When Emmanuel Macron boasted about his use of Telegram in 2017, security advisors in the French Government were thrown into a panic. Macron believed that using this ‘secure’ consumer chat application demonstrated that he was a politician for modern times. But with the President’s communications being hosted on a Russian-controlled app, what his advisors saw was the potential for a major security breach.
For organisations that take privacy seriously, the largest instant messaging platforms today simply aren’t a viable solution. As scandal after scandal hits the newspapers, it’s just not possible for them to trust global enterprises such as Facebook or Slack to safeguard their data when in truth much of the value in these businesses lies in mining this data. Since declaring that privacy was “dead” in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg’s message this year has finally shifted and recognised users’ demand for privacy features. For many, however, this will be too little too late. The trust has already been broken. And yet, employees continue to cry out for communications tools that will help unleash productivity at work with the same delightful experiences that they’re used to as consumers.
The French Government compiled a long wish-list for the platform that would fit their requirements. They needed a feature-rich chat application that combined consumer-grade usability with enterprise-grade security and functionality. They needed a communication tool that would allow them to retain control of their data internally whilst also enabling communication with external parties. They needed something that they were sure was safe and secure — having data of importance to national security sitting on servers in Russia or California was simply not an option. They searched high and low, and they found nothing. Until they came across Matrix and New Vector.
New Vector was founded by Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape, the creators of Matrix — the world’s leading open standard for secure and decentralised communications. They are the foremost provider of applications and services for the network and today they are working with some of the world’s most privacy-conscious organisations from the US Government to Thales, Wikimedia, Mozilla, Red Hat and the NHS.
For the French Government, they were the only solution. Matrix’s open-source code base meant that there was no chance of hidden back doors. As a decentralised network, it allowed the government to host their own servers and retain sovereignty over their data. Security was further ensured with end-to-end encryption, and with a fork of New Vector’s Riot application they also had a client with all the trimmings you would expect of a best-in-class collaboration tool and a viable alternative to Slack or Teams.
The French Government adopted Matrix for their official real-time communications tooling and have rolled it out across the government over the last year with New Vector’s support. Today, there are more than 16 ministries running and administering their own operationally independent deployments on Matrix.
A new approach
What Matrix has demonstrated is the need for an entirely different approach, a different infrastructure. They’ve shown that the only way to combine usability and privacy is to remove centralised controlling enterprises from the ownership of the technological rails of instant messaging. That’s why New Vector has received such a flood of inbound interest, and it’s why we believe that New Vector can help Matrix to become the natural successor to today’s platforms.
Matrix’s open-source standard and decentralised network can become a shared infrastructure that unites communications platforms around the world enabling interoperable communication between client and servers. It can become the foundation on which a whole ecosystem of new applications and services flourish, just as SMTP has been the foundational infrastructure enabling seamless email communication since the 1980s. No longer will users need to trade off functionality against security: Matrix enables state-of-the-art communication tools and makes users once again the sovereign owners of their data.
Over the last year the Matrix network has expanded rapidly to more than 11M users, with >40k separate homeservers and a highly engaged developer community from across the globe have congregated around it and are contributing daily to the protocol.
So what’s next?
With the tech infrastructure now in place, the next phase is all about enabling growth and providing best-in-class applications and services to support organisations and users on the network.
Our investment will allow New Vector to continue enhancing its flagship client, Riot.IM, and to roll out hosting and integration services offered through Modular.IM so that any business can sign up and deploy their own secure chat service on Matrix with a customised instance of Riot in seconds.
The investment will enable New Vector to expand its current customer base, scaling sales and deployment teams to capitalise on its strong pipeline of opportunities and bring more government and enterprises into the network. In doing so, New Vector can become the leading provider of secure communications software and support services to governments and privacy-conscious enterprises globally.
Earlier this year when we met Matthew and Amandine, the creators of Matrix and founders of New Vector, we were captivated by their vision for the future of real-time communication. As we see it, the Matrix network is a fundamental step-change that promises to revolutionise the way communications takes place for businesses and consumers globally. Over time, New Vector will help Matrix to become as vibrant, open and global a platform as the web. It has the potential to become the shared and trusted infrastructure that unites real-time communications platforms.
Wielding the holy fire of open-source, Matrix and New Vector will liberate real-time communications from the siloed and centralised platforms where it exists today and bring control and ownership back to users where it belongs. We cannot wait to help bring this future to life.
Today, Dawn is announcing our investment in New Vector’s $8.5m Series A alongside Notion Capital and firstminute.
New Vector was founded by the creators of Matrix.org to support development of the Matrix protocol as well as the development of commercial applications and services to support growth of the Matrix network. These include the flagship Matrix client Riot, homeserver hosting services through Modular as well as further enterprise deployment and support services.
To try out Riot and Matrix for yourself, go to this link!
And for those of you who got this far, here’s a more detailed summary of why we believe Matrix represents a radically different and beneficial alternative for the future of real-time messaging:
The Matrix codebase, which is federated by the non-profit Matrix Foundation, is publicly available and entirely open to scrutiny. There’s no proprietary code, no central controlling entity and therefore no hidden backdoors. This openness means that trust is inherent in the Matrix network. Everyone knows exactly how the code is constructed and how their data is being handled.
It also means anyone can develop their own applications or host homeservers to communicate via the Matrix protocol, and that by building on this standard they will be by nature interoperable. Any clients and servers communicating via the Matrix standard will able to communicate seamlessly with one another. Matrix thereby promises to liberate real-time communications from closed silos. Its open standard will encourage a rich ecosystem of applications and clients to flourish around it, just as email has enjoyed since the 1980s when SMTP was adopted as it’s a shared, open infrastructure.
This has multiple benefits — not only can anyone host a homeserver and communicate via the protocol, but every server retains total self-sovereignty over its users’ data. This democratises control over communication and has the added benefit of creating a highly durable communications network.
Matrix operates as a decentralised conversation store — so when you send a message in Matrix, it is replicated over all the servers whose users are participating in a given conversation. This means that Matrix conversations span across multiple servers and there is no single point of control or failure in a conversation. And even if your server goes offline, the conversation can continue uninterrupted elsewhere until it returns.
The decentralised network and open-source code base remove the need for a trusted central party in the network. In addition, Matrix also supports end-to-end encryptionfor all individual, group messages and calls. State-of-the-art security is provided via the open-standard Olm and Megolm cryptographic ratchets which ensures that only intended recipients can ever decrypt messages, as well as warning when any unexpected devices are added to the conversation. Matrix’s encryption is based on the Double Ratchet Algorithm popularised by Signal but here extended to support encryption to rooms containing thousands of devices.
Offered by default are 1:1/group chat, typing notifications, read receipts, reactions, formatted and editable msgs, synchronised conversation history, VoIP calls, conferences and file transfer offered by default. And Matrix supports bridging into existing communications platforms. The protocol actually enables interoperability between previously closed platforms with bridges into external networks. There are already bridges supporting communication with Slack, IRC, Gitter, Discord, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Email, Text, WhatsApp and many others.
Bridging in this way doesn’t simply allow individuals to communicate with multiple external networks from Matrix. It also provides flexibility to businesses who can keep their internal communications networks under their own control whilst communicating with wider external networks or integrating with existing business tools to maximise productivity.