Welcome to Element!

July 15, 2020

Hi everyone,

We are incredibly excited to announce that Riot is now Element!

In fact we have simplified all our naming: Element is also the name for New Vector (the company behind Riot) while Modular, our flagship Matrix hosting service, has become Element Matrix Services.

For those discovering us for the first time: Element is the flagship secure collaboration app for the decentralised Matrix communication network.  Element lets you own your own end-to-end encrypted chat server, while still connecting to everyone else in the wider Matrix network.

What’s more, RiotX is now out of beta - our next generation Matrix client for Android has flown the nest and spread its wings as Element - replacing the old Riot Android app at last!

This name change has been a long time in the making. As we explained when we announced the rebrand a few weeks ago, we’ve had major issues with a certain gigantic games company which has blocked us from being able to trademark Riot or even Riot.im - a huge issue when it comes to defending users against abusive forks of the app. Secondly, people incorrectly assume Riot refers to violence, rather than the more constructive forms of chaos we had in mind. Lastly, it made sense in the early days of Matrix to have different brands to illustrate the different roles of Riot, Modular and New Vector in the ecosystem… but nowadays there are loads of Matrix clients, Matrix hosting providers and companies building on Matrix - and so all New Vector’s different names were just causing confusion.  

So, why Element?

We want a name that reflects the emphasis on simplicity and clarity that we aimed for when designing RiotX; a name that highlights our single-minded mission to make Element the most elegant and usable mainstream comms app imaginable.  Riot had a pretty chequered history, spending much of its life in beta, with intermittent attention to design until we hit 1.0 last year - but nowadays we have a dedicated full-time design team working on Element, who not only design the graphics but the overall behaviour of new features in the app.  This is not an easy task, given it turns out the hardest bits of end-to-end encryption are almost entirely UX challenges.  What’s more, presenting a global decentralised communication network as simply as a centralised communication island is surprisingly tricky.  However: we have been making massive progress, to the extent that we are barely recognisable as the Riot of the past. Element reflects a clean start to focus monomaniacally on mainstream usability in future.

We also want a name that better evokes the idea of data ownership and self-sovereignty.  An element is the smallest indivisible thing in a system - yet one which can stand alone.  You can customise it, control it and make it your own - you can literally be in your Element!

Moreover, we want a name that will be future-proof for peer-to-peer Matrix.  As Matrix.org announced last month, P2P Matrix is in heavy development - and we can see a world where Element will literally be an element of Matrix, running your own homeserver within the app, so you can communicate if you don’t have a server… or even Internet. In fact, we published the first experimental build of P2P Riot for iOS on Testflight a few days ago - so we can clearly see a future where we will be in our P2P element!

Finally, we think it’s a cool name :D  It fits in nicely with the term Matrix while not being as nerdy as Vector.  We’re obviously aware that Element is (once again) both a dictionary word and a mathematical term - but in practice, looking at search results for Element right now, the top hits are for dictionary sites(!) and the field is wide open.  Conversely, in a virgin browser on VPN, Riot is the 4th hit on Google for Riot; second only to a certain games company.  In other words, we’ve shown that we can successfully adopt dictionary words - and if you do find yourself lost searching in a maze of mathematics, just throw in the word ‘chat’ to get back on track.  (For all the linear algebraists who are spitting with rage at this point: we promise we’ll make it up to you by finally sorting out latex support in Element!)

This change is inevitably going to be disruptive, and we’re painfully aware that we’ve spent four years building up Riot’s reputation and persuading everyone to move their friends, families and teams onto it.  To reiterate what we said when we announced the change, we know that many people reading this will have put their necks on the line to get folks to adopt Riot, and we really appreciate how frustrating it may be to have to explain the change to your users.  However, this is unquestionably the right time to shed our skin and make the change, and we hope folks will grow to love Element much more than they ever did Riot.  To aid the transition, we’ve named the installable apps “Element (Riot.im)” for a while to help people get reoriented (e.g. when searching by name for Riot).

Last but not least: Element isn’t just a new name - it comes with a massive suite of improvements across Android, iOS and Web.

We’ll write about these in full over the coming days, but the big headlines are that RiotX (our ground-up rewrite of Riot Android) has exited beta, and replaces Riot Android as Element - complete with VoIP calls and Widget support! Riot Android users will magically autoupgrade into Element; the old RiotX app will be retired in due course. FDroid is likely releasing Element as an entirely new app.  Meanwhile On iOS we now have full support for iOS 13, complete with entirely new push notification support (thanks to Apple’s nightmarish deprecation of PushKit).

The App Formerly Known As RiotX!

On Element Web, we’ve given the UI a massive refresh, with a beautiful new font (Inter) giving much improved legibility, and we’ve completely rewritten the Room List control - adding in room previews(!!), alphabetic ordering, resizable lists, improved notification UI and more. We’ve also landed the first phase of further improving the end-to-end encryption setup process - letting users generate a recovery key rather than forcing them to select a recovery passphrase when setting up E2EE for the first time (the next phase is to delay setting up E2EE until the user actually starts talking in encrypted rooms).

So there you have it. Welcome to a whole new beginning for Riot: welcome to your new Element, one where mainstream Matrix users will enjoy themselves too - and which will pave the way for wider adoption of open, secure, decentralised communication via Matrix throughout the world.

- Matthew, Amandine, and the whole Element team.

P.S. Check out our all-new website and in particular the migration page for much more information about our brave new world!

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