Matrix Needs: Homeserver Local Discovery

Towards Matrix, Properly Decentralised

One of matrix's key properties is decentralised communication.

No single party controls the whole system, there is not a single service provider of whom everybody is a customer, anyone can choose who provides their service or run it themself.

When I install a Matrix client app, I expect it to connect to my Matrix server. What happens currently: most matrix client apps invite me to connect to one particular de-facto “central” server called “”. As a user, connecting to my own server is a chore. In Element's flagship “Element X” preview, for example, currently I have to choose the less obvious buttons to skip past screens inviting me to choose the “” server, twice, and input my server's domain on a “search” screen separate from where I enter my “username”.

What matrix client apps should do: discover my local server automatically, make a reasonable suggestion for my username (e.g. from my computer's or phone's user account details, address-book, etc.), and move on to asking me for my password.

It would be nice if we could standardise a way for a local matrix homeserver to advertise itself on the local network, and for a client to detect the local homeserver(s) automatically. Home media servers do this, and some other kinds of home servers. Technically there are a few different ways to achieve Zero-configuration networking, like UPnP, mDNS, DNS-SD.

A different and complementary approach is to integrate with the accounts already configured in the phone's settings (on Android for example). I should be able to configure one matrix account in one place, and then any matrix client app I install should pick up the settings from there.

Which technique(s) we use is not as important as that it should Just Work, for ordinary low-tech people who have not set up their own infrastructure but are perhaps subscribing to a matrix server provider.

(Traditional “enterprise” deployment techniques are still valid in an enterprise setting, for example where the enterprise IT department configures the employees' devices. But that is something they have the resources to develop and deploy. I am interested in what we can do for ordinary individuals at home.)

It seems to me that's the way things should Just Work, everywhere from homes to enterprises, if we care about decentralisation.

#matrix #awesomeFOSS

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