Element Starter: open source meets on-premise collaboration

September 19, 2023

As the online communication landscape evolves, the need for a secure and private communication platform has grown exponentially. This need is what drives us. We are proud to introduce Element Starter: a brand new offering designed to provide IT administrators with a free, self-hosted, and user-friendly on-ramp to the world of secure communications and digital sovereignty. Get started by downloading Element Starter.

Free communication in more ways than one

Element Starter is a game-changer, offering a free (as in beer) self-hosted version of Element Server Suite. It is a lightweight version of the officially supported Kubernetes-based components found in our paid packages (Business, Enterprise and Sovereign) - the very same stack used to power the biggest Matrix homeservers in the world; built by the team who created Matrix.

Element Starter is designed to allow anyone in the world (who doesn’t need to start with our powerful paid-for enterprise features) to adopt Element Server Suite for free. This option gives them all the real-time communication functionality they expect from a leading messaging and collaboration app with the added benefit of self-hosting to ensure data ownership and control, while building on a wrought-iron foundation which is futureproofed for commercial support and features on demand.

This is the first time we’ve been able to offer a ‘free forever’ version of Element Server Suite; it will help smaller communities and non-profits easily manage a secure communications platform at almost no cost. For those that need the complete ‘enterprise-ready’ version of Element Server Suite (bigger user numbers, more admin functionality, on-going support, etc.) we’re still offering our 30 day free trial to experience those benefits first-hand.

Building a stronger network

As more users join our platform (and the wider Matrix universe), the proliferation of secure communication benefits everyone. Small organisations (be they NGOs, communities or for-profits) can now more easily host their own Element server, empowering them to communicate securely with clients, partners and colleagues. This democratisation of secure communication tools creates a ripple effect that reaches out into the furthest corners of the digital landscape.

Who is Element Starter for?

Element Starter is ideally suited for small deployments of up to 200 users. This makes it ideal for small organisations who may not require the advanced functionality provided by Element Server Suite paid packages, and who may not be ready to commit to paying for their secure communications platforms yet. It’s also an ideal option for a smaller supplier to adopt Matrix-based communication to federate with a larger client’s deployment. Given that Element Starter is built on the same foundation as our industrial-strength Element Server Suite, you know you’re getting the most solid foundation imaginable.

Perfect for Element X

With Element X on the horizon, Element Starter is by far the easiest way to get ready serverside - it ships out of the box with perfectly orchestrated Sliding Sync Proxy support for instant login/launch/sync, Matrix Authentication Service for Native OIDC Authentication, and Element Call for native scalable video conferencing.  No need to figure out how to bolt your own proxy or OIDC infrastructure together; Starter edition does it for you with a simple, beautiful user interface.

An easy path to upgrading

A key benefit of Element Starter is its seamless upgrade path to the Element Server Suite paid plans which provide all our enterprise-grade functionality. Organisations can start with the free Starter edition, experience the benefits of a secure communication platform, and then simply upgrade as and when they need professional support or additional enterprise-focused features.

The upgrade process is completely transparent - unlike migrating from ad hoc implementations built with third party components, and it guarantees that you can get full enterprise support for your deployment if and when you need it, from the team who created Matrix.

Element Starter Core: 100% open source

Starter makes it free to host your own Element deployment, but one or two of the components in Starter are not open source; most notably our Admin Console. That’s why we’ve also created Starter Core: a 100% open source version (AGPLv3) of Element Starter that doesn't include the Admin Console UI. This version is available via GitHub and OpenCoDE (the official public GitLab instance of the German government). Being available through OpenCoDE supports our involvement in Germany’s Sovereign Workplace project: a Dataport-led initiative to offer German public servants an open source alternative to suites of office software such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.

The way to a secure future

Element Starter is more than just our free server offering; it's a pathway to a secure digital future. It allows more of the world to experience decentralised, end-to-end encrypted communication first-hand. This experience empowers individuals and businesses by giving them a secure communications platform that they control. From now on having the ability to own your conversations isn’t restricted to those who can afford it, or have the expert skills to manage their own Matrix distribution. Our Starter edition is an on-ramp to private and secure online communication.

We believe that Element Starter is a ground-breaking offering that will create a rising tide of secure digital future for everyone. It removes barriers, provides a clear upgrade path, and empowers users to experience the benefits of decentralised, end-to-end encrypted communication. By making secure communication more available, Starter has the potential to change how we communicate online, one organisation at a time.

Karl Abbott
Karl Abbott is the Product Manager for Element On-Premise and is passionate about private and secure communications.

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