Gitter is joining Element

September 30, 2020

When we created Element we defined one of its primary goals as supporting and growing the Matrix ecosystem. So when GitLab proposed that Gitter, the leading developer-focused chat platform, could be stronger as part of the Matrix network, we knew we couldn’t miss the chance!

We met the Gitter team six years ago at TechCrunch Disrupt, and always had a soft spot for the app; the polish, some of the features we’re still yet to land in Element (like threading), the deep integration with GitHub and now GitLab… All of this definitely makes Gitter a best-of-breed communication app for developers. And that’s why the Gitter to Matrix bridge was one of the first we built, looking to bring all these platforms together into Matrix, for our community to be able to collaborate effectively.

So you can imagine our delight when we got the opportunity to eventually support the Gitter community properly by making it a concrete part of the Matrix network!

What does ‘concrete’ mean? In short, Element has acquired Gitter from GitLab. In practice, there are a few layers to this.

1. The app

Matthew goes into great detail about the transition from the Gitter app perspective in the Matrix blog, but the TL;DR: is:

  • The Gitter web app stays exactly as it is in the short term
  • We will focus on building a much better Gitter to Matrix bridge so the Gitter community can seamlessly use either Gitter or Element, and so the Matrix community can seamlessly participate in Gitter chatrooms
  • The bridge will prove particularly useful for mobile users, as the native Gitter mobile apps have been deprecated already: the community will soon be able to use the Element mobile apps instead!

In the longer term, the idea is to bring to Element all the niceties of Gitter (instant live room peeking, curated room directory, KaTeX support,...) and merge them with the ones from Matrix (E2E encryption, reactions, VoIP, the open standard APIs…) in a single Element app.

Then, and only then, the Gitter app will be replaced by a Gitter-specific version of Element in order to focus our efforts on building one single, amazing Matrix app (rather than supporting two). These enhancements will of course benefit everyone using either Element or Gitter.

2. The data

In terms of data processing, current Gitter users will shortly receive a communication about the change of data controller and will have the ability to opt out of the migration if they wish. For those who stay along for the ride, their data will now be under the responsibility of Element (via the New Vector Limited legal entity). The data is physically not going to move anywhere: only the name at the top of the paper will change.

3. The team

And last but not least, the Gitter dev team will be employed by Element and receive a very warm welcome!

To summarise all this, we’re really excited to see the global developer community converging onto the Matrix open network! The exercise will definitely be a landmark case study of how to bring an existing successful chat app into the Matrix network - we’re looking forward to more of these in order to bring an even more powerful Matrix network to Element’s users and customers. But most importantly we're super happy to be able to give Gitter a new life in Matrix, and see the Gitter community continuing to thrive :)

From GitLab’s perspective, the take from Sid Sijbrandij (GitLab’s CEO) is: “A great project chat is an essential element of most open source projects and Gitter is the leading open source solution.

“Under GitLab, Gitter’s community has grown to 1.7M users who have also contributed to improving the product for everyone. We are happy that Gitter will now have a fantastic home with Element. They have the momentum to quickly build on the success of Gitter to expand its footprint within the developer community and act as a driver for the rest of its business and the Matrix ecosystem. It’s a great home for Gitter.”

So: welcome to Gitter - both the team and the community: we’ll aim to be the best custodians possible for your project!

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