Scott Olson

Switching from IRCCloud to Matrix

[This is potentially out of date and in the meantime I’ve switched back to IRCCloud, since it isn’t freezing anymore and I had a variety of problems with Matrix. — ]

For the benefit of my friends who are still dealing with IRCCloud freezing up entirely every time freenode looks at it funny…

Just over 2 weeks ago I switched from the closed-source IRCCloud to the open-source Matrix (Wikipedia article) for my IRC client needs. I had been using the free version of IRCCloud, with an always-open tab on my desktop so I would remain connected. I used the web and Android clients and connected only to the Mozilla and freenode networks, as free IRCCloud has a limit of two.

I replaced those clients with the equivalent open-source web and Android clients from Riot (previously known as Vector). Riot runs no servers; its clients connect (by default) to the Matrix servers hosted by Matrix.org. I used the Riot web client to create an account on the Matrix.org server.

IRC bridges

Now, Matrix isn’t specifically related to IRC at all, but the Matrix servers are also host to IRC bridges to the freenode and Mozilla networks. The bridged channels are named like normal Matrix rooms (#name@server.org) but with a special prefix chosen by the people running the IRC bridges.

IRC name IRC network Matrix.org bridge name
#rust Mozilla #mozilla_#rust:matrix.org
#nixos freenode #freenode_#nixos:matrix.org
NickServ Mozilla @mozilla_NickServ:matrix.org

Managing your bridged username

Each bridged Matrix user shows up on IRC as a separate connection with its own nickname. To set your nickname for each network, there is a special magic bot you can talk to:

They accept commands like:

You will need to use !nick to set your bridged IRC nickname.

Managing NickServ

The Matrix IRC bridges currently have zero support for automatically logging into NickServ. You will need to open a chat with @freenode_NickServ:matrix.org and say identify <your account> <your password> each time the bridge re-connects you.

If you are a heavy freenode user and being logged-in is important to you, this may be annoying. Since I mostly use Mozilla, which is far more stable, this hasn’t been much of a problem for me.

Pros

Here’s what I liked about the switch.

Cons

Here’s what I dislike about using Matrix for IRC so far.

Status quo

These are things where Riot and IRCCloud are roughly equal.

Potential pros

Potential cons

Wrapping up

Hopefully this was enough braindump for you to figure out whether Matrix could work for you. It only took me a couple hours to get completely set up (including time I spent researching Matrix and its variety of clients), so I encourage you to give it a go and decide for yourself.

Despite my cons list being physically larger than my pros list, I assure you that the pros outweigh the cons for me. I’m simply good at complaining. :)

Please let me know if you have any comments or corrections to this article. You can always reach me at scott@solson.me, scott on Mozilla IRC, or @solson:matrix.org on Matrix.