Exploring a Shift to Matrix Chat for WordPress Communication
The WordPress and Matrix teams are proposing to evaluate a move from Slack to Matrix, an open-source, federated chat platform. Matrix already hosts communication tools such as Element, the mature Matrix client, often referred to as a Slack alternative. Automattic’s 2020 investment of $4.6M in Matrix’s creators, New Vector, signaled their intention to adopt Matrix tools and connect with WordPress.
The proposal highlights several key benefits of Matrix compared to Slack for real-time communication in the WordPress community. Slack’s invitation-based onboarding process and specific workspace requirements make it challenging for users. Additionally, the Slack client may not be the most suitable option for communities that are more active on mobile devices.
Matrix, on the other hand, offers a choice of clients including FluffyChat (similar to Telegram), lightweight Hydrogen, full-featured Element, Cinny (similar to Discord), and more. This flexibility offers a better experience for a variety of users. As Automattic-sponsored contributor Alex Kirk puts it, “One of the benefits of Matrix is it supports free choice of clients.”
Kirk and his team have taken the initiative to create a compelling case for a switch from Slack to Matrix. They achieved this by implementing Single-Sign On utilizing OpenID Connect with WordPress as the authentication provider. With this, new users just need to grant permission for WordPress.org to send their username to the Matrix server.
Additionally, the team enabled embedding Matrix chat in a Gutenberg block using the plugin Chatrix. This adds a Matrix client to WordPress pages through the Block Editor or as a popup.
According to Kirk, “This setup can be tailored to specific rooms, making it easier for users to join teams in Make WordPress by directing them to a relevant WordPress(.org) page. This could potentially boost participation and contributions.”
The meta sub-team has been formed to assess the benefits and drawbacks of switching to an open-source chat system like Matrix for the WordPress project. Meetings will be held to explore questions like: Can onboarding problems be fixed? Can Matrix match the reliability of Slack with its integrations? Is there a cost advantage? Can previous Slack content be migrated? Kirk invites all interested parties to share their thoughts on the Make.WordPress.org/Meta post.
Kirk said, “Our aim is to contribute Chatrix and the OpenID Connect Server to the WordPress project and collaborate with the community to determine the feasibility of porting Slack integrations and evaluate the overall performance of Matrix compared to Slack through testing with other WordPress teams.”
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