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Show HN: Beeper – All Your Chats in One App (beeperhq.com)
962 points by erohead on Jan 20, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 486 comments

While working on Pebble, we ran into a lot of issues as we tried to enable messaging from the watch. For example, we never figured out how to send an iMessage or WhatsApp reply. While digging around for a solution to that problem, I thought it was odd that no one had built a Adrium/Trillian/Meebo chat app for modern chat networks. I buried that thought for a while, until I learned about Matrix two years ago.

Matrix is the holy grail of chat. It's end-to-end encrypted by default, federated and open source. The only problem is that not a single one of my friends or family was on it! Luckily the Matrix folks had already envisioned a solution to this problem - they built an API enabling 'bridges' between Matrix and other chat networks. This struck a chord with me, maybe we could finally build a single app that I could use to chat with all my friends, regardless of which chat app they used. Through the Matrix community I met Tulir, the most prolific bridge developer and we started working together on what would become Beeper. I've been using it as my primary chat client for almost 2 years now. I could not imagine going back to the hot mess of 12 different chat apps I had before!

Beeper is a paid service because I think it aligns interests between us and our users. We make a featureful and secure app, in exchange you pay us money. For those who prefer to self-host, you can run the entire Beeper backend stack on your own server. The vast majority of the code we've written for Beeper is open source on gitlab.com/nova. Our desktop client is closed source, but you can use Element (or any open source Matrix client) if you prefer. See our FAQ for more info or I'd be happy to explain more.

As an answer to your first question:

Between 2000-2003, I worked on components of the cross protocol IM backend used by many of the multi-protocol messengers back in the early to mid 2000s (eg: Adium, Trillian, Fire, Ayttm, and more). Each of the frontends had different ways to integrate. Trillian used 2 processes with TCP communication between them to get around the GPL licensed backend), Fire, Adium, Ayttm released everything under the GPL.

Eventually most clients moved to using libpurple as the backend (developed by the team behind Gaim), but the devs also started getting older, busier, and having other responsibilities outside of work. The only apps to survive were those that had a business model that allowed them to reuse open source code without having to release any of the code they developed themselves.

I personally stopped working on instant messaging in April 2004, the night before I became a Yahoo employee, though I continued blogging and doing conference talks about the experience:

- https://tech.bluesmoon.info/2004/09/fallback-messaging.html

- https://tech.bluesmoon.info/2011/05/story-of-george-ayttms-m...

- https://tech.bluesmoon.info/2010/11/stream-of-collaboration-...

It's not just about devs getting older and busier, but also about networks becoming openly hostile towards third party client implementations. There used to be a healthy ecosystem of Whatsapp client libraries, but they have gotten takedowns, and their users bans. Eventually people give up. Some few individuals build third party implementations but keep them secret so that there is no retribution (I remember reading about a guy blogging about a self made iMessage client).

Thankfully the EU is moving rapidly towards making that sort of behaviour illegal, which as a knock-on effect should improve the situation for the world in general. https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/euro...

This looks awesome! I wonder why I haven't heard about it before.

I think we all know which gatekeepers are going to land on the list and how happy they'll be to be on it. If this does more than just create a list and actually punishes gatekeepers for bad practices, I'll be impressed.

It's like net neutrality but for gatekeepers. They can't abuse their position.

This is a great start

Yeah, same thing with discord. The "cordless" client dev got some of his accounts suspended recently and decided to stop developing the project :/

I'm glad to see a paid for service, by I don't think I'd take the jump for $10 a month!

>(from the website) we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage

Aren't you worried about Apple's reprisal ?

Also it might be worth adding a word about the privacy of the messages. Am I correct that the end to end encryption goes out the window and each Matrix connector can see the messages in plain text? I think it's not so much an issue as long as it's clear to the user, and that they pay for you to keep their private messages private.

I'm also curious about Beeper's plan re: potential response/pushback from Apple and the status of (likely broken?) E2E in iMessage.

If I backup my WhatsApp messages in plaintext or screenshot my iMessage it’s still E2E. Once the message is delivered all bets are off.

Forwarding all my messages to some 3rd party service doesn’t break E2E anymore then forwarding them to my friends.

>>(from the website) we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage

Is there really something that makes iMessage so difficult to reverse engineer that this is considered economical? People were able to write AIM clients 20 years ago, what special trick has Apple used?

I’m homeless and pay $10/mo for a terminal app.

The value is in the eye of the beholder... FWIW I used to be a pretty well paid software engineer, and I run as much of my personal IT as possible... so for me, the $10/mo is worth it to save seconds 100s of times per month and make hours of experience per month pleasant.

Honestly so glad it's a paid service. I'm happy to pay for something I can trust to handle my messages, rather than using them against me to sell ads/send to shady data brokers!

Awesome work Eric, Tulir, and the whole Matrix team too!

I've been in the past few nights trying to build my own Matrix server with integrations to Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, IRC, Slack et.al. It is quite a lot of work, even with the Ansible script. First was the DNS SRV record, that is needed to federate with matrix.org. And the Signal integration happily sent messages to my friends, but I never got any messages back.

I have quite a lot of experience with Linux and server maintenance. And I know if I put enough time to this, I'll get everything to work eventually. I'm still saying that paying money for somebody else to do this feels like a nice investment at this point. The task of doing everything by yourself is quite tricky.

Need to add now I got everything working. Element running in my own domain, connecting Signal, Telegram, Matrix federation and IRC in a beautiful way.

It is a lot of work, some of the documentation can be a bit tough if you don't know how things work together and especially the DNS setup can take a bit of time to get the federation working.

If you achieve it, it could be nice to improve the existing documentation.

Sorry, just to clarify - are you saying that self-hosting Beeper is a lot of work, or that self-hosting Matrix with bridges without Beeper is a lot of work?

$10/mo is steeper than I like for a chat app, but this is so huge to just roll everything into one place, and I like that it's OSS, so I'm happy to pitch in and support the devs even if I'm capable of self-hosting the backend.

For $10/mo one could host their own VPS and server infra.

Classic HN comment. Yeah, $10/mo, + the time needed to setup everything + the time to maintain it + the security holes to patch yourself + the downtime because the instance rebooted for some reasons + the monitoring of the service + all the time wasted because you could have simply lived your life and paid the reasonable fees for the service in the first place.

Not at all, prosody and ejabberd both work flawlessly without all of that nonsense. If it's a shitty piece of software maybe, but then why even bother using it in the first place?

“All that nonsense” Are the realities of running any software.

If you don't care about the uptime of your chat service you may as well not have one. Eventually those things will be the same.

The first sentence in your otherwise useful post doesn't feel helpful to the conversation.

I already have a VPS for other reasons, so I'm glad if I could get a self-hosted solution.

But that includes setting up and maintaining it, as well as troubleshooting when there's an issue.

For some, $10/month is a nice way to have all that worry-free.

The messages still go through the "free" networks, so they're still being used exactly like that.

How “brittle” are the integrations? I guess I mean is this a supported feature of all the 3rd party services or do you have to rely on hooking into undocumented apis that could change at any time etc.

I'm running several of the mentioned integrations on my own server (without the Ansible script) and every now and then there's a weird bug, or some slowdown, or some messages not getting through, but I've mostly switched.

I'm not sure if I'd ever pay $10/mo for a service whose main selling point is running what are essentially reverse-engineered hacks. Some of the integrations use the official available API (like the Telegram one) but others (like the Whatsapp and Signal ones) run on altered web client code. Furthermore, in most commercial chat systems, alternative clients are usually not allowed and can lead to a ban of your account if the server considers you a bot.

The product is a worthy attempt at fixing the mess that is modern chat solutions, but from my experience I just don't trust the system enough to switch.

Also keep in mind that any e2e encryption platforms like Signal and Whatsapp provide is made worthless if you use a bridge; I haven't seen any bridge use Matrix's e2e encryption yet and your messages are all being decrypted on the server regardless.

All of our bridges (except Slack and Discord, but will soon) use Matrix's e2e encryption scheme and all messages are stored encrypted on Beeper servers with a key that you control. We can't decrypt your messages.

Wait, how is this possible? There's an obvious integration point between your bridge server and the other service. They don't talk the same encrypted protocol, obviously, so you have to send plain text at some point in that process.

It makes zero sense that you don't have access to the messages.

They don't talk the same protocol but that doesn't prevent them using compatible forms of message encryption.

If the basic concepts of "E2E key exchange" and "pass this encrypted message" exist at all points, I see no fundamental problems with having E2E encryption across different networks. I can see potential for lots of the normal practical small problems but it could fundamentally work.

I agree that it's technically feasible but that's not going to help me right now. It would require all services use the same encryption (or at least understand a common, compatible one) and I don't see that happening, ever.

Yes, I was wondering about exactly this! A dev response would be much appreciated.

Seems like you have to unwrap the message from the upstream scheme and re-wrap it in Matrix’s scheme at some point, right?

I’d appreciate a blog post explaining the architectural choices here.

Thanks! This is the only piece of information I needed before giving Beeper a chance. I could not find it on the Beeper home page as a callout or in the FAQs, and it would probably be good to add.

Ideally I would not want to run the whole stack if I understand how the E2E encryption is managed.

This simply cannot be true, since you have to decrypt the messages to send them to, for example, WhatsApp.

Nope - you have to encrypt them to send them to WhatsApp. Why could you not encrypt them in the client and then send that encrypted message over the bridge, preserving E2E?

Because that's not how this works. The bridge has to have the unencrypted text, because it's the bridge that is communicating with WhatsApp/Signal/IRC/whatever. The client isn't the bridge, it's not communicating directly with WhatsApp, it's just communicating with a Matrix Bridge (over an encrypted channel) to a Synapse server you don't control.

You'd need WhatsApp's collaboration for this, which I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the bridge operator doesn't have.

There are two encrypted channels: client<->bridge, and bridge<->WhatsApp. The bridge can read the decrypted text, and the comment I replied to is a lie.

I've been using it for the last year straight and I think we only experienced one unforeseen breaking API change.

Just chiming in, I probably wouldn't pay for $10 a month for this service (maybe I'm not the target market). I do use various messaging apps and it is annoying though.

This jumped out at me:

>we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage

I couldn't tell if that was some sort of joke or if it meant something different to how I was reading it?

Being open source is great, but to be honest I lack the time (and expertise) to see how all the integrations work. A page that describes a high level overview of how this works exactly might build more trust.

Good luck!

I get the concern, but they're probably not super brittle because chat apps still need to support old clients. I'd worry more about getting blocked entirely.

I remember chatting with the Meebo founders about some of this. They didn't really have an answer to why AIM, YIM, and MSN Messenger wouldn't block them beyond it being bad for their networks. On how they'd make money, I don't remember hearing any interesting answers. They never really figured out the money thing and ended up getting acquihired by Google.

The did have a crazy-impressive web UI for the mid-2000s; for a while, that know-how was probably their most valuable asset. The need and the market still (and have always) kinda exited, but the players changed a lot in the last 15 years. One of their business ideas was to pivot into a commercial support chat app. People use them today, so maybe they were before their time, or maybe B2B was never in their DNA.

We had a bunch of IPs for each of our servers to get around some of their auto-blocking stuff. Eventually we got approval from AIM but that was fairly late. You're right in that we had crazy-impressive web UI but the backend was also unique in that we had a process running for every logged in user (and eventually we had a process running for every user who was running the iOS app)

Why would chat apps need to support old clients? If facebook pushes out an update almost every user will have it on day one and every user will 1 month on. They can just show an error banner to users who have automatic updates turned on.

My life as a developer would be much easier if every user actually upgraded their apps within a month of updates. In my experience, a substantial proportion of users either have automatic updates disabled and only manually update individual apps when they break, or don’t habitually connect their phones to Wi-Fi, and thus don’t get automatic updates.

It’s why apps like desktop Chrome have extremely aggressive automatic-update schemes which are near-impossible to disable if you’re ever connected to the internet.

You must have different users than I had.

iOS users upgrade pretty quick, but Android users don't. There are lots of phones with not very much storage, so upgrading is painful for users and they turn off auto-updates and don't update frequently.

And when you add on end of life platforms that have enough users you don't want to cut off, but not enough users that you want to do active development, or the platform owner won't sign packages anymore, you have to support some clients for a long time.

> Beeper is a paid service

It took me multiple times searching that page to find the "$10 monthly fee" hidden in the FAQ section. You desperately need an obvious pricing section.

$10 monthly for a chat service is a bit steep for users from Asia and other places..

Is it a just plain high price (e.g. if this was $50/month that would be expensive for me, here in the US) or is it high comparable to other things (e.g. "other messaging apps would be closer to $3/month")?

I think generally paying for a messaging app subscription more than you pay for your phone subscription (ARPU) is going to be hard to sell to a wide audience.


I tend to agree with this. I understand the convenience it offers, but as long as the services it connects to are "free", I'm not going to pay more than one or two dollars / euros for it. This is not being stingy, simply a subjective evaluation of the worth of such a service.

It's comparably high-other messaging apps are _free_. Don't get me wrong, this is awesome-I've been doing it myself manually by hosting bridges myself for a while, and it seems like a very nice solution for non-tech-savy users.

But $10/month is steep, given that in practice you're paying that much just for the convenience of having your (pre existing chats) in the same app.

What I don't get is that hosting your own bridges requires the same $10/month subscription. If there was a $2/month fee for "power users" instead, letting you host your own... I would most likely get a subscription for the convenience of using their better integrated software.

> What I don't get is that hosting your own bridges requires the same $10/month subscription. If there was a $2/month fee for "power users" instead, letting you host your own... I would most likely get a subscription for the convenience of using their better integrated software.

Those features may require extra engineering and support effort, not less.

(Even if these changes actually reduced the cost of service delivery, it's usually a small part of the price. In consumer SaaS, you're not paying for the cost of goods sold, you're paying for everything else - particularly software engineering, support, and marketing AKA customer acquisition. A reasonable analogy is a restaurant, where 20-30% of the meal price goes to food costs. In consumer SaaS, the "food cost" is often 10%-20% of the "meal price.")

> What I don't get is that hosting your own bridges requires the same $10/month subscription.

the website says the second self-hosting option is free

Good point. Maybe their pricing could be location based?

That would just be worked around with VPNs etc, so then they have to spend a huge amount of their dev time not on features but instead on working out how to detect where the users are geolocated. IP, language, credit card address etc. Just not worth it and always going to be many edge cases. One price for all is fairer even if it is very expensive for some locations/people

Because I’m pretty sure that if they put that forward or in a more explicit manner, the first reflex would be to close the tab and move on.

They hide because it makes sense to try the product, realize how awesome it is to have all the conversations in one central place, and make you pay for it afterwards - which makes sense.

How about XMPP support? I mean, you are talking about Matrix being the holy grail of chat and at the same time you do not support the IETF standard for instant messaging (which is also federated, supports E2E encryption, can use bridges to other networks and has several open source implementations)...

In general, my biggest issue with the Matrix community is that they chose to build something new, instead of fixing something existing. Granted, at the time when Matrix started, XMPP wasn't fit for the mobile revolution. But instead of improving the XMPP standard (which other people did afterward), the Matrix people decided to build something new from the ground up. They took a few different design decisions, but in my opinion, nothing that would justify building a competing solution and splitting the already thin developer community.

Now we have too solutions, both failing to find significant adoption. I understand that the matrix people probably built their eco system as a hobby, so who am I to criticize them. I just feel so depressed, seeing so much work being done on a very important subject, not fulfilling its potential due to missing focus.

Because XMPP sucks. It had 20 years to succeed, and failed. Maybe it’s time for you to move on?

Last company I worked at that used it internally had thousands of employees in IT and still considered maintaining the jabber server not worth it - a million XEP extensions cannot bring it to the same level as a modern chat client. On every matrix post the xmpp crowd comes out of the woods, but what have you got to show? What’s the best cross-platform or web client for it right now? They all look like half-baked ports of long abandoned QT apps made for Linux and still don’t support syncing/multi-presence well.

Messaging underwent an earth-shattering paradigm shift in the past 20 years, so numerous features considered optional back in 2000 are now mandatory when you want any mass market appeal (which is the whole point when messaging is dominated by network effects).

A rework of the FOSS messaging ecosystem was much needed, and Matrix was the one to deliver it and not XMPP. I say the winner takes the crown, especially when the end result is more coherent for users.

The fact is that sometimes the kind of tool you need is a solid monolith built from the ground up with specific objectives in mind, and not a loose accretion of small utilities and extensions.

I wish Matrix delivered what it promised. But it hasn't yet.

Matrix is coherent if you use the reference server and clients. But so is XMPP if you get them from the same source. And the Matrix reference server needs pretty powerful hardware.

> And the Matrix reference server needs pretty powerful hardware.

That is not a bug, its a feature (or so the Matrix people say).

In fact, part of the Matrix design is a fat server which has a lot more responsibilities by default than an XMPP server. However, I guess a full-featured XMPP server (with MAM, Push, etc.) probably has similar requirements.

The Matrix people don't say it's a feature. They say the rewrite will fix it.

XMPP with MAM and push doesn't have similar requirements.

There's some confusion here.

* Dendrite ("the rewrite") uses about 5-10x less RAM than Synapse; it's in relatively late beta and you can see for yourself today. For instance, dendrite.matrix.org is currently sitting at 480MB of RAM, despite being in ~5000 rooms spanning ~150K users.

* Matrix is coherent no matter what clients you use, given there is only one version of the spec (and as it happens, we haven't broken backwards compatibility yet). Sure, some implementations might not have implemented all the features, but the features they do implement (assuming they're not buggy) will work reliably with any other client or server out there.

It's fine to dislike Matrix and pine for XMPP, but please don't spread FUD.

The third party Matrix ecosystem is exactly as coherent as the XMPP ecosystem. Sure, some implementations might not have implemented all the XEPs, but the XEPs they do implement (assuming they're not buggy) will work reliably with any other client or server out there.

I'll like Matrix when it can replace XMPP. Dendrite sounds like a step in that direction when it's mature.

Please stop spreading FUD about XMPP.

The difference is that there are multiple different XEPs performing similar operations, and even with the compliance suite XEPs, it can be confusing to synchronise on whether different bug-free clients are speaking the same dialect.

Whereas Matrix ensures that there is only ever one way of doing a given operation at any point, and those operations are backwards compatible, because there's only one spec. Obviously the client and server you're talking to needs to have actually correctly implemented the bits of the spec that you're trying to use - but there's no openpgp v. OMEMO or rival file transfer mechanisms etc. It's only a difference in governance, but it's an important one.

Obviously, a single monolithic spec controlled by a committee like the matrix spec core team has its own problems (most importantly, the committee can become a bottleneck); and we still provide mechanisms to let people experiment via the equivalent of vendor prefixing, which can go horribly wrong (c.f. aggregations in Matrix) if not managed with discipline.

But, I'm not trying to spread FUD about XMPP - just try to explain that the approaches taken are different, and have different tradeoffs, and are not "exactly the same".

> Matrix ensures that there is only ever one way of doing a given operation

That's not entirely true though. Press voice call in a client and you may end up with an embedded jitsi, some WebRTC thing, or nothing at all. That's exactly how xmpp clients started to diversify.

> I'm not trying to spread FUD about XMPP

Yeah, the tone could certainly be improved. Every time Matrix comes up, someone mentions xmpp and immediately the flinging starts about how broken it is and how those developers let it slide into obscurity.

Which there may be some truth to, but it really leaves a bitter taste. Especially since much of xmpp lives on in Matrix in bridges to other networks. Matrix really got a flying start there, and that's a good thing! Software should be shared and built on.

What worries me a little is that the same problems xmpp had, with protocol verbosity and problematic integration with smartphone platforms, is bascially the same in Matrix. The protocol is at least as verbose, and battery management is at least as hard. As a successor to xmpp, one might have expected to learn more from its problems. I'm certainly not complaining however, the more software the better, and the web client is very nice.

> That's not entirely true though. Press voice call in a client and you may end up with an embedded jitsi, some WebRTC thing, or nothing at all. That's exactly how xmpp clients started to diversify.

This really isn't an example of protocol fragmentation - it's behaving precisely as expected.

There is precisely one way to do a 1:1 VoIP/Video call in Matrix: https://matrix.org/docs/spec/client_server/r0.6.1#voice-over.... It hasn't actually changed since 2015 when we first added it to the spec, until recently when there's a proposal to improve it called MSC2746: https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/blob/dbkr/msc2746/p.... Now, this is a proposal to patch the spec - it's a Matrix Spec Change. It retains backwards compatibility with the current behaviour, and once the MSC is approved it'll be merged into the spec and the MSC will be discarded.

There is precisely one way currently to do VoIP/Video conferences in Matrix: you instantiate a 'widget', to embed whatever web conferencing service you like into your chat room (e.g. Jitsi). You use the widget API to control it. Widgets aren't actually merged into the spec yet, but are specified at MSC1236 (https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/issues/1236), which should get reviewed and merged in real soon now. So, as long as your client implements widgets, you can do conferences. In future, we have plans for native Matrix conferences (MSC2359), but this is vapourware.

Finally, if your client doesn't implement 1:1 and doesn't implement widgets (or if your don't have permission to perform them in that room) then obviously hitting the call button won't work. But that's hardly fragmentation; it's just incomplete implementations.

Now, if there were multiple competing ways of doing 1:1 calls, or of doing conferences flying around, I'd totally agree we were seeing XMPP-style fragmentation. But we're not, and if we did, we'd see that as a massive bug and jump on it to resolve the fork in the Matrix Spec Core Team, and ensure that matrix.org/docs/spec resolved the collision asap.

> Every time Matrix comes up, someone mentions xmpp and immediately the flinging starts about how broken it is and how those developers let it slide into obscurity.

Perhaps, but that's not me or the Matrix core team doing that (well, other than back in the very early days when I was still feeling a bit salty about XMPP). We can't control what randoms on the internet say though :|

> There is precisely one way to do a 1:1 VoIP/Video call in Matrix

Yeah, that's awfully close to what the xmpp people used to say. There are rtc calls and there are conferences, and otp is something else than omemo entirely.

For the end user however, when they click that telephone icon in their client, they may or may not get an embedded widget of some type or other, or an rtc stream, or something else. Should the remote client support the same thingamajig, they get a voice call. Look at the dozen or so most popular Matrix clients and for a non-technical user, it's still a gamble.

It's pretty much comparable to email in the 90s. Send a file, and it may end up as a uuencoded Mail Attachment, or perhaps a base64 encoded MIME. In the latter case it may be a multipart MIME or a non-multipart. Non-technical users sometimes couldn't open the file and then you had to send it some other way. Over time some clients got important enough for a de facto standard to emerge. It's still not perfect in 2021, one well known software company insists on their own .eml attachment that doesn't always work.

Matrix is quite similar to xmpp in this regard. Take the dozen most popular clients for each protocol, and check off how many popular features (voice calls, e2e, profiles, conferences, screen sharing etc.) interoperate fully. There's certainly room for improvement.

Don't take this the wrong way however! This is the price we pay for open protocols. If the alternative is low protocol innovation, then bring on the interop testing and annoyed users! It's worth it.

> aren't actually merged into the spec yet, but are specified at MSC1236

You even have standards proposals! They have numbers. Great! Let me guess, you bunch them up, spread some holy standardization water on them, recite an incantation and then they are part of an Offical Standard. Guess how many other protocols developers do that?

> that's not me or the Matrix core team doing that

Again, the tone could certainly be improved. One needs to look no further than this thread, to see other software developers being told in exactly how many ways their standard suck.

Take pride instead in what you did, and if someone asks you again why you didn't use the existing standard to build your chat product, just tell them you had more fun that way. Don't say inefficiency, don't say battery management, don't say interop when all of those metrics aren't looking any better in Matrix. Tell them about the nice team web chat you did, which is plenty reason to use it.

Most of the fragmentation in the XMPP ecosystem is just incomplete implementations.

> We can't control what randoms on the internet say though :|

You could acknowledge Matrix's shortcomings instead of denying or minimizing almost every criticism. And not say things like "It's fine to dislike Matrix and pine for XMPP, but please don't spread FUD."

If you look a few messages up, you'll see...

> Obviously, a single monolithic spec controlled by a committee like the matrix spec core team has its own problems (most importantly, the committee can become a bottleneck); and we still provide mechanisms to let people experiment via the equivalent of vendor prefixing, which can go horribly wrong (c.f. aggregations in Matrix) if not managed with discipline.

...which is by far the biggest shortcoming of Matrix I'm aware of. I reserve the right to refute the inaccurate criticisms though (and to call them FUD, if that's what they are :)

The approaches are more similar than you think. At least the parts you mention Experimental XEPs let people experiment. The compliance suites provide a single spec controlled by a committee. And the differences don't matter when the user experience is the same.

XEP-0027 OpenPGP has been officially obsolete for Matrix's entire life. XEP-0374 OpenPGP never went past experimental. It was officially deferred 3 years ago. OMEMO is the only proposal active.

The compliance suites tell you what you need for file transfer. Core requires XEP-0363 for file upload. Advanced requires XEP-0234 and XEP-0261 for direct transfer. You can ignore the experiments.

Figuring out what features 2 clients share can be confusing with either protocol. Looking at Matrix's clients matrix[1] is easier than finding a list of XEPs for each client. But you still have to figure out what the server supports and what it doesn't have to.

The real difference is how 1 company dominates the Matrix ecosystem.

[1] https://matrix.org/clients-matrix/

> Whereas Matrix ensures that there is only ever one way of doing a given operation at any point

I trust you that you mean what you say, but I wonder what an implementation would look like (from a user-perspective), that supports something like OpenPGP -> OTR -> Ratchet. I mean, upgrading security over time is mandatory and when I remember how it evolved for XMPP I clearly do not want an implementation that still has all the draw-backs that OTR had.

So I agree that XMPP is lacking some good governance, but I don't see the rivaling XEPs necessarily as the core problem, as many of them had quite some time between the drafts. The bigger issue is that many clients don't have enough developer momentum, so that XEPs that were drafted like 5 years ago are not implemented yet.

Regarding implementation bugs: I know XMPP has the compliance suite, but I feel like it doesn't catch bugs and is more of a basic testing for feature compatibility. Does Matrix have some kind of test suite, that simulates physical disconnects, package loss and the likes for testing real client and server implementations? I know that would not be an easy feat, but I wonder what the best way would be to build something like that, to improve the quality of the existing implementations.

OpenPGP could mean XEP-0374 which is newer than OTR. But XEP-0374 went from experimental to deferred 3 years ago. It isn't really competing with OMEMO.

XEP-0374 is very fresh compared to other PGP-related extensions. Just to give an example, 'XEP-0027: Current Jabber OpenPGP Usage' became active in 2002.

If it is competing with OMEMO or not might be a separate discussion, but both can be used to utilize E2E encryption of messages.

XEP-0027 became officially obsolete in 2014. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt they didn't mean anyone has to think about XEP-0027 in 2021. They implied they could break compatibility some day. So I think they're talking about not having 2 current standards. How they see a transition working is still a good question though.

> Whereas Matrix ensures that there is only ever one way of doing a given operation at any point

Python used to claim the same thing when it was a fresh new language, as a reaction to Perl where the opposite was encouraged. Becoming mature and anchored in reality changed some of that.

Some implementations not implementing all the XEPs is exactly my point. "A Matrix server" / "a Matrix client" conveys an expectation that certain functionality will be included. Low-feature implementations will exist, but I assume it will be clear they serve a niche.

Synapse is the only fully featured server. Element Web/Desktop is the only fully featured client. Most of the other servers and clients are aiming for general use. They're just incomplete. Some of the niche implementations like weechat-matrix are in better shape actually.[1]

[1] https://matrix.org/clients-matrix/

Dendrite is meant to be good too.

It's late beta but no push notifications (!!), no presence, no search, no cross-signing of E2E keys, no clustered deployments.

I've been wondering for a while how hard it would be to adapt Ejabberd into being a Matrix server implementation. Only a small part of Ejabberd is actually all that XMPP-specific.

> Because XMPP sucks

YES! I never understand why people are so eager to defend XMPP for its so called perfection, when it's so bad in reality. The "eXtensible" part only is a huge and unfixable mistake. Make it feature complete, not eXtensible, or you end up with dozens of clients not working the same way and subtly failing in multiple scenarios.

The ridiculous part is that nowadays IRC has more stable and reliable (and beautiful) clients for web and mobile than XMPP.

IRC is lacking a ton of features. It doesn't even have a standardized charset! Nowadays people want E2E encryption, using multiple devices, multimedia, real-time audio + video, contact management, push notifications etc.

I use IRC. I use it with multiple devices, including desktop and phone. I have "contact management" and notifications (whatever push is) on both desktop and my phone. I use OTR for private messages. The only thing it may be missing is audio/video, but I think even that may be doable, I have not researched it due to lack of need.

Interesting. Are these bolted on features standardized anywhere? In RFCs perhaps?

I do not think so. I SSH into my Linux server where I run irssi (IRC client) inside screen (screen manager). Some people use IRCCloud. That is how I can use it on both my phone and desktop. On phone I use JuiceSSH, but I have used ConnectBot before, too.

I have notifications because my status bar and window manager know how to handle urgency hints and "bellIsUrgent" is set to true.

OTR is natively supported by irssi. Weechat supports it via a plugin. I do not know about other clients.

As for contact management... I am not entirely sure what it entails. Some IRC servers (such as UnrealIRCd, for example) support "WATCH" which is a notify-type system. The server will send you a message when any nickname in your watch list logs on or off. You can read about it more here, along with alternatives: https://ircv3.net/specs/core/monitor-3.2. There are a couple of different ways to achieve the same thing.

UTF-8 has been in the standard since the mid 2000s. You're just as much out of date with the other assertions.

Did the company switch to Matrix?

XMPP was pretty successful in the 2000s. More than Matrix so far. There were missed opportunities but the main reason it declined was Facebook and Google decided closed was more profitable than open.

Why exclude native clients?

I'm not even convinced they decided it was more profitable. The decision probably went something like this:

Manager: Our users want this feature

Developer: We can't add that because it will cause incompatibility with XMPP clients

Manager: This is the 50th feature that has been blocked by XMPP and hardly any of our users use it. Time to cut off support for it

It's probably much simpler than that:

"It has come to my attention that clients which we do not control connect to our service. This severely limits the monetization opportunities available to us. Please fix before it is caught in a due diligence."

That and they probably threw hoards of cash and engineering at the problem.

XMPP is pretty successful right now. Last I heard there were something like 80k federated servers. Matrix can only dream of that level of sucess...

we can see ~60k federated servers on Matrix right now, and presumably there are loads more we can't see.

Speaking as a Matrix person: we're quite happy with our adoption, which is accelerating exponentially, and we didn't build Matrix as a hobby: it's been the team's fulltime day job since 2014. Before that we used XMPP (ejabberd + spark + XMPP.framework etc) and eventually decided to build a totally different architecture: one focused on syncing conversation history, rather than sending instant messages. I don't think it dilutes or splits the thin developer community: instead it's increased interest in open comms enormously (as well as helping spur the XMPP community into improving their stuff). Just as Linux didn't somehow destroy BSD.

Well, even if I prefer XMPP over Matrix and still disagree over the developer ressources, I wish you the best of luck, because both solutions, being federated, are inherently better than the competition by design.

I can only thank you for your work. Open messaging ecosystems are much better off for it.

> They took a few different design decisions, but in my opinion, nothing that would justify building a competing solution and splitting the already thin developer community.

I'd argue that the design decisions are key to the success of Matrix. However I do not think that there must be any splitting. Checkout the XMPP Bridge that matrix.org hosts.

> I just feel so depressed, seeing so much work being done on a very important subject, not fulfilling its potential due to missing focus.

As long as there are people like Eric, there is hope :) I think we have more focus than ever before, even within the XMPP community :)

The XMPP bridge means the user communities don't have to be split. The developer communities are.

>Checkout the XMPP Bridge that matrix.org hosts.

Is there a description of how to generate an address on the other network? This sounds awesome. A working bridge gets a Matrix user access to the tens of thousands of federated XMPP servers.

Was XMPP improved at that time?

Or a mess of nonstandard addons/plugins that you had to match up, like mods in a multiplayer videogame?

They said XMPP improved afterward. The point is a combined effort would be in better shape than XMPP or Matrix now.

The problem with XMPP was every client implemented different parts of the standard. The problem with Matrix is every client implements different parts of the standard.[1]

[1] https://matrix.org/clients-matrix

Not being able to share Rick and Morty stickers or have a group call is fine to miss out on.

Having to choose from multiple encryption addons to get started even chatting, that's not a comparable experience.

I miss XMPP, but it's time to let go.

Close. It’s a mess of standard addons/plugins that you have to match up, like mods in a multiplayer videogame.

Sadly for me, it’s also the only modern messenger that has decent desktop clients that don’t look like discord. But I guess that this will never change as I seem to be pretty lonely with my want of those.

The solution was nearly always to create golden packages which could be summarised.

XMPP v1 server could be just XMPP itself.

A v2 client/server includes packages for OMEMO, Websocket, Resumeable connections

A v3 client/server has packages for whatever else becomes the de jour.

The idea that you can just mix and match without ever standardising on a set of capabilities was a large part of what killed XMPP and was entirely solvable.

This is what happens. Compliance suites are published annually: https://xmpp.org/about/compliance-suites.html

This is either barely getting used or not used enough (or maybe too hidden). Because I had only seen single XEP lists for both clients and servers I looked at.

Thanks! Beeper looks amazing.

> Our desktop client is closed source, but you can use Element (or any open source Matrix client) if you prefer.

I see most bridges are licensed AGPLv3 [0]: Aren't you required to AGPLv3 the desktop client, too?

[0] For ex: https://gitlab.com/nova/whatsapp/-/blob/master/LICENSE

The bridges do not run inside the client, they either run on your own self-hosted server or our cloud.

I already have a Matrix server with the bridges I need running. Can I still use your desktop client? It looks sick!

> Then aren't you required to AGPLv3 the desktop client, too?

Only if the desktop client is legally a derivative work of the bridges.

The "network connection" provision of AGPL doesn't require you to open source anything you use to talk to it, just modifications of it. To make it clearer:

Client <--> Server. The server is AGPL licenced.

I can write a client to talk to the server and I don't have any licence restrictions. For example - if I write a web client to talk to an AGPL web server, I don't have to open source the client.

If I modify the AGPL server, and then put that modified server on the internet then the AGPL terms require me to make available the modified source code.

I am not a lawyer, but this is my understanding of this: https://choosealicense.com/licenses/agpl-3.0/

Couldn't all of these chat apps change their TOS and forbid Matrix bridges like Discord forbid running through 3rd party client? You depend on all of those chat providers to allow you to hook everything in one app.

This has happened multiple times in the past with similar aggregators. I will be surprised if it does not happen again. But good luck. I want products like this to exist.

Yes they can! But it's unlikely they would all do it at the same time.

t2bot.io hosts a Discord bridge and to my knowledge it is officially allowed by Discord (else they could not have more than 100+ bridge users).

The Discord bridge you are talking about here is a Bot which is officially allowed by Discord, however the Bot APIs have serious limitations that make it unsuitable for full bridging (which is basically making a Discord client). For example it can only be used in "channels" and needs to be added to each "server" by an admin. This means that it is hard to use in servers where you are a guest and you can't use it in DMs and non-channel group chats.

I assume they are offering a "puppeting bridge" which means it acts as you, however this means that it is using unsupported APIs and Discord has been known to ban accounts for this.

I think it is pretty disingenuous to put the Discord logo on the homepage without pointing out those caveats.

Having actually run through spantaleev's matrix-docker-ansible-deploy twice in the past, and run the Matrix bridge stack for a few months each time, this is interesting.

Eventually I would have some bridges get out of sync (ie I responded on mobile but the bridge doesn't show my message or messages would get lost) but overall, it worked really well.

The downside of having one error in relative isolation is not the bug itself but that it makes you distrust the stack entirely and you end up double checking the source messenger "just to make sure"

Having said that, it looks like you've done quite a bit of development on the bridges from a quick glimpse of the Gitlab repos.

How are those forks related to Tulir's bridges? Does he integrate any of your changes and vice versa or are they two unique development streams? In your comment, it sounds like Tulir is working with you?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to this very much because the multi-messenger thing has been the bane of my existence, I swear. I would gladly pay $10/month to fix this as I have online (and offline) friends all over the place.

Oh, for the unified inbox, is there any way to "group" by a person? For example, if I primarily chat with someone on Line but then occasionally talk through iMessage. I would expect them to render as two different "conversations" but logically, they're one person of course.

Lastly, I thought the line about shipping an iPhone was satire. You might want to put a note in there like "No really".

Tulir is on the Beeper team, he's the one writing all the bridges! They are quite reliable now.

Ahh, I think I was a little confused. I had noted that there were "forks" on Gitlab but they're actually just mirrors it looks like so fork is perhaps a misnomer in this case on the part of Gitlab?

Also curious to know what the schedule is like for people to sign up? I seemingly never received anything that states I'm on a waitlist or just that my sign up didn't generally go into a blackhole.

How does this play with the security of e.g. Signal? Security and privacy is the main reason many of us will use it so I wouldn't want to compromise it.

Would love to use this on Linux, I find all the desktop apps really rubbish (and very happy to pay for it).

Matrix's encryption is based on the same cryptographic ratchet technology used by Signal. The protocols involved are called Olm and Megolm.

Olm is used for establishing 1-on-1 sessions between pairs of users (or rather, their devices). This is then used as a secure channel to share Megolm keys. A Megolm key is ratcheted with each room message sent and is used to derive a symmetric AES key with which the message is actually encrypted. Periodically (every N messages) a new Megolm key is created and re-shared with room participants.

So the end result is that it has roughly the same security as Signal, except that a single compromised Megolm key will reveal N messages to the attacker instead of just a single message. In return, the protocol is much more scalable, enabling relatively efficient large end-to-end encrypted groups. Otherwise, all the session self-healing, forward secrecy properties of Signal are retained.

TL;DR: Approximately the same as Signal, trading a tiny bit of security in the event of a key leak for more scalable encryption in the setting of large groups.

I believe this is true for Matrix-to-Matrix communication. However if I understand correctly the bridges terminate the e2e encryption and then connect to the third party service (possibly with a different e2e session).

you can self host the bridge between matrix and signal, allowing e2e to a host you control, and e2e from that host to your device. Perhaps not ideal, but likely unavoidable if you want an all in one app like this.

Yes, I was talking about native Matrix specifically.

So, essentially, if I self-host the bridges then there's no security issue (otherwise it looks like a third party has access to the keys to decrypt messages, unless the negotiation just creates a tunnel through which the signal connection occurs)?

yes, it's a secure tunnel to your self-hosted bridge from client

so the answer is: yes this reduces security over signal for both myself and whomever i’m chatting with. due to this, seems like a questionable choice to include signal.

is the N configurable by the user? ( different paid tier)

I don't know much about Beeper, but I do know more about Matrix in general. And yes, the N is configurable there (as in, you can change it in a client implementation, even if it isn't particularly common to have it exposed as a setting).

I would love to pay you for this (though I think $10 is a bit steep), but I don't want you to be able to read my messages, which you are since you run the bridges.

Also, didn't they say something about being able to run the full stack self-hosted?

Is it possible to build a zero-trust version of this?

No. Bridges need plaintext messages, because that's what they feed into WhatsApp and other clients.

Can't you put the bridges on a pi, like described at the website?

see the self hosting options

In the FAQ, I'd suggest adding the words price & pricing. That way I can ctrl-f to either "price", or "pricing".

To my weird brain, and after studying accounting, the word "cost" is more of a business/accounting perspective of "expense".

Whereas the word "price" seems to be more of a consumer perspective of "expense".

Yes, it's a little pedantic ;)

Cost: "(of an object or action) require the payment of (a specified sum of money) before it can be acquired or done."

Price: "the amount of money expected, required, or given in payment for something."

I think it's because:

Costing = Accounting. It's the "science" of determining the expense of producing a product or service.

Pricing = Marketing. Marketing is what consumers experience.

Holy! I don't remember the last time I was this excited for a chat app. I just saw your tweet and came to HN to post it but this was already on the front page haha.

Just a quick question (completely noob question, I apologize in advance), do bridges work like APIs? Where can I read more about this protocol?

Really looking forward to this Eric!

Simplest way to learn about the API is to look at several bot implementations https://github.com/maubot/maubot

Awesome! Thanks a ton!

I would really like one of these apps to integrate with LINE, which is really big in Japan.

Every time I see something like this I check again, but it’s so far never been supported.

I was about to comment the same, but with Wechat. I can’t not use wechat, much as I’d like to. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t significantly more difficult/impossible to integrate though.

I would pour my own blood into a Dockerfile to have the LINE stickers in Matrix.

Question: If you already have bridges in place to send and receive messages in other clients, is there any reason I can't chat from those clients?

In other words, I want to be able to use the Messages app on my iPhone to communicate with other people using Discord, WhatsApp, Slack, etc. I would absolutely pay $10 a month for that, and I almost never subscribe to anything!

Is that something you could turn on, or is it more complicated than I'm imagining?

P.S. I'm wearing a Pebble 2 right now. Thanks for all your work on that, it's a great device.

Edit: Actually, even just some sort of XMPP gateway, so I could use any client that supports XMPP, would basically be enough for me.

...as I think about this more, could I, uh, just in general get more detail on what clients can be used? Asking as someone who has never used Matrix before.

Wasn't this NovaChat before? I signed up for the beta and was thinking of planning a session with you for enrolment as you mentioned in your last email, hasn't had time yet, sorry. Saw it here at the last HN post.

If it's available now I'll gladly use it. Since the Whatsapp thing a couple weeks ago even more of my contacts have spread out to different apps and it drives me nuts.

Pricing sounds good too, I know these bridges need work to maintain. I've tried to run them myself using the docker script but it's not ideal. And supporting the maintenance is great.

Yes, Beeper is the new name for NovaChat.

Ok, great, I like the new name a lot better!

It was just funny when I read it first, I thought someone else had the same idea :)

As someone who self-hosts a bunch of bridges–great work! Really appreciate seeing a simple solution for people who don't know or don't want to self host.

Also, seeing that Tulir is not working entirely pro-bono but that his efforts are backed by a company makes me more hopeful that the bridge development will continue!

Do you guys plan on continuing with the jailbreakable iPhone method for iMessage bridging for the foreseeable future, or is there an alternative one can expect that is being worked on?

Congrats on the launch! Subscribed and can't wait to get access :).

Do you know what is WhatsApp's stance on a Matrix bridge and using it to provide a service? They've known to have a pretty harsh stance on other services that attempted to integrate ([0], [1]) and even banned users from the platform for attempting to scrape their own data.

Would be very curious to know more details about your WhatsApp integration setup. Thanks in advance!

[0] - https://www.xda-developers.com/whatsapp-sends-cease-desist-a...

[1] - https://www.reddit.com/r/Windows10/comments/89g926/whatsapp_...

How does your iMessage integration compare to AirMessage?

I've been using AirMessage for a couple months now on my new Android phone and it is about 80% reliable. Images and videos also take significantly longer to processes than if I were to use an iPhone.

I wonder if Beeper would be an upgrade over AirMessage or if it is essentially the same.

Beeper requires a Mac like AirMessage. Or they'll send you a jailbroken iPhone.

How is imessage so hard to reverse engineer that its easier to send someone a jailbroken iphone to use? Surely the protocol can't even change much since many users are stuck on old versions as its part of the OS.

I seem to recall that registering for iMessage requires sending the ID (or a signature maybe?) of real Apple hardware. So you could reverse the API but unless someone has hardware that they don't plan on using iMessage on it won't help much.

How old are these iPhones cause that's the oddest part of that setup I've heard.

Thanks for that! It's kind of funny to me, but also kind of cool. I guess you just have to be sure to charge the iPhone every now and then.

I think the idea is you leave it plugged in at home.

Ha, when all those apps started breaking out, I knew that there would be a day when someone would finally connect them. Thank you for the story about how Matrix enabled you here, we're all standing on the backs of turtles!

I think part of the problem is that there is no infrastructure for something like this on iOS and Android.

With webOS, there was a single messaging app that integrated SMS, Skype, Facebook and Google. The latter part was implemented using libpurple, so it was relatively easy to extend this to all messaging that libpurple supports.

I really liked that approach (marketing name was "Synergy", unified messaging was only a small part of this), but it's quite obvious that neither Apple nor Google have any interest in adopting this unified approach for anything but their respective own messaging of the day.

I think if we could get the world unified on a single chat protocol we can expect things like this to emerge. Of course it will be unlikely to happen soon, if at all.

Plus we all know that Google really wants to own a chat app so maybe they will decide not to make it first-class in Android i fit seems like a threat.

Some big NGOs and world governments are getting on the Matrix train,

and the name is dope, don't count that for 0.

Well, it's become quite clear that this unified protocol will never happen :)

I'd rather be prepared to use different protocols in a sensible way.

We could always start building on webOS again, it's open now, right?

There are people working on this: https://webos-ports.org

A few years ago I was in contact with someone from the project to integrate the changes that I did, so their messaging client should now support pretty much everything that Pidgin supports (which, as I learned today, nowadays includes Matrix, Signal, Telegram and Steam as well through plugins).

Maybe I should install that on my old Nexus 4 and see how far they got... :)

I would love for this to keep expanding to more inboxes, and beyond to news feeds and other kinda inbox-shaped things. Why not aggregate Facebook news feed, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, HN, your local newspaper, etc. It's what Google Reader woulda/coulda/shoulda become.

Please, break down the walled gardens. Free us from the whims of the product managers pumping out redesign after redesign for all the services we use.

Thank you, I am very glad to pay you money to solve this problem!

Without an open source client, how can I be assured that you aren't harvesting user data through it?

At first, you have to trust us though we will perform auditing eventually. If you would like to use an open source Matrix client, that works as well!

Thank you for Pebble! It was my main Diabetes app for seeing the current blood glucose directly from my wrist until my Pebble 2 finally died a year ago. It was almost like magic and had a week of battery life.

The commercial matrix bridge is an excellent idea. I was able to get my homeserver running, but it is a hell of a job to get everything working. When it does work, oh boy, it again feels like magic!

So good to hear that! Have you considered buying one off ebay? Still some good deals there :)

Nicely done, congratulations on the launch!

This brings back memories. In 2017 I had launched a similar 'chat-app network' platform[1] for privacy focused dating using Bot API of the respective platforms allowing communication between,

Messenger <-> Telegram <-> Viber <-> LINE

It was quickly selected for acceleration by one of those platforms. The features included half-duplex messaging(user had to wait for reply to send a message to prevent harassment), optional location, near-far dates switch etc.

Adoption was quick, the first major issue I ran into was that in SE Asian countries many used their children photographs for profile picture in chat apps, which obviously was a no go for dating, so I had to implement Amazon Rekognition to detect age and make those users change their profile picture and their profiles weren't displayed until it was changed. At peak it processed 200,000 images/month.

Obviously bridge approach as in Beeper(Matrix) is a more reliable approach than using Bot API, especially due to UI/UX limitations and even platform stability issues(Some bot API were nascent).

In about a year it even crossed the Trough of Sorrow with ~2,40,000 users on Messenger alone.[2] But had to let go of it as I fell sick(was told I could become quadriplegic[3]) and as single founder bus factor hit my startup.

I received several offers to buy the platform, but I didn't sell it as I was not sure whether the buyers would stick to the privacy promises. So I just nuked the platform.

Even if I had continued, I'm not sure whether I could have monetized successfully as selling digital content was explicitly prohibited by these platforms because of Apple Tax/Google Tax(it would mean that the chat apps function as app store).




This feels too good to be true. It feels a "Shut up and take my money". I thought with effective demise of XMPP and myriad differing standards and proprietary apps & protocols, this could not happen anymore.

I'll check out your site and you may have some very happy paid users soon :)

This is amazing. I had precisely this idea ~6mo ago (but never actually built anything). Excited to see you’ve done all the heavy lifting for me. I also love the paid model to align interests and the ability to self host. I will definitely be giving this a test run.

On the website it looks like it says Android and iOS via Element [appears to be the renamed Riot.im matrix client]. Is there no custom iOS or Android application for Beeper that this will ship with?

Yeah riot was renamed, as they finally admitted that it was a weird name with negative connotations.

Never understood what was wrong with the name vector by the way. That was even nicer IMO.

Why would you want that additional attack surface?

Will you Support Threema in the future?

Came here to ask the same. It would only make sense to me if Threema is also added to the list (Signal already is)

This is fantastic stuff. Thank you for building it. Matrix truly is a wonderful piece of software.

Where is the open source code for the iMessage bridge?

It doesn't exist yet.[1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25849040

What are the system requirements for self-hosting?

I thought Apple barred iMessages from being sent/retrieved outside of the specific iMessage app? How did you dodge that?


How in the world did you get iMessage to work on Android and Windows? This was a tough one to figure out! Beeper has two ways of enabling Android, Windows and Linux users to use iMessage: we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage, or if they have a Mac that is always connected to the internet, they can install the Beeper Mac app which acts as a bridge.

Hmmm, you could pretty easily spin up a Mac container with the Beeper app and then remote into that from your phone. Seems like a lot of work.

Still, it seems like they didn't really dodge anything at all. It's the same gripe I had with Signal: if I have to switch between iMessage and Signal, then I'll never be able to sell Signal to my family.

I'm not sure if this project will go any further, nor if iMessage works inside here, but this is an easier way forward:


libpurple (the thing behind Adium/Pidgin) has plugins for a lot of the major messaging networks today.

Hey, does it support Telegram stickers?

I don't know about the app, but you can use Telegram stickers in Matrix - somewhat. However, it requires a few minutes of work: https://github.com/maunium/stickerpicker For video watchers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yz3H6KJTEI0

Kudos to Tulir!!!

This is good. What competitors do you fear?

Also, why no WeChat? The stickers are the best there !

Doesn't using this with Discord run a risk of your account getting banned for using a third-party client? That's why the Cordless developer shut down the project: https://github.com/Bios-Marcel/cordless

If I can login to your service with the API given, there should be no reason for a ban. And this is what annoys me with today's communication protocols; your forced to enjoy their service only with their provided application.

It never used to be like this. MSN messenger,AIM even YIM; they all had FOSS applications.

They didn't start that way though. It wasn't until they were forced to play nice under regulatory action.

They're using HalfShot's appservice bridge I think, which works entirely through the standard Discord API with bot users. IIRC Discord is very much aware of the project.

Discord's generally fine with anything using it's API/gateways as long as it's NOT logging in as a "real" user.

Well, that would be what they're doing here, no?

There's two ways to connect discord. One is a appservice. You got a bot user that relays everything and you get messages that are basically "BotUser: <Alice> Hello world" using the official API. This is currently allowed, but doesn't allow access to 1:1 chats. The other is "puppeting", the bot logs in as Alice by Alice providing her credentials and hitting endpoints the actual Web app uses. This results in a less obvious, nicer experience for people on he discord side but is the one that is banned

I have yet to see any verbiage in the Discord ToS that mentions this…do they really not read their own legalese?

It's not in the Discord terms of service, it's in the Discord bot API terms of service.

After a disclaimer, that sounds like a problem between the user and the Discord people.

Yes — I would be the user, and I would like to avoid that problem.

t2bot.io hosts a Discord bridge and to my knowledge it is officially allowed by Discord (else they could not have more than 100+ bridge users).

So I imagine there might be the possibility of it being allowed for Beeper as well.

t2bot.io uses webhook/bot based bridging which at least doesn't trigger the "no custom clients" clause (as you aren't using any real user account tokens)

The broader question of whether bridges are allowed seems to be broadly yes as there are many other bridges out there for Discord (IRC/slack ones) and those haven't been shut down either.

I think so long as you aren't abusive, Discord don't care.

Could someone shed a light on economics of working on such kind of a project?

Aren't developing third-party client for the entity which you do not control and somehow compete with is typically a futile experience?

Doesn't it go against most of ToS-es directly (e.g. Discord/WhatsApp happily ban accounts using third-party clients) or indirectly (I guess no proprietary chat platform will be exactly happy having third-party clients that compete with their official and controlled app).

I mean how people justify building a business on it given that it essentially means that they have to play on the other's people playground by the rules which can be changed at any time. Like tomorrow Slack would decide to disallow any third-party apps and you're done.

It’s very risky to build a service that relays directly on the API layer of other commercial services. If any of there chat apps change their APIs to stop Beeper traffic then they will lose users. Some services will cause a larger loss than others.

I think the economics are simple. The company is two devs and they charge $10/month. If the costs are $4/month/user then they need 83k users to clear a quarter million a year in profit per dev. This isn’t a unicorn, but it has the potential to bring in good money while it lasts.

Discord allows relay bridges (using bot accounts), but not puppeting.

I just installed matrix and bridges for telegram, slack and whatsapp using the linked ansible playbook. I used my own domain and a new cheap vps. this took me about an hour. I connected Element on my android phone to my new matrix server and now I have all chats in one app and on desktop. That is totally great and worked far better and easier than I imagined. Well done.

Thanks for leaving this comment saying that you were successful and it only took about an hour, otherwise I wouldn't have had much confidence in the scripts. It took me ~2 hours but I'm not as well versed in ansible. I'm finally off of Slack's awful electron app.

Any chance you can write down a little more tactical instructions on how you did this? I'd love to try this out, but am not super technical.

I really just followed the very good docs here: https://github.com/spantaleev/matrix-docker-ansible-deploy/b...

Granted I'm very familiar with ansible but for someone not technical it should be doable, too.

Thanks for the reply! I'm going to give it a shot!

I am interested, but not sure of system requirements. What kind of resources does it use on your cheap VPS?

I use a hetzner cx21 with two CPUs and two GB RAM. So far it is performant enough.

> we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage

Huh, I wonder how this is sustainable. I assume there is a greater cost than 10 bucks a month for this option? I wouldn't want to be the one managing the logistical effort of that!

It says you can run a Mac app but presumably this is to bridge in users outside the Apple ecosystem.

So probably it is the cheapest iPhone that has a year or two worth of iOS support left and just sits plugged in.

While a novel hack, I would never want my iMessage conversations being bridged to a service outside the Apple ecosystem.

While I have no doubt this service will do their best with security, it relies on leaking data from Apple.

Imagine if someone built an insecure bridge for FaceTime Audio, and the caller did not know the recipient was using a bridge service.

Any reliance on Apple’s massive investment in the privacy and security of a FaceTime transmission goes out the window and into the hands of an unknown 3rd party.

It also tricks the sender into thinking that their secure iMessage conversations are what they look like.

I know when i see a green chat bubble, that low level people at Verizon can access the content of the messages.

I see this as a big problem, where the goal of letting more people in for UX reasons undermines expectations of privacy from those uninvolved in the use of the product.

People are mention Discord being unhappy with this, but I imagine Apple would see this as an abomination.

> It also tricks the sender into thinking that their secure iMessage conversations are what they look like.

If you send a message to someone, you are assuming that anything can happen to it unless you have a legal agreement to the contrary. They could have a keylogger (malware or device-management), someone looking over their shoulder, take a screenshot, forget to sign out of the library computer, etc.

The end-to-end-encryption on iMessage gets defeated for most people anyway if they have iCloud Backup on.

You are right, this has always been true with taking a photo of a screen and printing it out on your printer.

This defeats any truly end-to-end encrypted conversation.

I think you are also right to compare this service to malware.

It takes content intended for a secured environment maintained by one party and exfiltrates it into another.

This other environment is protected by an entity that is neither bound by the reputation damage of failing to keep the information secure, nor on the receiving end of funds that can be directed to keep it secure.

Since 100% of the iMessage content, text and photos flows through this environment, it is not like occasionally taking photos of conversations. It is the wholesale duplication of the data.

iCloud Backups are also encrypted, and are the security of that system is maintained by the first party the conversations were originally sent by.

> The end-to-end-encryption on iMessage gets defeated for most people anyway if they have iCloud Backup on.

iCloud backups are encrypted using a unique key which is only unlockable with the user password, which is itself protected in hardware. So no, it doesn’t defeat the purpose.

Syncing messages through iCloud uses end to end encryption. Backups don't.[1]

[1] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202303

Keep reading:

> Messages in iCloud also uses end-to-end encryption. If you have iCloud Backup turned on, your backup includes a copy of the key protecting your Messages. This ensures you can recover your Messages if you lose access to iCloud Keychain and your trusted devices. When you turn off iCloud Backup, a new key is generated on your device to protect future messages and isn't stored by Apple.

Messages in iCloud and iCloud Backup are different features. That says Apple has the key as long as iCloud Backup is on.

This is exactly correct. Apple engineered that page to read to people who are scanning quickly that "it's encrypted, it's fine" when in fact iCloud Backup, which includes complete plaintext message history (and SMS history too, which Apple normally would not see, plus all iMessage/SMS attachments like photos and videos) is NOT end to end encrypted but encrypted with Apple keys, and can be decrypted by Apple at any time without the user's device or password.

It's perhaps the most shady thing they do. Nothing on that page is a lie, yet if you read it without an intimate knowledge of Apple's services ("iCloud", vs "Messages in iCloud", vs "iCloud Backup") you will get an impression of the opposite of what is true.

Additionally, they were going to e2e encrypt backups, but the FBI asked them not to, and so they didn't, and Apple and the FBI can read every message in every backup without a warrant.

> the FBI can read every message in every backup without a warrant.

Under what legal framework could this be possible?

It's Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, aka FAA702, cited in Apple's transparency report as FISA (they turned over 30,000+ users' data without a warrant in 2019), and better known to the general public by its internal NSA codename of PRISM, thanks to Ed Snowden telling us that this is the primary, #1 source of information used by NSA spies.

Apple wasn't lying when they said they "had never heard of PRISM"—until Snowden, it was not known by that name outside of the NSA/IC.

It is regularly used against US users, in the US, as well as people in other countries. Snowden cited this use (resulting from a classified, private interpretation of FAA702 made by the classified FISA court) against US citizens as one of his main reasons for going public in the summer of 2013 with the fact that this is happening.




Okay, I am familiar with prism.

However, the context of this thread is to compare the relative security of Apple iMessage and iCloud backups with what happens to those messages when they are exfiltrated by Beeper.

I do not see the existence of Prism belying the practical expectation of security Apple users get from iCloud and iMessage.

It doesn’t make the point that beeper’s service has a similar level of security.

But to your point, some apple iMessage users will unknowingly have their data shared with a third party if the recipient is using beeper and doesn’t tell them.

Which makes having a friend quietly using beeper a bit like having a prism inquiry.

> belying the practical expectation of security Apple users get from iCloud and iMessage.

What practical expectation of security? iCloud backups are not E2E encrypted.

If you're expecting that it should be impossible for anyone else to read your messages, then don't use iCloud. If you don't trust the people you're messaging, then don't message them. Trying to build a platform that guarantees security regardless of who you message is a fallacy, that system doesn't exist and people shouldn't think about security in those terms. If you send someone information, you can not guarantee with any messaging system that they won't copy that information and send it to someone else. Recipient trust is part of the equation.

Any one of your friends can just copy and paste text out of iMessage, you have no technical guarantee that your messages are going to stay in Apple's ecosystem. If you send a message to someone with an Android phone, it gets sent in plaintext over SMS. If they're in a group chat, boom, no more encryption. Apple themselves can't keep your data in the iMessage environment, they exfiltrate it for you whenever you text someone who's not on iOS.

And even if you don't have any friends on Android, all of the data that you're worried about leaking gets stored non-E2E encrypted to Apple's servers whenever anyone in your messaging pool turns on backups -- and I guarantee most of your contacts on iOS have backups turned on.

But you're worried about security flaws in the Matrix protocol? Based on what?

If you actually need E2E encryption, you shouldn't be using iMessage in the first place, you should be using something like Signal, a program where the default settings for you and your contacts aren't going to leak your messages and break their encryption. And at least Signal warns you in advance if a contact isn't on the same platform. At least it works on multiple operating systems so you aren't virtually guaranteed that it'll be impossible to do E2E chat with some of your friends.

Sms conversations are green to iMessage users. So the practical expectation of a blue message is at least the content is not going one or more carriers.

So it is obvious when texting with someone that the content is flowing unencrypted over sms, and easily read by the phone company, let alone a request from LE.

The problem with this service is it makes the conversation look like it is over iMessage. And while your comments about the factual trust level of the user or their choices around iCloud backups and password protection is always the base consideration—-beeper is being additionally introduced, possibly using a wholly unprotected iOS device along with their own cloud storage of the content.

So the attack surface now includes not only the recipient and their trustworthiness and opsec in using the apple product but the entire opsec of this third party service.

Dialing it up to, “well prism” or “trust of the other person” deliberately ignores my point which is beeper is being added as a listener in an opaque way to the iMessage user.

When I say practical expectation, I am not worried about my contacts copying and pasting a conversation. They might but there would be a reason and I’m not worried about some kind of betrayal.

Nor am I overtly concerned about a contact having their iCloud backup stolen and read. There are fairly robust measures Apple takes to prevent this including mandatory 2FA. It would take true determination.

However this is marketed as an innocuous gateway for iMessage and it isn’t. As I mentioned above Beeper takes no responsibility for the loss of data and does not bear much reprisal if they leaked data. They can’t because it’s a startup.

> deliberately ignores my point which is beeper is being added as a listener in an opaque way to the iMessage user.

I'm ignoring that point because I disagree it's a valid point that's worth making or acknowledging.

iCloud backups are added in an opaque way to the iMessage user. Screenshots happen in an opaque way to the iMessage user. And while you'll get a blue bubble in iMessage when sending over SMS, you won't see that until after you start the conversation. The point is, if you don't trust someone to have a secure phone, that's a talk you need to have with that person, it's not a problem with the Matrix protocol.

If you think that Matrix presents a novel, undetectable way to exfiltrate data, then you trust iMessage too much and you should rethink your approach to secure communication. Thinking in terms of, "the bubble is green so my contact can't be doing anything weird" is the wrong way to think about security. Don't do that.

Especially since, again, you should not be using iMessage for seriously private conversations in the first place, you should be using Signal, or in a pinch (ironically) Matrix/Element itself, since both platforms actually have full E2E encryption that forces users to validate sessions and doesn't break itself by default.

It's fine for you to be skeptical about the security of this company, but if you think it breaks some taboo or compromises your phone in some unique way just because it's a bridge, then you're putting too much faith in Apple and approaching message security from the wrong perspective.

> possibly using a wholly unprotected iOS device

Just as a sidenote, this in particular is weird to me. Your argument is based on the idea that you trust Apple. But Apple is the one that makes messages from those old devices show up green. If your argument is that they might be unpatched, shouldn't you bring that up with Apple and ask them to start requiring updates to be installed before green bubbles appear in chat?

Why is it Matrix's fault that Apple considers old iPhones to be secure?

I co-founded one of the first consumer-focused, secure messaging startups. I’m more than familiar with what it takes to have probably secure comms over text.

I also know that people so tin foil hat about security can never be satisfied and that this hamstrings UX and resulting in lesser use and less used secure tools.

So there is a happy medium and there’s reasonable protection to cover 96 or more % of consumer comms.

Is iMessage secure? Maybe enough to send an SSN, but maybe not to send bank info. Would I send either over sms? Nope. That’s a call anyone can make on their own.

I don’t like this service hooking into iMessage. I don’t like the always connected jailbroken phone bridge idea.

I do think apple, of all consumer products companies, has made privacy and security core values and, at least for now, I trust the company.

I don't care how matrix is involved in the beeper’s bridge functionality nor am I evaluative of the technology.

I don’t know beeper, and don’t want the product hooking into my contacts’ end of our iMessage comms.

> I don’t like the always connected jailbroken phone bridge idea. [...] I don’t know beeper, and don’t want the product hooking into my contacts’ end of our iMessage comms.

At the end of the day though, that's a conversation you have to have with your contacts. The fact is that your contacts may jailbreak their phones already, and they'll still show up as green bubbles, and at some point you'll either trust your contacts to be secure with the tools that are provided to them or you won't.

It is not Beeper's job to sort all of this out for you. It's not their problem that you dislike people jailbreaking their phones, that's a personal choice you can make about who you communicate with.

To jump from, "I would prefer not to communicate with jailbroken iPhones or bridged services" to "this program is comparable to malware" is a massive leap in logic and a dismissal of personal responsibly. People have the right to jailbreak their phones and to use services that securely bridge their communication platforms, and if your security model requires you to avoid communicating over those channels, that's a personal choice you can make by checking with the people you communicate with and talking to them about security.

As to why these messages show up as green, it's because Apple doesn't have a visual indicator of jailbroken phones in iMessage, and because Apple allows old phones running old firmware/software to show up as green, and if you have a problem with that then you should take it up with Apple. Beeper didn't write iMessage, they're not the reason why the messages are green.

> So there is a happy medium and there’s reasonable protection to cover 96 or more % of consumer comms.

And if that happy medium for most users ends up including bridged services? What then?

What line are you drawing that says it's OK for Apple to avoid notifying you in iMessage about contacts with outdated firmware, but critically important that they let you know a contact is bridging? You're comparing this app to malware based on a completely subjective, personal security criteria -- one that it doesn't look like most other people share with you.

It's fine for you to be uncomfortable with bridges, but it's not fine for you to claim they're some kind of unique/novel threat that compromises iMessage when iMessage is already willingly making similarly large security compromises in other areas -- compromises that are also just as opaque to end users as Beeper is.

>I would never want my iMessage conversations being bridged to a service outside the Apple ecosystem

I think setting up an API outside the Apple ecosystem would be fine. It's crazy that we not only don't have a standard protocol for messaging anymore, the primary services don't even allow for integration.

They're using unsupported iPhones.[1]

[1] https://twitter.com/ericmigi/status/1351934418961661959

Worth considering that these always-connected devices exfiltrating data are not only jail broken, but unable to receive iOS security updates.

I was wondering how this is solved... and here's the answer! Wish there was a free/foss DIY solution to this.


https://airmessage.org/ (dev on subreddit indicates it will be open sourced once some code cleanup happens)

Expect Apple to come down on this like a tonne of bricks and render the whole thing impossible very quickly.

Never gonna happen as long as checkra1n can pwn the latest iOS. Cat and mouse game. MobileSubstrate/Substitute/libhooker is too powerful a platform.

This is great!

I love the idea of hosted bridges (in fact I was thinking about starting my own service like this) and I'm glad that the bridges themselves are open source. However I would much rather that the client was open source as well (It would make it way easier to get all my friends to Matrix with a well polished client).

Basically $10 a month for access to bridges that funds bridge development is great however I don't want some of that to fund the development of a closed-source client. If the client was opened, or had work upstreamed to an open source client I would be all on board.

I get what you're saying. However, I think this is nice a compromise. The closed-source client is pushes out continued development of the bridges for a little longer than it otherwise would. The client only matters insomuch as it has good bridges, so the bridges must naturally come first.

In the longer term, if a project like this succeeds, then all messaging clients become defined by their feature set rather than their vendor lock-in. If Facebook Messenger wants to compete with Beeper, then it better be able to connect to Hangouts, etc.

I welcome a player that pushes chat clients as a whole towards interoperability and commoditization, and am happy to (as a side effect) support a proprietary client that helps drive additional platform support over time (eg, I don't see Airbnb on the list of Beeper messaging bridges yet, etc).

I'm also skeptical about the proprietary client, I would have kind of thought that having a good Matrix client was more important than the bridges; I almost would have preferred to see the client Open and the bridges properietary.

But that is a very convincing comment that kind of sells me on the idea, and it matches what I've seen in other places. Cross platform play on consoles, region locking, etc... once you get enough momentum that something becomes a selling point, it becomes a lot harder for the overall ecosystem to ignore it.

So yeah, the argument you raise makes me feel a lot more positive about the service.

I agree, I think it is a "good enough" compromise that I would pay for it. However I think that clients are more important than bridges right now, I would love to get people natively on Matrix. I want both but it is a shame not to be funding an open client. I think I would just continue using Element as a client if they let me in to show what I prioritize.

This looks nice, but $10 a month is a tough sell for me (I use only two of the supported platforms everyday, with about 20 messages total in a day, on average).

Also, why does the site ask for an email address to get started? An explanation of why along with the on boarding process would be useful.

That aside, the Meet Our Team section on the homepage shows “This is some text inside of a div block.” on the right. Is this an oversight or is it some inside joke?

Charging per network makes sense to me. I would only use this for iMessage and signal, so it’s only worth a buck or two a month for me. If I was using everything offered I would gladly pay $10 a month.

I would pay $100/mo for it.

I think it's just not a pain point for everyone. In a lot of countries, "everyone" uses a single platform and it's not a big deal.

As a US user of 5 apps, some for business, it's just a mess and a constant source of friction.

> I would pay $100/mo for it.

For a good quality one? Same. Signed up.

> In a lot of countries, "everyone" uses a single platform and it's not a big deal.

> As a US user of 5 apps, some for business, it's just a mess and a constant source of friction.

Depends on what countries you have in mind, but it's pretty much the same elsewhere. Messenger, Instagram DMs, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Viber, Discord, Telegram, Signal... You just need to have all of them and this seems like a very elegant solution for having all your messages in one place.

Agreed. I would kill to not have to use Snapchat's app to talk to some of my friend groups. Same goes for Instagram.

Looks like that's a bug that occurs when javascript is disabled. It should have another two entries.

I assume they're now aware of it :)

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