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60 million in the Matrix as users seek decentralized messaging

Slacked off and fed up with Teams? Want to escape the clutches of big tech? Element thinks so

The decentralized Matrix network has crashed through the 60 million user mark with user growth rate exceeding 70 percent in 2021, according to the company behind the messaging service.

It's impressive stuff, although definitive figures are tricky to ascertain thanks to the decentralized nature of the platform.

Element boss and Matrix co-founder, Matthew Hodgson reckons the 60 million figure might actually be an underestimate and told The Register via email: "We have limited stats on the overall Matrix ecosystem as servers and clients do not report usage stats by default to - particularly government deployments.

"As such the 60M addressable user figure is an underestimate, and it does not include government deployments, which we estimate to be currently around 500K active users."

That figure is therefore the total number of addressable users visible to the homeserver, but doesn't include servers or users not viewable on the public network or those that don't report usage stats.

If only things were more centralized and definitive telemetry slurped … of course, that is precisely why the decentralized world of Matrix appeals. Users can even fire up a client via Mozilla's venerable Thunderbird email, calendar and chat app.

Some users have looked askance at the messaging solutions on offer from the tech giants. The German healthcare system, for example, has mandated Matrix as the standard for messaging, voice and video. Bridging to rival messaging platforms, such as Slack or Team, also eases the potential pain of migration.

Other factors include the EU's Digital Markets Act, demonstrating the importance of a wider choice and greater operability between messaging apps and, of course, privacy and sovereignty worries. Hodgson told us the customer milestone was "a clear sign that users don’t want to be subjected to advertising-funded messaging apps that data-mine their information.

"A decentralized open standard is the most sensible and viable way forward for communications, in the same way that http underpins the web. It empowers users and providers with interoperability, security and data ownership. All parties have their own control and choice."

According to Element, 25 million users were added to the service in the last year. Matrix reckons that these are users fleeing from the clutches of Big Tech. We asked Microsoft how Teams was going and will update should the company respond. Earlier this year, Microsoft said the monthly active user figure was north of 270 million.

Still, 60 million users is a ringing endorsement for the Matrix platform and decentralized messaging in general. The impending arrival of decentralized E2EE conferencing for hundreds of concurrent users and peer to peer networking (to turn devices into servers) mean the organization's goal of 100 million users might not be overly optimistic. ®

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