Synapse now lives at github.com/element-hq/synapse
As we announced in November, Element is switching to use the Affero General Public License (AGPLv3) for its future contributions to Synapse and related backend Matrix projects. The repositories will live at github.com/element-hq (newly renamed from our old outdated name of github.com/vector-im); we’re switching them over starting today, commencing with Synapse.
The reason we’ve made this change is because Element is not yet profitable as a company, despite writing the vast majority of Synapse, Dendrite and adjacent projects. Element, whose team created Matrix and still leads its development, has to be profitable in order to continue Matrix development. We need to encourage other commercial Matrix vendors and governments building on Synapse or Dendrite to contribute to the underlying costs of developing these projects – either by contributing back code by open sourcing their changes, or by arranging an AGPL exception by contacting [email protected].
In order to sell AGPL exceptions, Element needs to have permission from future code contributors to be able to redistribute their contributions under a non-AGPL licence. This means that future contributors will need to sign a Contributor Licence Agreement (CLA) to grant Element the permission to distribute their code under non-AGPL terms.
Now, CLAs come in all shapes and sizes: some good and some bad. It’s critical to understand that our reason for requiring one here is to give us the right to sell AGPL exceptions: not to “do a Hashicorp” and switch to a non-FOSS licence in future. We’ve made this clear in the wording of the CLA (using a similar approach to Signal’s CLA) by committing to distributing contributions as FOSS under an OSI-approved licence – many thanks to those who gave feedback on the original announcement to suggest this. You can find the final CLA wording here, derived from the well-respected Apache Software Foundation CLA.
If you’re running an unmodified Synapse, Dendrite, sygnal, sydent, matrix-authentication-service or sliding-sync-proxy, there’s nothing you need to do here other than change any affected GitHub repository URLs from github.com/matrix-org to github.com/element-hq. Element will start to publish new upstream packages for Debian, Pypi and Dockerhub – but The Matrix.org Foundation will continue to publish mirrors of these packages under the existing names as a convenience to avoid breaking installations.
Otherwise, if you’re a commercial Matrix vendor using Synapse or Dendrite, please contact [email protected] to arrange an AGPL exception to ensure that the project you’re building on continues to thrive. We’d also highly recommend becoming a member of the Matrix.org Foundation. Your membership will play a crucial role in financially sustaining core Matrix development and securing the future of projects under the Foundation's guidance.
This change only impacts a handful of server-side projects which Element primarily maintains, in a bid to make their development sustainable. The Matrix protocol and spec itself is owned and governed by the Matrix.org Foundation and always will be. Also, this move does not represent friction between the Foundation and Element: while everyone would prefer for the Foundation to have the resources to fund development for Synapse and friends - it doesn’t yet, and this is a fallback plan to keep the projects thriving.