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In April this year, Mozilla announced that it would be shutting down its IRC network stating that it creates “unnecessary barriers to participation in the Mozilla project.” Last week, Mike Hoye, the Engineering Community Manager at Mozilla, shared the four final candidates for Mozilla’s community-facing synchronous messaging system: Mattermost, Matrix/Riot.im, Rocket.Chat, and Slack.

Mattermost is a flexible, self-hostable, open-source messaging platform that enables secure team collaboration. Riot.im is an open-source instant messaging client that is based on the federated Matrix protocol. Rocket.Chat is also a free and open-source team chat collaboration platform. The only proprietary option in the shortlisted messaging platform list is Slack, which is a widely used team collaboration hub.

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Explaining how Mozilla shortlisted these messaging systems, Hoye wrote, “These candidates were assessed on a variety of axes, most importantly Community Participation Guideline enforcement and accessibility, but also including team requirements from engineering, organizational-values alignment, usability, utility and cost.

He said that though there were a whole lot of options to choose from these were the ones that best-suited Mozilla’s current institutional needs and organizational goals. Mozilla will soon be launching official test instances of each of the candidates for open testing.

After the one month trial period, the team will be taking feedback in dedicated channels on each of those servers. You can also share your feedback in #synchronicity on IRC.mozilla.org and a forum on Mozilla’s community Discourse instance that the team will be creating soon.

Mozilla’s timeline for transitioning to the finalized messaging system

  • September 12th to October 9th: Mozilla will be running the proof of concept trials and accepting community feedback.
  • October 9th to 30th: It will discuss the feedback, draft a proposed post-IRC plan, and get approval from the stakeholders.
  • December 1st:  The new messaging system will be started.
  • March 1st, 2020: There will be a transition time for support tooling and developers starting from the launch to March 1st, 2020. After this Mozilla’s IRC network will be shut down.

Hoye shared that the internal Slack instance will still be running regardless of the result to ensure smooth communication. He wrote, “Internal Slack is not going away; that has never been on the table. Whatever the outcome of this process, if you work at Mozilla your manager will still need to be able to find you on Slack, and that is where internal discussions and critical incident management will take place.

In a discussion on Hacker News, many rooted for Matrix. A user commented, “I am hoping they go with Matrix, least then I will be able to have the choice of having a client appropriate to my needs.” Another user added, “Man, I sure hope they go the route of Matrix! Between the French government and Mozilla, both potentially using Matrix would send a great and strong signal to the world, that matrix can work for everyone! Fingers crossed!

Many also appreciated that Mozilla chose three open-source messaging systems. A user commented, “It’s great to see 3/4 of the options are open source! Whatever happens, I really hope the community gets behind the open-source options and don’t let more things get eaten up by commercial silos cough slack cough.

Some were not happy that Zulip, an open-source group chat application, was not selected. “I’m sad to see Zulip excluded from the list. It solves the #1 issue with large group chats – proper threading. Nothing worse than waking up to a 1000 message backlog you have to sort through to filter out the information relevant to you. Except for Slack, all of their other choices have very poor threading,” a user commented.

Check out the Hoye’s official announcement to know more in detail.

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