Author Topic: Matrix  (Read 126 times)

Jubal

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Matrix
« on: May 05, 2022, 03:34:28 PM »
So in my continual poking around with how one communicates online, one of my more recents forays has been to investigate Matrix, which is a federated alternative to Discord. Whilst Discord is pretty good at what it does and I use it a lot, I'm never convinced that services like that will stay both good and free, so I thought I'd have a look at Matrix too - there's a nice person in the chat of a Twitch streamer I watch who often advocates for Matrix as a protocol.

I also created an Exilian space (equivalent to a "server" on Discord) at #exilian:matrix.org, in case anyone else uses this system. I just set up on matrix.org which is the biggest server, using element which is the main browser option it gives you, though there are other servers and browsers etc.

Initial impressions:
  • It's pretty like Discord in its basic setup. You can use it through browser or desktop and there are spaces (equivalent to servers) and rooms (a single chat run) much like with Discord. I used the browser version, which may not be the best but it annoys me that services like Discord make me download whole separate apps which it's easy for me to forget to check so I'll take the online access while it's there.
     
  • I've not tried the multimedia setups yet, it does appear to have voice & video capability but I don't know how robust they are.
     
  • It's quite security-focused and privacy-focused and there's a bunch of key setup stuff which is basically fine but might add a complexity barrier for some users as the UI does a pretty poor job of explaining why the things it's asking you to do are helpful - I guess it feels assumed that you're a bit more bought into discussions on tech privacy etc than I am, and that's speaking as someone who actually has thought-out positions on quite a lot of tech and privacy related issues. I felt I was going through the motions on that rather than "yes, I understand on a gut level why these steps are all important and helpful". I suspect the answer to those questions is "it makes the security more robust", but it'd be good for onboarding if they could actually offer some more detail there. Like, if you're going to put in steps users are unfamiliar with, you need to explain as part of the process why they matter and are good, and that's lacking.
     
  • The discoverability UI is pretty weak. To find a space or room on another server you need the address and can't just browse so it's way harder to find other servers that have discussions you want than e.g. on Mastodon. Also, spaces and rooms aren't well UI defined, and there seem to be weird ways of doing sub-server sections that yet somehow aren't spaces and are delineated weirdly. To grow, Matrix probably needs something more like Discord's model of lots of people setting up free Spaces as hangouts and places to show their gamedev or whatever. But matching Discord's really high-end multimedia offering may be tricky, and other than privacy (which is good but not a big traffic driver) it's not that clear at the moment what Matrix proposes to do better than Discord (which is its most obvious competitor by far).
     
  • One of the biggest positives for me was the thought given to integrations. On Discord, getting an RSS bot to work has been a long janky process with a third-party bot that frequently keeps failing in annoying ways: on Matrix, I had an RSS bot set up almost immediately as an expected built-in part of the system in a few clicks. So that's really good.
     
  • Because of the security angle, and because it's a small community built around the technology, what's there both on Matrix.org and actually on almost all the other public servers I've looked at tends to be really focused on areas that are either directly related to comms tech or just one jump away, so there's a lot of tech users, some activism users, etc, but not much RPG, gaming, creative, or academic use that I've seen.
     
  • The element browser + matrix.org setup I've got comes with a lot of Crypto integrations and there seems to be a sizeable Crypto community on it. This is quite a big negative for me, as I think it's something the dev community should be actively discouraging as part of ethically developing this stuff, rather than encouraging by placing it at the front and easily accessible.
     

So, overall: it's a neat little piece of software, it's probably generally more ethical than Discord and certainly more privacy-focused, but it could do with UI improvements, stopping promoting crypto integrations, and maybe more focus on what it can do to attract people who are outside its very tech/privacy focused core circles. I'll definitely keep my account for now and poke around a bit more. Anyone else used Matrix at all?
« Last Edit: May 05, 2022, 05:43:36 PM by Jubal »
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