WordPress Project to Evaluate Replacing Slack with Matrix Open Source Chat
I read an article today at WPTavern about replacing Slack with a new opensource chat system.
Both WordPress and Matrix contributors are proposing a new Meta team subproject that would explore replacing Slack communication using Matrix, an open source federated chat system. Matrix already powers a variety of communication tools, including Element, the most mature Matrix client – a universal chat app that is often described as “a Slack alternative.”
In 2020, Automattic had invested $4.6M in New Vector, creators of the Matrix open standard for decentralized communication. At that time, Matt Mullenweg indicated his intention for Automattic to adopt Matrix-based tools and build bridges to WordPress.
The contributors proposing this new exploration outlined a some of the major benefits of Matrix over Slack for use as the WordPress community’s official real-time communication tool. They argued that the Slack onboarding experience is difficult because it requires an invitation email to a WordPress-hosted email address and users have to identify the correct Slack workspace to join.
The Slack client is also not the greatest communication tool for some of the local communities where users are more active on their mobile devices than desktops.
“One of the benefits of Matrix is it supports free choice of clients, one of them being a client that is very similar to Telegram, called FluffyChat. There are also particularly lightweight clients (called Hydrogen), a full featured client called Element (previously known as Riot), a client that is more like Discord called Cinny, CLI clients, and many more.”
Kirk’s team has also made it possible for people to embed a Matrix chat into a Gutenberg block, powered by a plugin called Chatrix. It adds a Matrix client to your WordPress pages through the Block Editor or as a popup.
“This could even be set to a particular room, so that users can be asked to join a specific room or Make team by giving them a link to a particular WordPress(.org) page. This could make taking part in Make WordPress teams much easier and possibly encourage more contributions.”
Should an open source project use an open source chat system if problems like onboarding can be fixed by it? Is Matrix a good fit for the WordPress project at the end of the day? Will it be able to provide the same or even better reliability as Slack with third-party integrations that speed up contributors’ communication workflows? Are there other benefits like cost savings or features that Slack cannot accommodate? Can all the previous Slack content be migrated to the new system? These are important questions the newly formed meta sub-team is set to discuss by beginning bi-weekly meetings. Kirk encourages anyone who wants to take part in the meetings to comment on the Make.WordPress.org/Meta post.
“In particular, we’d like to contribute our projects Chatrix and OpenID Connect Server to the WordPress project. Additionally, work with people of the community interested in Matrix to see which Slack integrations would need to be ported and how that could be done, as well as understand through testing with other WordPress teams how good or bad the experience is, either on its own, or comparing it to Slack.”