Slack has entered the Matrix: Element builds a bridge to realm of encrypted, decentralised comms

Element Matrix Services adds to the messaging interoperability toolbox


Element Matrix Services is adding a bridge between hipster chat platform Slack and the open-source world of Matrix messaging.

With recent events focusing the minds of users on what might be happening to their data on centrally hosted platforms, Matrix, which emerged from beta in June 2019, represents a more open alternative.

To ease the journey from the centralised world of Slack, Element Matrix Services (EMS) – a hosting platform for Matrix – is adding a managed bridge for connecting Slack to the Matrix ecosystem. The bridge will join others that connect services such as Telegram and Discord to the network.

The functionality costs $20 for one workspace and a maximum of 20 rooms (unless one wishes to purchase multiple bridges) on top of the EMS subscription pricing.

The Register spoke to Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of Matrix and CEO of Element, who explained how it worked. "The integration happens on the server side, so it's available on all of the clients both on the Matrix side and also on the Slack side," he said.

The implementation works on a room-by-room or channel-by-channel basis and, assuming an administrator has enabled the necessary inbound and outbound webhooks, replicates the requisite bits of Slack in the Matrix. Matrix users appear as bots in Slack, and authorised Slack users appear in the Matrix.

Things are text-based for the time being. Hodgson was, however, hopeful that the impending Digital Markets Act [PDF] would see more APIs opening up and the arrival of VoIP in the coming months.

Managed bridges for other platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, are also on the cards.

The Matrix project itself is all about secure, decentralised and real-time communication. Messaging is protected by end-to-end encryption, VoIP is present and correct and the reference implementations for the system are Apache licensed. The system can handle pretty much any real-time data, according to the foundation.

"If you're familiar with how Git works," explained Hodgson, "we shamelessly stole Git as a model for Matrix, and we thought, hey, why hasn't anybody decentralised communication, like Git decentralises version control? And so we literally applied the same technological, technical architecture."

Matrix is effectively a decentralised conversation store, with messages replicated over the servers whose users are taking part in the chatting (much like commits in Git repos.) Bridges have been implemented by both the core Matrix team and the wider community to connect to the likes of Telegram, Discord, and WhatsApp.

Although users can set things up themselves, running as publicly or privately as required, the challenge of "rolling one's own" can be dealt with by a hosting platform, such as EMS. While the company is at pains to highlight the security of its solution, hosting currently means AWS, which is one of the main providers for EMS's cloud-based infrastructure, and four different geolocations for the servers.

However, Amandine Le Pape, co-founder at The Matrix.org Foundation and COO and co-founder at Element, added: "We're platform agnostic and could change in the future."

With Slack taking a tumble in recent weeks, and Signal struggling under the load, joining the 27 million on the Matrix network and 60,000 deployments (according to Hodgson) has a certain appeal, with the ability to connect to existing platforms a handy bonus. Some are clearly pondering a messaging move. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022