Matrix needs: Bring Your Own Domain

Owning Your Identity in matrix is currently not as cheap and easy as it should be. Hopefully this will be changing in the not too distant future.

The current options for using your own identity in Matrix are, roughly speaking:

  • rent a personal matrix homeserver as a managed service “in the cloud”
    • around £1 a month for your own domain name, plus
    • around £10 a month for the matrix service
  • run your own server
    • around £1 a month for your own domain name; plus
    • rent a virtual server from under £5 a month, or provide your own; plus
    • your skill and time

The sticking point is that currently you have to run a whole matrix “homeserver” for each DNS domain name that you want to use in a matrix user id. To register an account on the matrix.org server, for example, you must use an identifier like @some-name:matrix.org which is an identifier owned by matrix.org. There is no option to Bring Your Own Domain and register yourself as @myself:myself.org on that server.

The one domain per server model works well where the users are already members of an organisation with its own domain name, such as a government, a school or a business. For the ordinary individual who wants to own their own online identity by bringing their own domain name, however, the requirement to run their own matrix homeserver is currently too onerous.

The need for one (virtual) server per domain is a limitation of the current server software. It could be lifted in future.Then we could see commercial services offering Bring Your Own Domain accounts on their servers. This would be cheaper to run than a server per domain, and would bring a useful hybrid model of:

  • terms and conditions set by the service provider; with
  • self-ownership of one’s matrix account’s identity, giving the ability to move one’s account to another service provider with different TOCs, (or, in the extreme, self-hosting) without any loss of service or contacts

The matrix community needs to break that barrier somehow. Options include:

  • making tiny simple homeservers so it’s no burden for each user to run their own;
    • needed also for p2p Matrix, and beginning to happen with Dendrite
  • making homeservers that offer a Bring Your Own Domain option.

Besides Dendrite, the Matrix community has some other small-footprint homeservers under development which may be ready for use within the next year or so. I hope we will see Bring Your Own Domain (aka multi-tenant) capability being developed in at least one of this new generation of homeservers.

The good news is the options are looking likely to open up. The crucial fact is that you can own your identity in matrix, already.