Gitter is going fully native Matrix in Feb. 2023

Back when Gitter joined Matrix in September 2020 we made it clear that the long-term plan would be to turn Gitter into a fully native Matrix client, rather than just having the original platform speak Matrix, most likely by replacing it with a Gitter-branded instance of Element. To quote:

However: in the medium/long term, it’s simply not going to be efficient for the combined Element/Gitter team to split our efforts maintaining two high-profile Matrix clients. Our plan is instead to merge Gitter’s features into Element (or next generations of Element) itself and then - if and only if Element has achieved parity with Gitter based on the above list - we expect to upgrade the deployment on gitter.im to a Gitter-customised version of Element.

Since then, Element has been steadily catching up with Gitter - and indeed surpassed it in many areas.  Element now has Threads; we’re close to launching excellent public archives; OIDC single-sign-on via GitLab, GitHub & more, and with all the performance work over 2022, we’re tantalizingly close to getting fast-room-peek too.

So, after over 2 years, we’re pressing the button at last: we’re migrating all the existing content in the original centralised Gitter platform over into Gitter’s Matrix server, and we’re planning to replace the old Gitter app with a Gitter-customised version of Element during the week of Feb. 6th 2023.

This brings the following benefits:

  • Access to all of the Gitter content (public and private) from any Matrix client and by its nature bringing back support for Android and iOS again (check out Element Android and iOS)
  • New chat features like reactions, voice/video calling, polls, reply chains, location sharing, as well as threads you’re already used to
  • Better left-menu and room switcher. Be sure to checkout the room list options and customize to your liking with message previews, sorting, etc
  • Fine-grained permissions so you can actually distinguish moderators vs admins with the proper level of access. Or make your room read-only so you can have a room strictly for announcements or preserve conversations
  • Profile customization so you aren’t stuck with whatever you have set on your social provider
  • End-to-end encryption available to protect your private rooms. You will need to turn this on after getting access. Encryption is also available for public rooms (any room) but it’s recommended not to do this because it just slows everything down for content which by definition is intended to be public.
  • Element is also open source so if you see something that you want to add or fix, it’s all still possible to contribute to Gitter via Element (frontend) and Synapse (backend).
  • Finally, it saves Element the costs of running the legacy Gitter infrastructure, and means Eric can focus exclusively on helping make Matrix amazing :)

To be clear: Gitter will not be going away. All of your Gitter rooms and content will be accessible via Matrix and the gitter.im homeserver will continue to live on and be open for everyone to sign-in, interact, and chat like normal. Gitter has effectively been uploaded into (the) Matrix!

During the cutover, expect to be signed out of the Gitter app, you will then need to sign-in again but it will be through app.gitter.im on our new branded Element instance. For the desktop app, there will be a notice on the sign-in page stating that you will have to migrate to using the Element desktop app. For Android/iOS apps (which have been deprecated since 2020), expect a more harsh experience where after being signed out, you will be stuck with no indication of why it doesn’t work anymore.

Because we will be invalidating all access tokens on Gitter, this means that any bots/scripts that use the Gitter API will stop working. You can prepare for the new Matrix world by adapting your code to use https://spec.matrix.org/latest/client-server-api/. You won’t have access to all of your Gitter data to test against before the cutover but testing against your own Matrix sandbox room should be sufficient for any use case.

We will be working through the migration steps that you can track at https://github.com/vector-im/roadmap/issues/26. For comments, questions, concerns, please raise an issue at https://gitlab.com/gitterHQ/webapp/-/issues instead so we can better resolve threads individually.

There will be a full-blog post out during the actual day and a FAQ document to answer questions.

If you want to export your data from Gitter and migrate somewhere else, the tools built-in to Gitter will only be available until the cutover. Then you will need to use the Matrix API and tools available for migration.

This migration is an exciting long-time coming shift to ensure the future of Gitter! Thank you everyone for holding the faith during these transitions. We appreciate the die-hard community that’s still active and noticing the updates to all the pieces to bring us to this point. We’re confident that the brave new fully-Matrix world will be a major improvement overall and we will see you on the other side!

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