Communication is key for every organization no matter the field or industry. If a team can’t easily and effectively share ideas and updates with each other, then they are more likely to miss deadlines and deliver a sub-par product. Broadband internet speeds have made real-time communication a reality, but it can be a challenge to sift all of the solutions on the market.

Rocket.Chat has positioned itself as a full-featured messaging platform with one big difference that separates it from the competition: it is a completely open-source product. Potential customers will appreciate that because they have the freedom to control their deployment of Rocket.Chat server and direct access to the latest source code. However, open-source projects also come with a number of other key advantages.
Rocket.Chat is doing things with security and privacy that your typical messenger either ignores or fails to implement. It’s also introducing its users to a virtuous loop, where users can become contributors in improving the system itself, which is another rare feature of a messaging app.

And Rocket.Chat is available as app in Univention App Center and already utilizes Rocket.Chat’s LDAP support to enable users within the Univention Corporate Server (UCS) identity management to login to Rocket.Chat. A pre-installed App Appliance for VMware, VirtualBox and KVM is available for download to get prospects up and running quickly and easily.

In this article, we’ll explore the history of how Rocket.Chat came to be and what lies ahead for its open-source community of developers and users.

The Birth of Rocket.Chat

Rocket.Chat was founded in 2015 as part of an experiment for a different project. The development team was working on a customer relationship management (CRM) platform and trying to integrate a live-chat tool to allow shoppers to communicate in real-time with support representatives.
In the process of developing the live-chat tool, the team realized how the code could be used on a much grander scale. That gave birth to Rocket.Chat.

What is incredible about Rocket.Chat is it had the luxury of putting itself in the right place and at the right time. At first, it was nothing more than a simple script posted on GitHub. However, the script went viral and everything took off from there.

The current product is designed for teams of all sizes, with the goal of reducing an organization’s reliance on email and instant messaging applications.

Is this possible? Rocket.Chat believes so. While Rocket.Chat will not be an overnight replacement for e-mail, the developers have repeatedly stated that they believe this messenger can eventually replace the need for e-mailing.

The community version of Rocket.Chat can be downloaded for free and run with unlimited access. This means you can set up separate user accounts for everyone in your organization and build different channels for discussion. Rocket.Chat also handles private messaging and supports attachment sharing.

Some of the more recent features that Rocket.Chat has released include real-time translation and support for API plug-ins. You can use Rocket.Chat within a browser or download a native application. The platform supports Windows, Mac OS X, Linux – as well as iOS and Android on mobile.

Building Blocks of Open-Source

The codebase for Rocket.Chat has been hosted on GitHub since the very beginning, meaning that anyone is free to browse the contents and see how the platform works. Since that initial launch, the team at Rocket.Chat has worked to keep the open-source spirit alive in everything they do.

As a product, Rocket.Chat has the ability to evolve quickly thanks to the growing network of contributors and the fact that it is built on top of industry standards and other open-source projects. This level of transparency makes it accessible to those who may have never used it before.

Most of the coding for Rocket.Chat is done in Node.js, which is a flexible language with many users worldwide. Back-end storage is handled by MongoDB, another growing product that started as open-source. Lastly, Rocket.Chat leverages the power of WebRTC to support real-time video and audio transmissions over a web browser connection.

Expanding the Rocket.Chat Community

The success and popularity that Rocket.Chat has achieved can be directly tied to its open-source approach. Instead of having a single product owner making all of the decisions for the platform, the evolution of Rocket.Chat has essentially been crowdsourced to a massive community of developers.

New contributors to Rocket.Chat have the ability to suggest ideas, identify bugs, or take on other development tasks. The organization even has a public chat channel where developers can discuss their work in real-time and collaborate together on new features or fixes.

The evolving goal for Rocket.Chat is to move beyond a simple text communication service. In fact, the platform has now expanded to become a full marketplace of third-party applications. Rocket.Chat provides the framework for writing new code and developers get the chance to leverage what has come before.

For the Rocket.Chat marketplace to grow, the open-source community will be a critical driver. Developers will be able to submit new applications or integrations that can then be shared with a wider audience. This is the concept of a feedback loop in action. Rocket.Chat has built a flexible and powerful platform, which now attracts talented coders to improve and extend it.

Running The Virtuous Loop

A feedback loop in which a system’s users become the most active contributors in improving the system itself, can be called a virtuous loop. And Rocket.Chat support for its virtuous loop is one of its most noteworthy accomplishments. This main “loop” is founded on the 24×7 community server at Rocket.Chat. The Rocket.Chat community is built on this server since the very first day. On this server, the global Rocket.Chat community is able to collaborate, build and improve upon all areas of Rocket.Chat and its software.

Whenever a Rocket.Chat contributor improves the code, that improvement becomes part of the server, meaning the benefits are felt by every user of the platform. Today, thousands of different rooms exist on the Rocket.Chat community server where over two hundred thousand community members engage in this (and many other) virtuous loops of collaboration.

Growth From Security

With online privacy becoming such a hot topic in the last decade, organizations want to be one hundred percent confident that their data is secure in cloud environments. This is especially true when it comes to communication tools, because so much content is exchanged on a daily basis.

Rocket.Chat has an extremely strong reputation when it comes to security and the open-source approach is a big reason why. For a private software company, serious bugs may never get noticed until an outside user suffers a data breach orf other security incident. But when you have a global open-source community working together on code, these types of issues typically get noticed quicker.

Of course, companies still need to take steps to ensure that their tools and services operate securely. A virtual private network (VPN) is an indispensable tool for protecting your data online, and can be deployed alongside Rocket.Chat to ensure that all incoming and outgoing transmissions are fully encrypted. This means that even if a hacker manages to infiltrate the local network, they will be blocked from decoding content.

This is a matter that Rocket.Chat takes very seriously. For example, its commitment to privacy and security has produced more than three years of design and implementation of E2E encrypted messages. Rocket.Chat essentially expanded upon what Whisper was already doing well, and yet also adapted the ecosystem (on-prem + cloud services) as well as the user base.

The success of open-source communities with products like Rocket.Chat is a great example of how technology can benefit from emphasizing transparency. More and more groups are beginning to realize this. For example, the country of Bulgaria has recently passed a law requiring that all new government software must be based on open-source development for the sake of security.

Final Thought

Rocket.Chat has positioned itself as a real-time communication solution that can help teams of all sizes, no matter what line of work is involved.

The Federation feature is a key enabler that will lead to the next steps in the hope that messengers like Rocket.Chat can one day replace email. It will allow server operators in both the cloud or on-prem to optionally share public or private channels and groups with the server operators.

The product will continue to evolve and grow thanks to the open-source community of developers working behind the scenes. That kind of collaboration has already sparked a heap of innovation and is attracting new users to the platform every day.

For organization users, Rocket.Chat’s Enterprise Edition adds easy scalability to thousands of managed users, direct support from Rocket.Chat with optional SLA, plus other highly demanded business features in an instantly upgradeable package. See “Rocket.Chat Pricings & Plans” for details.

Test Rocket.Chat now

 

Dan Fries

Dan Fries is a freelance writer and full stack Rust developer. He looks for convergence in technology trends, with specific interests in cyber security and micromobility (🚴 + 🛴). Dan enjoys snowboarding and is based in Hong Kong with his pet beagle, Teddy. Reach him online at his personal blog, danfries.net

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