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Show HN: Hummingbard – decentralized communities built on Matrix (hummingbard.com)
412 points by SubGenius 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 83 comments



It's insanely cool to see a non-IM use case built out on top of Matrix appearing (almost) out of the blue - congratulations :)

The implementation currently freestyles a bit on the event format for the messages, which is somewhat our fault on the Matrix team for running horrifically late on MSC1767 (https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/blob/matthew/msc176...) which proposes how to do rich custom event formats (e.g. blog posts) which are still renderable and visible to more generic Matrix clients (e.g. Element). As a result, if you join a Hummingbard conversation via another Matrix client currently you can't see all the messages (or vice versa). However am hoping that Hummingbard might be a trailblazer for actually exercising MSC1767 in the wild and knocking it into shape, which would hugely benefit the whole Matrix ecosystem :)

In terms of licenses, it depend on how you want the project to be used. If you want folks to run it for personal use as a decentralised social network, I'd personally go GPLv3 or AGPLv3. If you want commercial folks to be able to build on it too, then Apache is probably the best bet. copyleft + proprietary dual licensing is another option, but means you'd need any contributors to agree to the dual licensing (could be tricky), and could be seen as not being in the spirit of the GPL. that said, IANAL, YMMV.

(At the risk of going somewhat off topic, another exciting Matrix client also appeared today: https://github.com/pixlwave/Watch-The-Matrix - the first native Matrix client for Apple Watch. https://youtu.be/Jh9iewrBdGQ)


Hello, i'm not a contributor to the matrix ecosystem but i'm happy to see discussion of the vocabulary used and MSC1767. Is there a working group talking about vocabulary or interop with other federated networks (ActivityPub/XMPP)? I'm a contributor to joinjabber.org which is not a software project but a community-oriented one, and we'd like to showcase and help improve interop with Matrix, but for now due to bugs in bifrost a bot relaying messages is the best we can do.

Specifically about hummingbard and/or MSC1767, have you considered borrowing/extending ActivityStreams 2.0 vocabulary? It's based on JSON-LD (proper schemas make it easier to test implementation) and could be extended to support matrix Actors/Services.

There's already a bunch of really cool stuff being developed on ActivityPub (lemmy/funkwhale/peertube/mobilizon) and Jabber/XMPP (movim/libervia). It would be great to achieve interoperability between all those.


Arathorn seems to always be on HN but chose to leave this question unanswered. I wonder why?

I'll hazard a guess: New Vector LLC sees it is in their financial interest that they own the only functional implementations of the Matrix protocol and what it can interact with, so there's no interest in federation with the wider Fediverse and other protocols.

Now Arathorn, come tell me why I'm wrong


Please don't post flamebait to HN or cross into personal attack. You may not feel you owe the other person better—but you owe the community better if you're participating here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


sigh

The reason I skipped over this was because the author seemed to be pushing an agenda elsewhere in the thread ("Matrix is like XMPP but with a heavier server": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26279816, and "Matrix has one reference client/server with really good features but hardware requirements that place it out of ordinary folks' reach.": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26279780) which made me wonder whether answering all their posts was going to be a good use of time. In practice, the thread hasn't exploded into a XMPP v. Matrix holy war, so it looks like my concerns were ill-founded.

To actually answer the question from the post in question:

> Is there a working group talking about vocabulary or interop with other federated networks (ActivityPub/XMPP)?

No, there isn't a formal WG - instead there are a set of informal conversations between the 3 projects. I lurk on xsf@muc.xmpp.org and standards@xmpp.org in case interop discussions come up; I also hang around various cross-project rooms where Gargron and Christopher Allen Lemmer and others are active on the AP side. As a result, cross-project initiatives sometimes pop up - for instance Matrix supported Mastodon in adding E2EE at https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/pull/13820, and we've also tried to work with XMPP on using Olm for E2EE as an alternative to libsignalprotocol in OMEMO.

In terms of content vocabulary specifically: we researched JSON-LD a bunch when working on MSC1767 (back when it was MSC1225) - the notes predate us using GFM for MSCs and are archived at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m4VTRqclB3JEMZBjbr4t5cvI...

In practice, I'm not convinced there's a huge amount of value of standardising on the same vocabulary though - whether that's MIME, JSON-LD, RDF-flavoured JSON-LD, IPLD, rich XMPP stanzas, etc - as long as there's a way to map between them. Given you need to map the protocol layer in general when bridging protocols, why not map the content format too? That said, if folks have solved the problem elsewhere satisfactorily, then we'd have no problem with piggybacking on it on Matrix (just as others have piggybacked on Matrix's E2EE).

In terms of the parent's comment:

> I'll hazard a guess: New Vector LLC sees it is in their financial interest that they own the only functional implementations of the Matrix protocol and what it can interact with, so there's no interest in federation with the wider Fediverse and other protocols.

No, my priority is trying to make the wider Matrix ecosystem as diverse and healthy as possible, including bridging nicely other protocols into Matrix. The more different projects building on Matrix (e.g. hummingbard) the more potential in the network and protocol for everyone involved. A rising tide lifts all ships, as it were. My dream for Matrix is to become the realtime communication layer of the open Web, and for there to be as many different parties building on it as do the open Web today. If we pull that off, then Element (formerly known as New Vector) would hopefully benefit from it as much as everyone else - much as 3Com benefited from creating Ethernet and bootstrapping that industry alongside DEC, Intel, Xerox and others.

But it would be UTTERLY STUPID for Element to privilege itself over other contributors to Matrix, and would effectively self-sabotage the open ecosystem, thus killing the main thing which could make Element successful in the long term. Hence the huge amount of effort and $ that we put into setting up The Matrix.org Foundation (https://matrix.org/foundation) as a neutral independent guardian of the protocol, and protect it from anyone commercially building on Matrix... including Element/New Vector.

Sorry you think we suck though :)


Sorry that you have to deal with this on literally every HN thread. I used Matrix every day, along with a number of friends and family. It has been excellent and added a lot of value to our ability to communicate. I also use the same identity to participate in the openSUSE room, PinePhone room, and others.

I have some grievances with Matrix. I've aired them in other threads, and on the Matrix.org server. Some have been addressed, others have not. I really hope I was constructive in my criticism.

Frankly, some members of the community here act like absolute children every time Matrix is discussed, and hold it to impossibly high standards (like complaining it isn't as usable or polished as privately owned VC competitors, or older standards that have been around for 5x as long and can't do half of what Matrix can). It's disappointing and frustrating because I'm afraid that you will be less willing to engage here, and upset that it detracts from actual critical conversation of the protocol.

Anyways, thank you for what you do and continuing to engage here.


Can you point to a high-level description of Matrix which makes clear where the higher server requirements come from? Obviously a lot of it is not yet optimal code, but even so what are the expensive parts in scaling up?


Synapse is relatively RAM heavy because it leans a lot on in-memory caches to speed up DB access, as the DB schema isn't particularly intelligent and the fastest way to get it up and running was to slap caches everywhere. In the past, it could also spike RAM (which python then tends not to release back to the OS) when doing complicated merge operations of complex rooms, but this has largely been solved in the last few releases. The next generation of servers (Dendrite, Conduit, Construct) use way less RAM, having built without the time constraints (and now maintenance constraints) that impact Synapse.

Separately, it's true that Matrix intrinsically uses more resources than XMPP, because Matrix's architecture is one of replicating and persisting conversation history and state between servers, rather than passing messages. And this simply involves much more data and processing than just relaying messages between sets of users.


Thanks for your hard work!


> the thread hasn't exploded into a XMPP v. Matrix holy war

Thanks for replying, that is definitely not my intention. My main concerns are interop, privacy and usability. I have technical/political criticism on both sides (XMPP/matrix) but as an end-user/sysadmin i don't see much difference in spirit/protocol between XMPP and matrix (except for decentralized rooms).

I'm currently using Jabber/XMPP for technical reasons. My two blocking issues with matrix are client side with element being really latency-sensitive (+ > 9MB loading), and server-side with synapse taking resources so the non-profits i know (eg. tildeverse.org/chatons.org/libreho.st) only provide Jabber/XMPP service. But like i said elsewhere in the thread i'll give dendrite a go.

My agenda is not hidden and is as simple as empowering users to federate across decentralized networks/protocols so we can stop arguing which solution is the best and stand up together against the corporate silos. This was stated in the goals of the joinjabber.org collective we founded a few weeks back: https://joinjabber.org/collective/about/goals/

I can assure you i have bitterness on both sides, with XSF mostly concerned with business use-cases (not free/non-profit ecosystem), and with matrix investing considerable resources into reinventing the same wheel as XMPP did two decades ago (a universal federated, bridgeable messenger). Despite everything, my agenda is as simple as "interoperability".

> as long as there's a way to map between them

I agree on paper. But in practice very few projects actually do that (only Hubzilla/Bridgy to my knowledge) which led to my question of potentially reusing an existing standard instead of coming up with an entirely new vocabulary. In my personal view, coming up with new vocabulary is also a valid approach if interop is not an afterthought.

> if folks have solved the problem elsewhere satisfactorily (...) to become the realtime communication layer of the open Web

I believe ActivityPub/ActivityStreams has solved many problems, and is already the most advanced/standardized federated social protocol on the open web (it's a W3C recommendation) despite not being especially real-time oriented. There is room for interpretation/improvement in the specs but "user profiles, posts, communities, sharing" (as in hummingbard) is definitely covered by major implementations in the fediverse even if "communities" use-case was not explicitly mentioned in the initial AP spec.

Still i made the effort to follow your link to Google Docs (seriously why Google? i made an exception for you but it's fucked up) and i better understand your concerns about reusing/mapping ActivityStreams to matrix vocabulary. So while i can't say i encourage you to reinvent yet another social federation vocabulary, having a strict mapping like you mentioned in the doc makes sense... but it should really be priority n°1 otherwise we're just splitting the ecosystem even more (see XKCD about standards).

Interoperability for social networks is really cool. People enjoy being able to comment on a Peertube video directly from their Mastodon client/account. I hope we can have matrix spaces (and hummingbard and others) part of this federated future as well. I don't believe standardizing a gateway/bridging mechanism is enough if interoperability is an afterthought (in the rest of the standards) because that's precisely the path that Jabber/XMPP took ~15y ago and it's failed dramatically.

Take care and keep in mind despite our respective opinions/criticisms, we all care for empowering and protecting users. Our enemies are corporations, governments and other kinds of oppressors, not other federated protocols.


If I create a non-IM use case, can I limit the type of clients that are allowed to connect to the server? For example, disallow Element?


Why disallow Element?


Because it could be content element can't render.


because the use case is very different from an IM, for example a video game.

what will you see if you open it in Element?


You can’t limit the clients which connect; it’s an open protocol. If the data being stored in the rooms can’t be represented as text messages then you will see empty rooms - but the point of MSC1767 is to try to ensure that you do see a relatively meaningful representation of custom structured data even in a plaintext Matrix client. For instance a video game could have a bunch of KV state events in the room representing game objects. With MSC1767 they could have simple fallback representations visible in a generic Matrix client (eg “chair” or “door”) or more sophisticated HTML representations (eg an html table showing you that object’s name and spatial coordinates and velocities). Or a more sophisticated but generic matrix client might be able to map out generic 3D or 2D scenes without actually understanding the game specifics. Basically, think of the generic Matrix clients as acting as a debugger console which at least gives you some way to interact with a room - and lets generic bots/bridges interact for the simpler generic use cases like IM and VoIP.


What does it look like to actually write a program ontop of Matrix? Eg i have a key value store that i'd like to use Matrix (or IPFS/etc) for the P2P layer. Is it a lot like IRC channels that you connect to, pushing data into them and getting data out from other clients in the same channel?

Ie is it a series of messages? Or is it something more advanced; with built in conflict resolution or other P2P-y features?


Hey, I can't comment about Matrix's P2P implementation as I haven't played with it yet. It's still a heavy work-in-progress I believe.

Regular Matrix is pretty straight-forward - you join rooms and send events. Events get propagated to all participating/federated servers that are in the room. You watch for incoming events.

The Matrix devs should be able to say more about their P2P implementation. :)


Hey, there's no prob, with Bob!

I can't tell what language Hummingbard is coded in. Hint?

GPL with targeted relaxations is usually a good way to start. You can always relax the license more later if you exercise the foresight to get contributors to allow relaxations per your judgment; and, don't rely on any strict GPL dependencies. Being GPL but not able to use GPL libraries is a funny position to get into, but that's our world.


A reminder: for software designed to be used via the network, the GPL behaves like a permissive licence — you're not distributing binaries to users, so the requirement to publish source code isn't triggered.

If you want forks accessed via the network to publish source code, use the AGPL, otherwise you may as well just use the MIT licence.


> is it a series of messages? Or is it something more advanced; with built in conflict resolution or other P2P-y features?

From the client's perspective, matrix is just a basic stream of events (like XMPP). The magic happens on the server side where a room is replicated across servers and conflict-resolution voodoo is applied. That's also why synapse server is really really resource-intensive (gigabytes of RAM) compared to equivalent-in-features (apart from decentralized rooms) XMPP/ActivityPub servers ; dendrite is fairing better but i haven't benchmarked it yet.


this isn’t really correct (but is a common misunderstanding). from the client’s perspective, a matrix room is a persistent timeline of events which you can long-poll (/sync) and navigate forwards and backwards (/messages). Events can also update key/value state associated with a room (eg that room’s name, topic, avatar, membership, or any other metadata), which you query via /state. This is not a stream of events like XMPP but a replicated DAG of events.

Synapse’s RAM usage is a) way better these days, b) not due primarily to the merge resolution algorithm (state res), but due to slapping in-memory caches everywhere rather than being smarter on the db schema. Dendrite does 5x better by being smarter in the schema, and Conduit looks to be even better via cunning use of using key/value dbs for persistence (sled).


> This is not a stream of events like XMPP but a replicated DAG of events.

Thanks for the clarification. My point was that building something client-side for matrix is pretty straightforward, in case that was not clear.

> not due primarily to the merge resolution algorithm (state res), but due to slapping in-memory caches

Good to know. conduit doesn't quite look to be ready, but would you recommend using dendrite in production to serve a few users? i guess i'll give it a go


Dendrite is still beta but is usable (as hummingbard is demonstrating). There are some missing features which make it less useful day to day currently, like push notifs, and currently the Dendrite team is off doing P2P and low bandwidth Matrix work. It’ll be back soon enough though.


Thanks for the info. If the only thing that's missing is mobile support (push & low-bandwidth) i'll sure give it a go.


For the key-value storage, would it make sense to use it as a "large" KV database?

Eg, for sake of simplicity, imagine you're storing Git in Matrix (similar to what i'm doing, if i use Matrix). I've got two primary concepts:

1. A mutable set of pointers.

2. A series of key values, where the keys are content addresses, and the values are a byte array.

My initial assumption would be to use the messages to post all newly created blocks and changes of pointers. Eg, Send a message with a new content address and the bytes. Send a message with a new address for a pointer.

For a Git-like to work in that model, it just needs to slurp up any messages in the datastream. Making sure to also slurp in old messages properly that maybe are out of order (ie, reconnecting after being offline for a while). But being a Git-like, it's a fairly simple model.

With that said, perhaps the metadata storage in Matrix would better suite some of this? I just imagine Matrix isn't intended to host TiBs of `/state` metadata.

Thoughts?


Yeah, Matrix isn't a good fit yet for freeform large KV storage. For instance, there isn't a good way to paginate state yet: you can query values by a given key, or a given type, but not paginate. Also, each KV pair gets fed into the merge resolution algorithm, which can start to get sluggish with more than ~100K events (although it's got way better in Synapse since https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse/blob/master/docs/auth_... landed a few weeks ago).

In the longer term we'd (well, I'd) love to make it work well with freeform KV data (or object graphs! you gotta store your VR scene graphs in Matrix, after all) and act like some kind of crazy global zero-trust CouchDB or Cassandra. But right now the KV state is meant to be for relatively simple freeform metadata about a room.


> In the longer term we'd (well, I'd) love to make it work well with freeform KV data

That would be great for a decentralized forge based on matrix. This is an area where i think matrix decentralized rooms would shine, as they would effectively prevent DMCA takedowns for software projects.


This is very cool! If you end up writing about what the developer experience on top of Matrix is like I'd also be curious about that.


Is this open source? Deplatforming is a very big concern for a proprietary platform.


No but in the next couple days. I actually wanted to go with the strictest copyleft license, but there was a discussion earlier about dual-licensing, which left me quite confused. I'm not very knowledgeable at all in these matters and am taking my time to decide.


It's really a matter of strategy. Do you want the protocol/vocabulary to be used everywhere, but in closed-source implementations with a free/libre ecosystem constantly lagging behind? Or do you want something that will be less friendly to governments and multinationals but will be part of a striving lesser/non-profit ecosystem?

XMPP/Matrix went the first way. Matrix ecosystem has one reference client/server with really good features but hardware requirements that place it out of ordinary folks' reach. Similarly, XMPP has some really good apps built on top (eg. Whatsapp) but the free-software clients (not servers) are lagging behind, though catching up quickly in the past years.

ActivityPub ecosystem went the other way with AGPL everywhere (Mastodon/Epicyon/Funkwhale/Peertube/PixelFed/Funkwhale/Mobilizon/WriteFreely/Lemmy/Plume) with the notable of bookwyrm who has the Anticapitalist Software license. As a consequence of the ecosystem tailoring to users/non-profits/cooperatives not corporations/governments, it's blooming into this amazing and friendly ecosystem where everybody contributes and interoperates. Hell, who would have thought three years ago selfhosting federated/p2p livestreaming video would be become so easy as Peertube?

Personally i'm more on Jabber/XMPP's side (i contribute to joinjabber.org project, and use Jabbber/XMPP daily) mostly for technical reasons (AP/matrix haven't yet caught up with XMPP in many regards) but in my view adopting loose licensing is what almost killed the XMPP ecosystem all these years ago when it had the exact same promises as matrix does today: one universal federated protocol to bridge to all others.


> Matrix ecosystem has one reference client/server with really good features but hardware requirements that place it out of ordinary folks' reach.

Define ordinary folks, please. Matrix isn't really that resource intensive for a small homeserver between family and friends.


Well client-side there seems to be progress but to my knowledge so far Riot was the only feature-complete client, and it's REALLY heavy/slow especially on high-latency links. Loading app.element.io before logging in is already 9MB. Also element responsiveness in general is really tied to latency and is therefore not pleasant to use on bad connections and/or Tor.

Server-side, many smaller hosting coops went into matrix but later dropped it because of synapse using too much resources. I know individual selfhosters who were really sad to drop it because their raspberry pi didn't have enough RAM (512MB-1GB) for selfhosting synapse.

However someone said in another thread that synapse resource usage is really better these days. Would you recommend it on such low-end hardware? (ActivityPub/XMPP servers fare really well in such conditions)


The thing that eats the most resources is joining very large, public Matrix rooms. If you don't do this, it won't be resource heavy.

I've heard of people running Synapse on a RPi 3 (see https://old.reddit.com/r/selfhosted/comments/g9h6au/matrixri... for instance) for such use cases. If you want to chat in large 1000+ member rooms, it probably won't be enough. However, even for such a use case, you don't need anything that is out of reach of a common person, just a few gigabytes of RAM. In general, it's hard to make it go over 3 GiB. My server hovers around 2 GiB and I'm in many large rooms, including the beast that is Matrix HQ.

So I would agree that Synapse is not usable on RPi-level hardware in all use cases, but you can definitely run it on such hardware for some use cases. Dendrite is also maturing really quickly and will be less resource hungry.


Also, element-desktop 1.7.21 SEGFAULTs during startup on my Debian machine. Would rather it didn't. Wow:

  $ ldd `which element-desktop` | wc -l
  102


Is it not just an electron? I would see if you can anbox the APK. Although the stock Debian kernel is not up to task. Need to turn the Android knobs. Binder and ashmem.


please file a bug report if you haven’t already so we can hunt the problem; i’m unaware of this.


Hey, what smaller hosting coops are out there? I'm a member at hcoop.net, wondering what else like us is out there.


You could be interested to checkout libreho.st and chatons.org, who are two generic hosting coops federations. tildeverse.org is a third one centered around PUBNIXes, that is servers giving away shell accounts specifically.


We're < 5 users on my synapse server running on a modern mid-range 6c/12t CPU. 4GB DDR4-2966 RAM dedicated to synapse. It has a separate decently fast postgres cluster for the db. Only 2000 rooms.

It's frustratingly slow and heavy, regardless of client.


Perf problems arise with Synapse if those 2000 rooms include massive ones with tens or hundreds of thousands of users (or other state events). The number of local users is fairly irrelevant.

If you grep the logs for state-res you will probably see that some room is consistently chewing resources (these days we explicitly log the worst offenders); easiest bet is to ask your users to leave that room or use the shutdown api to remove it from the server.

Otherwise, it may be that there’s so much data flying around due to the busy rooms that the in-memory caches are blowing out. This makes everything slow down as the DB gets hammered, and unintuitively uses more RAM as slow requests stack up. The solution is to increase the cache factor, much as you would on an overloaded db. We’re currently looking at autotuning caches do you don’t have to do this manually.

If it’s still slow, then there’s probably a bug or other weirdness (ancient Python?) - my personal server has about 5 users on a 4 core cpu and uses about 2GB of RAM without a dedicated DB node and is in thousands of rooms (including busy ones).

(Also it hopefully goes without saying that all bets are off if you aren’t on the latest Synapse release - we are constantly landing improvements currently; eg the auth chain cover algorithm eliminates most of the known perf edge cases on state resolution).


Thanks for the pointers - on latest release with Python 3.8 and roughly 2~5 of those rooms are on the larger ends of the spectrum.

Sounds like I should tune some caches then - I have memory to spare if it turns out to make a difference.

BTW, I just noticed there is an option to add a Redis - would that be a significant improvement compared to just using the process caching?


So you’ll want to try dialling up the overall cache factor a bit.

Redis is only useful if you split the server into multiple worker processes, which you shouldn’t need to at that size (and even then, doesn’t provide shared caching yet, although there’s a PR in flight for it - we currently just use redis as a pubsub mechanism between the workers).

Highly recommend hooking up prometheus and grafana if you haven’t already, as it will likely show a smoking gun of whatever the failure mode is.

Are the logs stacking up with slow state-res warnings? Stuff like:

    2021-02-25 23:15:26,408 - synapse.state.metrics - 705 - DEBUG - None - 1 biggest rooms for state-res by CPU time: ['!YynUnYHpqlHuoTAjsp:matrix.org (34.6265s)']
    2021-02-25 23:15:26,411 - synapse.state.metrics - 705 - DEBUG - None - 1 biggest rooms for state-res by DB time: ['!YynUnYHpqlHuoTAjsp:matrix.org (148.6s)']


>less friendly to governments

Definitely not: https://matrix.org/blog/2018/04/26/matrix-and-riot-confirmed...

And having worked for the last 6 months in a French governmental agency, Tchap[1] is the only internal instant messaging solution I was made aware of. Most people still had an email+phone centred work-flow however.

[1] https://www.tchap.gouv.fr/


GP is saying XMPP/Matrix went in the "more friendly to governments" direction, due to the dual licensing.


> less friendly to governments

Citation needed. The European Union Public License is copyleft and it's literally written by governmental bodies.


Yes but not all governments are the EU, and not all governments of the EU publish anything, even loss so under copyleft.

Even a government like france which is involved in strong open-washing campaign has serious Microsoft ties behind the scenes (education & military mostly) and despite all the promises for 100% OPEN, keeps on introducing closed-source algorithm which are paid for with millions of euros of public money and whose results are very sketchy to say the least (i'm looking at you ParcourSup).

So, when i said "less friendly to governments", i did not mean from a legal perspective. I meant AGPL is only one expression of a global approach to software development that is focused on user empowerment. Such software is usually less concerned with problems of big organizations (including governments), and less likely to try and reinforce governmental control (which is something most governments are looking for in a product). Does that make sense?


Well, both the mere citizen and government are users who like to have as much control on their digital tools. The difference seems to be more on who this power is expected to be exerted on. Individual themselves in the former, the national population for the later.


could someone share the run downs of open source and the various licenses in a laymen's term way? i never felt quite comfortable when why's of certain licenses.


These might be helpful to you and Hummingbard's creator:

https://choosealicense.com/licenses/ provides a concise rundown of a few common ones

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.en.html: a more detailed list

https://github.com/plibither8/licensed: a CLI tool to help choose licenses (we're on HN).


If you go with copy-left you automatically disqualify some major institutions from using your software. Especially for a community based project, there may be institutions that want to make proprietary extensions so it can integrate better with their existing infrastructure.

Generally I think MIT is a good default and you should only use a different license if you have a strong case for why MIT doesn't make sense for your project.


As the author you can always re-release the code under MIT but once it's released under MIT corporations can whole sale rip your work off for their own profit. If you keep it closed source or GPL it then you maintain some breathing room from another company just swooping in and monetizing you code for their profit.


On the other hand, if you accept contributions while under a strict license like the AGPL but then decide to go MIT, you'll have to ask each contributor to relicense his or her work or remove that work altogether.

OP, if you see your project switching licenses down the road, you might as well look into CLAs, a whole other can of worms, or just stick with the least restrictive license that achieves your goals. I'd personally use LGPLv3.


> If you go with copy-left you automatically disqualify some major institutions from using your software.

For what it's worth, I think there's reasoning to consider it on a project-by-project basis. An example might be how XMPP more or less became a bunch of walled-garden forks for various messengers like Google Chat and Facebook. I think Linux thrived with the GPLv2's copyleft being a "sweet spot" for them.


MIT licensing is also how entities like Amazon get away with pillaging OSS.

I think you have a real product here and would caution you against releasing the source code.

If you do want to open source it, I highly recommend GPLv2 or 3.


> If you do want to open source it, I highly recommend GPLv2 or 3.

This is solid advice for client software. However for software to run on the server side, AGPL providers better protections to ensure further developments remain free (copyleft).


While the AGPL would ensure that developments remain free, it will also ensure that most entities (commercial and non-commercial) that need tight integration would not touch it with a 10 foot poll.

The choice of license really depends on what the OP aims to achieve with his software.


> it will also ensure that most entities

That is simply not true. It may be true for huge corporations with legal counsel spreading FUD. But why should we care about these people ruining our lives? They're already destroying the planet and making sure millions of people are enslaved in the mines/factories across the third world, and we should provide free work for them?!

Interesting entities (libraries, schools, associations, workers coops) will not care about the software license.


Unfortunately, it is. The AGPL exposes licensees to the extraordinary risk of having to disclose any private internal/infra code that integrates with it and, more importantly, the legal and technical costs of doing so.

I assure you, even "interesting" entities care about this. Hell, even public institutions I worked for did.


In this case, wouldn't it be great if the big dogs picked up the tech and ran with it?


The same way Google and Facebook picked up XMPP and ran with it?


Remember that they failed though.


Looks dead enough to me in practice?


From my perspective that was a good thing. I still use Pidgin as my google hangouts client.


It was a good thing until they ruined it after increasing their strangle on the userbase. It would be sad to see the existing big guys get involved in Matrix to make it popular, only to corrupt it and close it off once it's served its purpose.


> you automatically disqualify some major institutions

No: it's their choice, and if they choose not to use GPL software it is evidence that they do not care about user and developer software freedom. And that they don't want to contribute back.

Also, "some major institutions" is very unclear. Google is ok with GPLv2 but not with GPLv3. Apple has restrictions on their app store.

Both companies are extremely unlikely to support decentralized communities anyways - they outright compete against them.


> If you go with copy-left you automatically disqualify some major institutions from using your software. Especially for a community based project, there may be institutions that want to make proprietary extensions so it can integrate better with their existing infrastructure.

This is still possible with GPL (and the AGPL, for that matter) by granting an exemption to the license for third-party extension software that is in the form of a plugin using a specific API.

It is worth noting that depending on the details of your (and the plugin's) implementation, such an exemption may not even be required.

This is probably a good place to start digging in to the topic: https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLAndPlugins

But before anyone starts down this rabbit hole (the legal, social, and technical details of which I personally find fascinating, but YMMV), a maintainer should instead think about the things they want to allow, the things they want to forbid, and the things they want to be able to charge for. Also, which of the aforementioned things they want to provide strong guarantees for in the event of a change in ownership and/or a fork (eg. MySQL/Oracle, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, etc.).

But whatever the preferences are for a particular project, there almost certainly is a way to set those boundaries using a FLOSS license, and it is probably possible while using the GPL (but if you're leaning toward 'allow individuals and mega corps to do whatever they want', there isn't much sense in using the GPL as a starting point), though it is possible you might need a few additional tools for some scenarios (requiring a Contributor License Agreement or even copyright assignment for contributions, license exemptions for specific APIs, splitting out some shared libraries and releasing those under a different-but-compatible license, dual licensing, separate licensing for non-code assets, a nonprofit foundation, compatibility testing and associated badging & trademarks, etc.).

Anyway, there are a lot of tools available, and most of them can be grabbed when and as they're needed, if they ever are.

So, start with what you want in terms of permissions and boundaries, then ask for advice on enabling/enforcing that structure with a FLOSS license, and it can probably be done without too much complexity (assuming that it isn't incompatible with FLOSS, like 'This software cannot be used by the military or to support the creation of WMDs').


No you don't. Some institutions are stupid and have bureaucratic rules, but unless you need them it should not be your concern.

I don't know of any copy left license that prevents you from making JSON API calls from any source you want, so you can integrate something like matrix easily enough.


Buried towards the bottom of the post:

> Hummingbard’s code will be available as soon as I am able to decide which license works best for us.


Also, since you're asking users to type in their matrix password onto https://hummingbard.com, it would be nice to have some understanding of why (even though you can host anything anyway).


Hey, my post clearly says to either sign up or use a throwaway Matrix account, and even asks to avoid using your main Matrix account.

As for the password, Hummingbard needs it for the same reason that a server-hosted webmail client like Roundcube needs your email password to log in.


I haven't gotten into the Matrix scene yet, but just want to say I think this is really cool and I can imagine there is a niche that would really appreciate it.


This is an essential extension of Matrix, great job!

For more signups, it would be great to support social logins. That has been implemented in some version of Matrix, but I’m not sure if it’s in Dendrite yet: https://github.com/vector-im/element-android/issues/2452


Is there any reason this has to be integrated into a server instead of just rendering things like it does currently, from regular rooms?


Hey, it's not integrated into a server, it just requires Dendrite (a beta Matrix server implementation) for certain features (like threading) that have not been implemented in the reference server (Synapse).


This sounds terrific, and I can’t wait to try it out! I’m looking for an easy to use alternative to Facebook Groups.

With an app (sometime soon, I hope), there’s a better chance of getting more users to adopt it. I’ve been waiting for Pixelfed (decentralized alternative to Instagram) to release an iOS app, but it still hasn’t seen the light of the day.


This is a really interesting idea. When you decide on a license, I'll be diving into this for sure.


How does this compare to movim.eu (based on XMPP)?


Why? I mean, it's cool to see people build interesting things, and I like to see tools used in unorthodox ways, but it just seems to me that using Matrix for something other than it's intended use will lead to matrix used for everything, and we see where that got us with http. Why not just use ActivityPub or something built for these types of uses?


But Matrix is intended to be used for this. Matrix is just a generic realtime data sync layer; storing social media on it is just as appropriate as IM. It’s just that we happened to build out IM first.


Wow, this is really cool! My biggest issue with Matrix right now is performance, does it use Synapse as a backend and if so are there plans to move to dendrite in the future?


> Hummingbard is dependent on Dendrite, the second-generation Matrix homeserver written in Go. Features like spaces and threading have only been implemented on Dendrite. Note that it is a forked repo with a temporary patch for paginating threads.

Pretty interesting. I was putting a little effort to get a Dendrite homeserver running a month or two ago and it was non-trivial at that time for me - but evidently the author feels it's stable enough to run an experimental project like this.


love it! this is the straw that finally got me to read up on Matrix. Will definitely start running my own server this year.




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