2020

Will you be at FOSDEM this year? Matrix will be very well represented, so please come and see us at our stand, plus attend all of the three talks we'll be conducting. Many more details to follow!

Dept of Services 🚀

New from bit.nl, a public Matrix Homeserver focused on the Dutch market. Read the announcement and sign up here.

Dept of Spec 📜

anoa offered:

Here are this week's spec 🐕️ updates!

Merged MSCs:

No MSCs were merged this week.

MSCs in Final Comment Period:

No MSCs are in Final Comment Period.

New MSCs:

The Spec Core Team is still working on implementation, and likely will continue to be until after FOSDEM.

Dept of Servers 🏢

Dendrite / P2P

Neil Alexander reported:

I've spent some time this week experimenting with integrating libp2p into dendrite and gomatrixserverlib to understand if we can get link-local homeserver discovery working along with direct or indirect federation. It's still early at the moment but I have had success with early federation requests working over libp2p—hopefully I'll have something interesting to show soon!

dendrite in riot

Synapse

Neil reported:

This week we’ve been continuing to work on migrating sydent to py3, improving admin tooling and working on fixing e2ee bugs. We’re also looking to make changes to allow admins the power to remove room aliases (MSCs 2260 2261).

Dept of Built on Matrix 🏗

Matrix Presents 📽️

Half-Shot told us:

What is it? Slideshows in Matrix, basically using the matrix room / event primitives to construct presentable federated slide shows.

What's new this week you ask? Well, it breaks less. It also does other neat things.

  • Supports guests for viewing presentations, including the ability to specify a guest HS via the URL.
  • Supports code highlighting in the presentation.
  • Lots of CSS fixes to make slides line up properly.
  • A fullscreen mode, which is actually unobstructive and quite handy.
  • Presenter mode, which allows you to switch between following the presenters view of the room, and being able to view at your own leasure.
  • Room joins now actually work, so you can be linked to a slide and expect to be able to view it.

Come check us out at #presents:half-shot.uk

Dept of Bridges 🌉

matrix-imposter-bot, interesting relay idea

@mr_johnson22:matrix.org said:

matrix-imposter-bot - A bot that uses your account to repeat other people's messages. This gives relay-bot capabilities to puppet-only bridges. For more details, see https://github.com/mrjohnson22/matrix-imposter-bot

mx-puppet-bridge and other soru adventures

sorunome told us:

Will the development ever stop? Who knows! Here's the latest mx-puppet-bridge updates:

  • Fix unbridging of direct chats
  • Allow room-specific ghost avatar and name overrides
  • Enhanced logging config
  • Ability to configure name patterns for users/rooms/groups

mx-puppet-discord

Of course mx-puppet-discord received some updates, too!

  • Receive notification on friends request
  • Add optional profile syncing
  • Implement guild-specific nicknames
  • Implement variables for name patterns

mx-puppet-slack

What, mx-puppet-slack updates? Yay!

  • Set external_url field
  • Implement variables for name patterns

As always, if you have any questions, please drop by the support chat and consider to donate! 🦊🦊🦊

Dept of Clients 📱

Nheko replies rendering

@deepbluev7:neko.dev said:

I added pretty rendering of replies to nheko. It uses the same rendering as for normal messages, so you will see an image being replied to and you can even play a replied to video. You can also click on the reply to navigate to that part of the history.

RiotX: Release v0.13.0

benoit said:

RiotX: Release v0.13.0 has been uploaded today to the PlayStore and should follow in F-Droid store. It contains typing notification feature, and new screens for Room profile and room members list, and new screen for Room Member profile. Those new screens are still missing a lots of features, that will be implemented in the next weeks. For F-Droid version, it contains a fix on the broken background sync. We are also making big progress on cross-signing implementation, and we have started to write integration tests on the SDK.

@bubu:bubu1.eu told us:

RiotX is now available via the f-droid.org repository here: https://f-droid.org/packages/im.vector.riotx/

Riot iOS

Manu announced:

We are still working hard on the implementation of cross-signing.

Riot Web Cross-signing update

Thanks to Ryan from the team:

All of this is part of cross-signing:

  • Room shield decoration added
  • New post-login device verification flow
  • Toasts added to verify a new session
  • Will begin working on post-login / registration bootstrapping flows

Fractal

Alexandre Franke reported:

In the past month, a few things happened:

  • When redacting messages, they get removed from history view.
  • Thumbnail for pasted images have been fixed.
  • A handful of languages got updated.
  • Moar refactoring.

koma + Continuum: kotlin lib and client

yuforia told us:

koma, Kotlin library for building clients:

  • Update network library ktor to latest release 1.3.0
  • Add option to use authentication with GET /_matrix/client/r0/publicRooms to fix HTTP Unauthorized errors with newer Synapse versions which may have allow_public_rooms_without_auth set to False.

Continuum desktop client based on Koma:

  • Fix empty room directory list by always using the authenticated API POST /_matrix/client/r0/publicRooms

Dept of Ops 🛠

matrix-docker-ansible-deploy updates

Slavi told us:

matrix-docker-ansible-deploy can now easily configure automatic Double Puppeting for all of its Mautrix bridges (Facebook, Hangouts, Whatsapp, Telegram). This is possible due to those bridges' integration with matrix-synapse-shared-secret-auth - yet another component that the playbook can install. Our documentation page for each bridge provides relevant information on how to get it enabled.

Also:

matrix-docker-ansible-deploy can now install and configure matrix-appservice-webhooks, thanks to a contribution from Björn Marten from netresearch. Our documentation page about Appservice Webhooks tells you how to get started.

auto-update Riot-Web script

@murz:ru-matrix.org said:

I have created simple Bash script for auto-update Riot-Web to latest version. Because https://github.com/vector-im/riot-web now have no public Wiki, I publish it as Gist here: https://gist.github.com/MurzNN/ee64f98ab2e71b886c41d55594e5dd9e

ruby-grafana-matrix ingress updates

Ananace said:

My Grafana notification ingress gem received the missing piece of functionality for configuring it for posting both m.text as well as the original m.notice messages (as well as defaulting to m.text now as the more common expectation) - for those that want the messages to also provide Matrix notifications instead of just acting as an added history/flow. This can also be configured per-rule, so that you are able to have multiple notification ingresses configured with different message types.

It's always so lovely when people - other than myself - use my projects, especially when providing feedback on them. So many simple-to-implement features that get forgotten just because they weren't part of the original MVP.

Dept of Bots 🤖

TWIM bot updated for opsdroid 0.17

@cadair:cadair.com offered:

TWIM bot has been updates to use all the new features of opsdroid 0.17 it now supports Edits, both in updating it's database and by editing messages which get posted to #twim_updates:cadair.com . Also it supports 'TWIMing' a post by the user who posted it reacting with ⭕️, this is mainly designed as an easy way to mark images as TWIM posts. 🚀

Dept of Ping 🏓

Here we reveal, rank, and applaud the homeservers with the lowest ping, as measured by pingbot, a maubot that you can host on your own server. Join #ping:maunium.net to experience the fun live, and to find out how to add YOUR server to the game.

RankHostnameMedian MS
1bau-ha.us213.5
2foodscience.rocks254
3getflexedon.me298
4kif.rocks375
5maunium.net385
6gottliebtfreitag.de405
7netzgemeinde.eu408
8deadgoldfish.party423
9matrix.envs.net430
10lyseo.edu.ouka.fi456

That's all I know 🏁

See you next week, and be sure to stop by #twim:matrix.org with your updates!

This Week in Matrix 2020-01-10

2020-01-10 — This Week in Matrix — Ben Parsons

Matrix Live 🎙

Dept of Spec 📜

anoa informed us:

We've had a slight lull from people crawling out from winter holiday hibernation caves, but there's likely more to come as everyone gets back into the swing of things.

Merged MSCs

No MSCs were merged this week.

MSCs in Final Comment Period

No MSCs are currently in FCP.

New MSCs

The Spec Core Team is continuing to work on implementation of existing MSCs.

Dept of Servers 🏢

Synapse 1.8.0 is out now

Get the latest news here!

Synapse 1.8.0 has arrived, it contains a whole host of bug fixes and tweaks, most notably fixing some long standing problems with search.
More generally we are spending a lot of time improving the e2ee experience ahead of switching on e2ee by default, so watch this space.

Deploying Synapse

Several packaging projects have been updated to deploy the new version:

matrix-media-repo v1.0.0 - repeat, v1.0.0!!

TravisR offered:

matrix-media-repo v1.0.0 has been released! If it is suitable for your environment, please give it a go.

Dendrite federation work!

Neil Alexander announced:

Federation fixes have been pushed to gomatrixserverlib and Dendrite's master branches, that include the following tweaks:

  • Using the v2 endpoints for /send_join and /send_leave
  • Fixing the resolution of room aliases to room IDs in the Dendrite federation API
  • A rewrite of the auth chain functions which should be a bit smoother
  • A couple of other minor tweaks to some of the types

In addition, I've spent the last few days working on Dendrite's storage backends, adding somewhat-hacky support for SQLite and investigating ORM modelling for some of the simpler components, as a part of getting Dendrite to run as a "true monolith" for the P2P work.

cortex (synapse worker in Rust) supports e2ee rooms

Black Hat offered:

cortex's federation sender finally supports e2ee rooms! I'm testing its performance on an Intel Atom z8350 and it looks great.

Dept of Bridges 🌉

Matrix App for Zapier

@coppero1237 appeared to us, then announced:

The MVP is now available: https://zapier.com/developer/public-invite/77712/033209ffe96c0c0cdd618c8071355c01/

Use the Zapier App to integrate your Matrix room with any of Zapier's 1500+ apps, including:

  • Github
  • Trello
  • Pagerduty
  • Google calendar
  • Jira
  • Salesforce

Currently the MVP supports sending messages to a room. Reading messages from a room is future work.

If you're interested providing feedback, requesting a feature, future development, or just understanding how it works, please join the matrix room, #zapier:matrix.org

Source code: https://github.com/tyleradams/Zapier-Matrix

matrix-zammad bridge

Half-Shot offered:

matrix-zammad now supports reacting to tickets to close them, provided you've set up your puppeted token in the config. It's useful if you get a lot of spam tickets :p

mx-puppet-bridge

sorunome reported:

Lots of changes in mx-puppet-bridge!

  • Allow sending status messages into bridged rooms
  • add a bridgeChannel function for protocol implementations
  • add config options to set displayname and avatar url of the AS bot
  • leave the bridge bot of a bridged room, whenever possible
  • auto-leave a puppeted ghost after an hour inactivity (to prevent DMs having three users in them)
  • automatically dedupe media when uploading
  • matrix group to remote protocol group mapping

mx-puppet-discord

Along with mx-puppet-bridge, things got implemented in mx-puppet-discord!

  • allow bridging of single channels in a guild
  • display an error if sending a message to discord fails
  • add joinentireguild command
  • handle webhooks properly
  • map discord guilds to matrix groups

If you enjoy this software, please consider to donate, thank you! 🦊

And another mx-puppet-discord update!

  • [User Tokens] Proper User-Agent spoofing - friends management now seems mostly safe! Leaving the warning thing in just-in-case, though

Dept of Clients 📱

📽️ Matrix Presents!

I'm adding this to the client section because it behaves like a client, but it's not what we'd normally think of...

Half-Shot reported:

Work has resumed on matrix-presents, newly rewritten in Vue.js! The project was first demoed back in Oggcamp 2018 where I gave a meta presentation on the virtues Matrix for other mediums. This time around, it's being brought back with:

  • A user interface for managing, joining and creating slideshows.
  • Control over how slides are advanced (pinned to the presenters view, or unlocked)
  • Finer control over how slides are layed out, using a fragments system to build slides out of submessages.

This is currently in heavy development and will debut at Fosdem 2020!

A regularly updated version of the app is hosted at https://presents.half-shot.uk/.

(And for those of you expecting a form of table tennis, there is an easter egg in progress 😃)

Continuum, desktop client in Kotlin

yuforia offered:

Continuum, a desktop client in Kotlin:

  • Update README to include information on building from source
  • Fix: database not updated after leaving a room
  • Move user's access token and list of joined rooms from database to more lightweight key-value storage

RiotX v0.12.0

benoit reported:

RiotX v0.12.0 has been released with some performance improvement, especially on initial sync and on timeline loading time. The release also contains bugfixes and a cleanup in the application settings. A new "developer mode" has been added to show advanced features only to power users. We are now working on the room profile screen, and we are making progress on the cross-signing implementation. Besides that, we are working to make RiotX available on the F-Droid store.

I must say RiotX is getting a lot more stable and reliable recently!

Riot iOS

Manu told us:

We are still working on the implementation of cross-signing and verification by DM.

Dept of Ops 🛠

K8s

In addition to mentioning Synapse 1.8.0 support, Ananace said:

Synapse 1.8.0 Kubernetes-optimized images are pushed, I've also updated the example manifests as part of some work on making it easier to deploy - expect a MVP of a Helm Chart some time Soon™

Also, to add a bit of context/information to this;

Helm is the de-facto standard package manager for Kubernetes clusters, where a Chart is a package for an application that can be installed and configured. The Helm Chart I'm working on won't be a one-click install to begin with, for the Minimum Viable Product it will require manually generating and storing the Synapse signing key - though I have thoughts on how to later delegate that to a small one-time job that Helm can run if necessary

Opsdroid 0.17

Cadair offered:

Opsdroid 0.17 was released in December, it comes with many changes but the main matrix improvements are support for extra event types like Replies, Edits, Reactions, Room Name changes, Room Topic changes, Alias changes, Room avatar changes, Power levels, and support for generic matrix state events. All these events are supported for both sending and implementing skills based on receiving them.

Dept of Ping 🏓

Let's reveal, rank, and applaud the homeservers with the lowest ping, as measured by pingbot, a maubot that you can host on your own server. Join #ping:maunium.net to experience the fun live, and to find out how to add YOUR server to the game.

RankHostnameMedian MS
1getflexedon.me180.5
2maclemon.at278
3im.leptonics.com299
4maunium.net327
5lkas.cc339.5
6services.pyrahex.com351
7tx0.co361
8matrix.vgorcum.com381
9nerdsin.space406
10neko.dev442.5

That's all I know 🏁

See you next week, and be sure to stop by #twim:matrix.org with your updates!

Synapse 1.8.0 released

2020-01-09 — General — Neil Johnson

Synapse 1.8.0 has arrived, it contains a whole host of bug fixes and tweaks, most notably fixing some long standing problems with search.

More generally we are spending a lot of time improving the e2ee experience ahead of switching on e2ee by default, so watch this space.

Get the new release from github or any of the sources mentioned at https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse/blob/master/INSTALL.md.

Synapse 1.8.0 (2020-01-09)

Bugfixes

  • Fix GET request on /_synapse/admin/v2/users endpoint. Contributed by Awesome Technologies Innovationslabor GmbH. (#6563)
  • Fix incorrect signing of responses from the key server implementation. (#6657)

Synapse 1.8.0rc1 (2020-01-07)

Features

  • Add v2 APIs for the send_join and send_leave federation endpoints (as described in MSC1802). (#6349)
  • Add a develop script to generate full SQL schemas. (#6394)
  • Add custom SAML username mapping functinality through an external provider plugin. (#6411)
  • Automatically delete empty groups/communities. (#6453)
  • Add option limit_profile_requests_to_users_who_share_rooms to prevent requirement of a local user sharing a room with another user to query their profile information. (#6523)
  • Add an export_signing_key script to extract the public part of signing keys when rotating them. (#6546)
  • Add experimental config option to specify multiple databases. (#6580)
  • Raise an error if someone tries to use the log_file config option. (#6626)

Bugfixes

  • Prevent redacted events from being returned during message search. (#6377, #6522)
  • Prevent error on trying to search a upgraded room when the server is not in the predecessor room. (#6385)
  • Improve performance of looking up cross-signing keys. (#6486)
  • Fix race which occasionally caused deleted devices to reappear. (#6514)
  • Fix missing row in device_max_stream_id that could cause unable to decrypt errors after server restart. (#6555)
  • Fix a bug which meant that we did not send systemd notifications on startup if acme was enabled. (#6571)
  • Fix exception when fetching the matrix.org:ed25519:auto key. (#6625)
  • Fix bug where a moderator upgraded a room and became an admin in the new room. (#6633)
  • Fix an error which was thrown by the PresenceHandler _on_shutdown handler. (#6640)
  • Fix exceptions in the synchrotron worker log when events are rejected. (#6645)
  • Ensure that upgraded rooms are removed from the directory. (#6648)
  • Fix a bug causing Synapse not to fetch missing events when it believes it has every event in the room. (#6652)

Improved Documentation

Deprecations and Removals

  • Remove redundant code from event authorisation implementation. (#6502)
  • Remove unused, undocumented /_matrix/content API. (#6628)

Internal Changes

  • Add experimental support for multiple physical databases and split out state storage to separate data store. (#6245, #6510, #6511, #6513, #6564, #6565)
  • Port sections of code base to async/await. (#6496, #6504, #6505, #6517, #6559, #6647, #6653)
  • Remove SnapshotCache in favour of ResponseCache. (#6506)
  • Silence mypy errors for files outside those specified. (#6512)
  • Clean up some logging when handling incoming events over federation. (#6515)
  • Test more folders against mypy. (#6534)
  • Update mypy to new version. (#6537)
  • Adjust the sytest blacklist for worker mode. (#6538)
  • Remove unused get_pagination_rows methods from EventSource classes. (#6557)
  • Clean up logs from the push notifier at startup. (#6558)
  • Improve diagnostics on database upgrade failure. (#6570)
  • Reduce the reconnect time when worker replication fails, to make it easier to catch up. (#6617)
  • Simplify http handling by removing redundant SynapseRequestFactory. (#6619)
  • Add a workaround for synapse raising exceptions when fetching the notary's own key from the notary. (#6620)
  • Automate generation of the sample log config. (#6627)
  • Simplify event creation code by removing redundant queries on the event_reference_hashes table. (#6629)
  • Fix errors when frozen_dicts are enabled. (#6642)

Get the new release from github or any of the sources mentioned at https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse/blob/master/INSTALL.md.

This Week in Matrix 2020-01-03

2020-01-03 — This Week in Matrix — Ben Parsons

Matrix Live 🎙

Dept of Status of Matrix 🌡

Responses to The Ecosystem is Moving

Matthew wrote a response to https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/ : https://matrix.org/blog/2020/01/02/on-privacy-versus-freedom/.

This is in response to a talk Moxie Marlinspike gave at 36c3. There is another response here from the XMPP community.

Dept of Servers 🏢

Dendrite and gomatrixserverlib

Neil Alexander announced:

My first TWIM update as a member of NV but I'm happy to announce that with some experimental changes to Dendrite and gomatrixserverlib, I've been able to get Dendrite-to-Dendrite federation working, which is a key component for the P2P work that we are planning!

matrix-media-repo v1.0.0-rc.2

TravisR reported:

matrix-media-repo has received its first ever release candidate (finally): v1.0.0-rc.1. It's complicated to set up, but please do give it a go if it suites your environment and use case, and report any bugs along the way.

v1.0.0-rc.2 was released later in the week to fix a small bug with exports in v1.0.0-rc.1.

Synapse 1.7.3 released

Synapse 1.7.3 includes an important bugfix, hosts are encouraged to upgrade.

Ananace reported that the K8s optimized Synapse 1.7.3 images have been updated, but you should find that all distributors have the latest version now.

Dept of Bridges 🌉

mx-puppet-bridge

sorunome said:

mx-puppet-bridge received some updates!

  • Automatic Puppeting, thanks to tulir PR!
  • Allow protocol implementations to specify an external_url as per spec
  • Double Puppeting: Option to specify a custom homeserver -> URL map for local setups where .well-known resolution isn't possible
  • Fix unbridging of rooms (remove alias correctly)
  • Set filename of uploaded avatars to circumvent a synapse bug
  • Update matrix-bot-sdk dependency to 0.4.0

mx-puppet-discord and mx-puppet-slack

sorunome again:

Both mx-puppet-discord and mx-puppet-slack updated to the newest library version and implemented the setting of an external URL.

If you like these projects, please check out the support chat and consider to donate!

mautrix-telegram

Tulir said:

mautrix-telegram v0.7.0 was released.

Other than bugfixes, there were a few main changes since the first release candidate a month ago:

  • Option for automatic custom puppeting using shared secret login
  • version command to get the exact bridge version (also coming to my other bridges)
  • Config checks to make sure important fields like permissions aren't left unconfigured

Full changelog available on GitHub: https://github.com/tulir/mautrix-telegram/releases/tag/v0.7.0

mautrix-whatsapp

Tulir again:

Sticker bridging works slightly better now and added automatic double puppeting here too.

mautrix-cookiemonster

Tulir again:

To make the mautrix-facebook and mautrix-hangouts login flow simpler, I'm making a browser extension to eat cookies automatically rather than having the user go into the devtools. It's currently in development and should be ready by next week.

maubot

Tulir, busiest fellow in the North, again:

I finally got around to actually making the maubot github plugin, which is now spamming commits and other github things in all my project rooms.

Next up is per-room config options for webhooks and more matrix -> github actions (currently it's mostly just the github -> matrix webhooks). I might also end up making a more advanced plugin configuration system that supports multiple files, since jinja2 templates in a yaml file isn't that nice.

Dept of Clients 📱

FluffyChat for Android and iOS in Flutter

@krille:ubports.chat said:

MTRNord and me are working on FluffyChat for Android and iOS based on Flutter. You can already check it out if you like. :-) Install using F-Droid: https://mtrnord.gitlab.io/fluffychat-flutter-fdroid/fdroid/repo/ More info here: https://www.ko-fi.com/post/FluffyChat-for-Android-and-iOS-S6S71BMEY

Continuum

yuforia said:

Continuum, desktop client based in Kotlin, version 0.9.34:

  • Perform database operations in an async way on IO dispatcher
  • Added loading indicator when loading messages from server

continuum

Dept of Ping 🏓

Let's reveal, rank, and applaud the homeservers with the lowest ping, as measured by pingbot, a maubot that you can host on your own server. Join #ping:maunium.net to experience the fun live, and to find out how to add YOUR server to the game.

Tulir:

The ping room was upgraded to v5 last weekend. People who joined early got some nice and low pings before everyone rejoined :D

RankHostnameMedian MS
1kif.rocks240
2maunium.net260
3eisfunke.com298
4pixie.town311
5hackerspaces.be336
6synod.im376.5
7matrix.vgorcum.com383
8flobob.ovh394
9aryasenna.net407
10lyseo.edu.ouka.fi418

Also, @lub:imninja.net told us:

I created a #ping:maunium.net compatible bot in PowerShell https://gitea.lubiland.de/lub/pingposh/src/branch/master

Very nice - we don't see a lot of PowerShell in this ecosystem.

Final Thoughts 💭

Work is still happening on Cross Signing, patience will be rewarded sooner than you know.

Half-Shot is working on a fun and geniunely useful non-chat Matrix application, more on this soon.

36c3 was exciting, exhausing and educational. Thanks to everyone who made the Matrix Assembly one of the liveliest places around. :D

That's all I know 🏁

See you next week, and be sure to stop by #twim:matrix.org with your updates!

On Privacy versus Freedom

2020-01-02 — General — Matthew Hodgson

A few years ago, back when Matrix was originally implementing end-to-end encryption, we asked Moxie (the project lead for Signal) whether he’d ever consider connecting Signal (then TextSecure) to Matrix. After all, one of Matrix’s goals is to be an interoperability layer between other communication silos, and one of the reasons for us using Signal’s Double Ratchet Algorithm for Matrix’s encryption was to increase our chances of one day connecting with other apps using the same algorithm (Signal, WhatsApp, Google Allo, Skype, etc). Moxie politely declined, and then a few months later wrote “The ecosystem is moving” to elaborate his thoughts on why he feels he “no longer believes that it is possible to build a competitive federated messenger at all.”

At the time we didn’t respond via a blog post; instead we ended up talking it through a few times in person to see how misaligned we really were. The conclusion was that we agreed to disagree and Moxie said he’d be happy to be proved wrong, and wished us good luck. However, the subject has come up again thanks to Moxie’s talk on the same subject at 36C3 last week, and we keep getting asked to write a formal response on the Matrix side. So, here’s an attempt to do so. (Moxie didn’t want the 36C3 talk recorded, and I haven’t watched it, so this is responding to the original blog post).

From my perspective, the main points proposed in ‘The ecosystem is moving’ boil down to:

  • Decentralised systems are harder to design and build than centralised ones, as coordination is harder if you don’t have a single authority to trust.

  • Decentralised systems are harder and slower to evolve than centralised ones, as you can’t force participants to rapidly roll out (or even agree on) new features.

  • Users in federated systems tend to coalesce around the best/biggest server that the bulk of people use - which means that server typically gets to see a disproportionate amount of communication metadata (who’s talking to who, and when), and has disproportionate power over the network, which could bully others away from running their own deployments.

  • If users don’t trust their app provider, they can always go switch apps, which gives them freedom.

  • Open systems are less secure because you have no control over the quality of the implementations - if anyone can bring their own client or server to the table, all it takes is one bad implementation to compromise everyone in the vicinity.

Now, all of these points are valid to some extent.

It’s absolutely true that decentralised systems are harder than centralised ones. Prior to Matrix we built centralised comms systems - we literally can do a side-by-side comparison for the same team to see how easily and fast we built our centralised comms system relative to Matrix. Empirically It took us around 6 times longer to get to the same feature-set with Matrix.

It’s also true that decentralised systems are harder to evolve than centralised ones - you can’t just push out a given feature with a single app update, but you have to agree and publish a public spec, support incremental migration, and build governance processes and community dynamics which encourage everyone to implement and upgrade. This is hard, but not impossible: we’ve spent loads of time and money on Matrix’s governance model and spec process to get it right. It’s still not perfect, but we haven’t seen much fragmentation so far, and when we’re pushing out a feature empirically we can and do go just as fast as the centralised alternatives. (E2E by default is a bit of a special case because we’ve had to go and reimplement many features users take for granted today in an E2E-capable manner, but we’re sprinting to get it done in the coming weeks). A bigger problem is that there are hundreds of spec change proposals which folks would like to see in the protocol, and finding a way to manage expectations and parallelise spec progress is hard - something we’re looking to improve in 2020 (although still figuring out how!)

It’s also fair that in a multi-server federated model, users naturally tend to sign up on the most prominent server(s) (e.g. the matrix.org homeserver in the case of Matrix). In practice, the matrix.org homeserver currently makes up about 35% of the visible Matrix network by active users. It’s also true that Matrix servers currently store metadata about who’s talking to who, and when, as a side-effect of storing and relaying messages on behalf of their users. And without an adequate protocol governance system in place, a large server could start pushing around smaller ones in terms of protocol behaviour. In practice, we’re looking into solving metadata protection in Matrix by experimenting with hybrid P2P / Client Server models - letting users store their metadata purely clientside if they so desire, and potentially obfuscating who’s talking to who via mixnets of blinded store & forward servers (more about this coming up at FOSDEM). Combined with nomadic accounts, this would let us eventually turn off the matrix.org server entirely and eliminate the pseudo-centralisation effect - the default ‘server’ would be the one running on your client.

It’s true that if a user doesn’t trust (say) Telegram, they are free to go switch to Signal or WhatsApp or whatever instead… at the massive expense of having to persuade all their friends to install yet another app, and fragmenting their conversation history across multiple apps.

Finally, it’s also true that because anyone can develop a Matrix client or server and connect to the global network, there’s a risk of bad quality implementations in the wild. There are many forks of Riot on the app stores - we simply can’t vouch for whether they are secure. Similarly there are Matrix clients whose E2E encryption is partial, missing, or unreviewed. And there are a wide range of different Matrix servers run by different people with different agendas in different locations, which may be more or less trustworthy.

HOWEVER: all of this completely ignores one critical thing - the value of freedom. Freedom to select which server to use. Freedom to run your own server (perhaps invisibly in your app, in a P2P world). Freedom to pick which country your server runs in. Freedom to select how much metadata and history to keep. Freedom to choose which apps to use - while still having the freedom to talk to anyone you like (without them necessarily installing yet another app). Freedom to connect your own functionality - bots, bridges, integrations etc. Freedom to select which identifiers (if any) to use to register your account. Freedom to extend the protocol. Freedom to write your own client, or build whole new as-yet-unimagined systems on top.

It’s true that if you’re writing a messaging app optimised for privacy at any cost, Moxie’s approach is one way to do it. However, this ends up being a perversely closed world - a closed network, where unofficial clients are banned, with no platform to build on, no open standards, and you end up thoroughly putting all your eggs in one basket, trusting past, present & future Signal to retain its values, stay up and somehow dodge compromise & censorship… despite probably being the single highest value attack target on the ‘net.

Quite simply, that isn’t a world I want to live in.

We owe the entire success of the Internet (let alone the Web) to openness, interoperability and decentralisation. To declare that openness, interoperability and decentralisation is ‘too hard’ and not worth the effort when building a messaging solution is to throw away all the potential of the vibrancy, creativity and innovation that comes from an open network. Sure, you may end up with a super-private messaging app - but one that starts to smell alarmingly like a walled garden like Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, or an AOL keyword, or Google’s AMP.

So, we continue to gladly take up Moxie’s challenge to prove him wrong - to show that it’s both possible and imperative to create an open decentralised messaging platform which (if you use reputable apps and servers) can be as secure and metadata-protecting as Signal… and indeed more so, given you can run your server off the grid, and don’t need to register with a phone number, and in future may not even need a server at all.

--Matthew

(Comments over at HN)

Synapse 1.7.3 released

2019-12-31 — General — Matthew Hodgson

Hi all,

We've just released Synapse 1.7.3 - an important bug fix to address a class of failures due to malformed events. We've seen this in the wild over the last few days, so we'd recommend updating as soon as possible, especially if you are having problems federating.

Get the new release from github or any of the sources mentioned at https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse/blob/master/INSTALL.md.

The changelog since 1.7.2 is:

Synapse 1.7.3 (2019-12-31)

This release fixes a long-standing bug in the state resolution algorithm.

Bugfixes

  • Fix exceptions caused by state resolution choking on malformed events. (#6608)
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