Privacy is a Human Right
In order for the web to be safe and free, people need personal space to communicate and create. At this point, I think most people assume corporations and government agencies surveil their correspondence across all online platforms. It's virtually inescapable. Mass surveillance's harms extend well beyond destructive human data profiteering - a digital panopticon empowers the cruel, brutal Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) that ravages communities and targets Black people. Companies are eager to extract what they can from the PIC, even naming themselves after deceptive seeing stones wielded by the forces of evil. We need space, and our communications must be rid of predatory institutions.
Several organizations work in the private comms space, and their solutions have varying trade-offs that warrant their own discussions. I recommend looking into Cwtch, Matrix, and Signal. Full disclosure, I'll be talking about how to launch your own Matrix service using technology we've been developing at my company, Decentralabs. I chose Matrix for the following features:
- End-to-End Encryption - Only conversation participants can read messages.
- Federation - Your service can talk to your friend's service securely.
- Open-Source - Matrix has an open source reference implementation, Synapse.
Setting up, configuring, and managing a messaging server requires a wide breadth of technical knowledge and can be very time consuming. At Decentralabs, we created Noteworthy, software that handles the complexities of deployment and networking for you. It allows you to easily establish private networks across your devices, and launch powerful open-source software, like Synapse. Noteworthy is one of our attempts to empower the growth of a user-owned web.
How it works
Noteworthy automates the creation of overlay networks. In this tutorial you'll be connecting your messaging service to an overlay network operated by Decentralabs. All of your services will terminate TLS on your machine, so you can be confident that only your server can understand your messages. For more info, check out my article on hosting this site.
What You'll Need
- Computer - Ideally one that stays on as it'll run your messaging service. An old desktop or laptop should suffice. We've done a lot of work to make sure that our software runs on Raspberry Pis, including the <$30 Raspberry Pi Zero.
- Access Key - Noteworthy allows users to launch private clouds. Decentralabs runs one that lets users make their servers available over the internet. To connect to our cloud, you'll need a key. Message us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get you started!
- Docker - Noteworthy requires that you install docker.
- Domain (optional) - Noteworthy supports running your service at a custom domain. If you want to use a custom domain, you need a CNAME record pointed at
Launching your service is easy! Start by running the following in a terminal:
(WARNING: it's always good practice to review the script before executing. You can do this by running
curl -s get.noteworthy.im in your terminal first)
bash <(curl -s get.noteworthy.im)
You can then launch your service by running:
It might take a minute or two to install the software. Once it's done, you'll be prompted to accept the Terms of Service (just that this is free software with no warranties or liability).
After accepting the terms, you'll be prompted to enter a domain; this is the domain you'll use to access your messaging service. You can use your own, but don't fret if you don't have one. We allow users to reserve subdomains on a first-come, first-serve basis. Simply enter
Next, you will enter the Access Key that we sent followed by a username and password. Once that's complete, you're all done! Your service is up and running.
There are many Matrix clients. Any of them should work, but i recommend the Riot mobile and desktop apps for the time being; they're the most mature and actively developed. After installing the app, you'll want to change your custom homeserver to the domain you registered,
Join the Convo
Once you've logged in, you're hooked into the Matrix ecosystem. If you want to chat with me, join
#noteworthy:tincan.community. Excited to see you there!