Top 7 open source messaging platforms for secure communication

Sara Ana Cemazar
August 23, 2022
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5
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For remote teams, connectivity and productivity might be two faces of the same coin. Working from the office isn't a prerequisite anymore, as the global workforce has shifted to a remote workplace. Reliance on internal communication has increased more than ever, with a wide range of communication tools such as email, phone calls, and social networking used daily.

Long email threads and social media chats are no longer appropriate for business teams. Hence, organizations rely on messaging platforms to work remotely and stay up to date to boost productivity. In contrast to email and other options, teams now need intuitive and user-friendly tools such as instant messaging platforms

Such platforms provide fast, real-time communications for teams across the globe. Some teams are looking for higher levels of flexibility and security in their communication tools: thus, they opt for open source messaging platforms.

In this blog, we’re going to outline some of the best features of top open source messaging platforms for secure and effective communication. 

Why go for an open source messaging platform?

Yes, you need a communication platform: but why should you choose an open source one?

In general, open source software does not adhere to the standards of off-the-shelf software and provides an additional set of benefits.

Business-oriented open source messaging caters to organizations requiring customizations based on various admin controls, compliance to industry or region-specific regulations, and more. 

Some of the reasons to adopt an open source platform include:

1. Transparency 

Open source equals transparency: since everybody can see the code running in the back of the tool, there isn’t hidden misuse of certain features or inappropriate handling of your data.

You know everything that goes on under the hood!  

2. Flexibility 

Open source messaging platforms provide the feature to customize the code and adapt it to the business's own needs. The digital environment across organizations differs, with some needing higher regulations and security. 

For example, organizations in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, education, and government often need to tweak the software they use to fit their exact needs. With open source, this is simple.

3. Security 

The security compliance requirements of different organizations may vary. With open source projects, organizations can rely on code improvements from numerous contributors in the community. One of the advantages of open source messaging platforms is the Increased security of the source code. This is due to a larger audience noticing and fixing the vulnerabilities faster.

4. Cost efficiency 

There are paid and free open source chat platforms available, and the organization can even try the free plans before implementing them daily. Compared to market leaders such as Slack, open source platforms allow organizations to customize the features they require while optimizing them cost-efficiently. 

5. Avoiding vendor lock-in

Opting for a particular provider or vendor can make organizations feel trapped and comply with their terms, leading to a lock-in of budget, labor, and time. With open source messaging platforms, there's no boundary of a vendor's ecosystem, and the organization can scale up, down, or customize the features per their requirements. 

Comparing the top 6 open source messaging solutions

1. Rocket.Chat

open source messaging platform

Rocket.Chat is a diverse open source platform that helps you interact with colleagues, customers, and other companies. It’s used by over 12 million people across 50 countries, and is loved due to its high flexibility and security.

Rocket.Chat provides audio and video calling options, screen sharing, and file sharing through real-time chat. It also hosts unique features such as real-time and automatic message translation of over 50 languages during communication. Importing data from previously used software is also possible on RocketChat for a seamless transition. 

Features 

  • Self-hosted chat system and can be installed on virtual servers or on-premise servers (think extra layers of security!)
  • Open source and unlimited code customizations 
  • Available on mobile 
  • Wide range of features from chat, video calling, file sharing, chat widgets and so on
  • Diverse range of communication channels 
  • Unlimited user addition and removal, messages, searches, document uploads and guests 

Security features

  • Security compliance of the highest level with administrator transparency and username restriction 
  • Two-factor authentication, SSO, end-to-end encryption 
  • OAuth providers, open source antivirus plugin 
  • On-premise deployment for compliance and security 

2. Zulip

open source messaging platform

Zulip is an open source chat platform that follows the topic-based threading model. Tracking conversations is made easier through a stream that opens every time a new topic or subject of the chat is introduced. Like other platforms, it supports real-time chat, emojis, video previews, chat history, search, analytics tools and so on. 

A unique feature of Zulip is LaTeX, used to share math formulas or equations. Markdown and syntax are also present for highlighting and sharing code. Its integration with other platforms such as Jira, Zoom, Jitsi Meet, Zendesk, and so on contributes to its presence as an open source alternative for Slack

Features 

  • Drag and drop file uploads 
  • Inline image, video previews 
  • Ability to tag a message with topics and filter them accordingly 
  • Cross-platform and provides APIs for integrations 

Security features 

  • Strict compliance with policies such as HIPAA standards 
  • TLS encryption and authentication for all data transmission between clients and server 
  • On-premise offerings such as encryption at rest 
  • Built-in rate limiting to prevent DoS attacks 

3. Wire

open source messaging platform

With Wire, teams can expect a wide range of features and communicative channels with end-to-end encryption. Project management, document management, video conferencing, discussion threads, and push notifications are some main features of the application. However, some features such as Google apps integration and external integrations are not available on the application yet. 

Features 

  • Text, voice and video chats 
  • Free and paid options 
  • Complete encryption for all content 
  • Cross-platform availability

Security features 

The application is protected by strict data laws and uses Proteus encryption protocol.

4. Element 

open source messaging platform

Element is an open source messaging platform that comes packed with features. It enables users to connect with others that aren’t necessarily using Element, but other apps that enable connection via Matrix. It can be deployed on-premise or on the cloud using a public server. 

Features 

  • Integration with Jitsi
  • File sharing, emojis, private and public chat rooms  
  • Anti-spam options 
  • Moderation tools for managing communities 
  • File sharing and the ability to bridge other services such as Slack and Discord 

Security features

  • Uses end-to-end encryption 
  • Cross-signed device verification 

5. Let's Chat 

open source messaging platform

Suited for small teams, the self-hosted chat application delivers a seamless messaging experience. Image embeds, local file uploads from Microsoft Azure, chat history transcripts, and search features are all part of its features.

Features 

  • Bring your own server (BYOS)
  • Image embeds
  • REST-like API
  • Chat history, multilingual (i18n)
  • Desktop notifications 

Security features 

  • Password-protected rooms and chats
  • Supports LDAP/Kerberos authentication 

5. Twake

open source messaging platform

Twake is a promising collaborative, open source chat that offers a single workspace with a free plan. Self-hosting on one's server can be done with Twake. It also provides unlimited messages and message history with a free account.

Features 

  • Asynchronous messages
  • Deleted messages 
  • Chats, video conferencing 
  • To-do lists and creating Kanvan project boards 
  • Discussion boards 
  • Collaborative document editing 
  • Task creation and management 
  • Cross-platform support and application integration 

Security features 

  • End-to-end encryption 
  • GDPR compliant 
  • HTTPS/SSL for transfers and end-to-end websockets 

6. RealMQ

open source messaging platform

Real MQ is an easy-to-use real-time messaging platform that ensures the delivery of all messages to connected clients. It is easy to deploy on-premise or in the cloud and runs on all major operating systems. 

Features 

  • Message and chat history 
  • Open source with customizations 
  • Multi-tenancy to run projects in parallel
  • Integration with different application stacks
  • RESTful API

Security features 

  • SSL for secure traffic encryption 
  • Client authentication 

How to choose your team chat?

Before you choose a platform that's been the talk of the town, it's best to make an informed decision. Choosing the right messaging tool for your organization can pay off in the long run. Before making a decision, here are some key features to evaluate:

1. Look for an intuitive user interface

2. Check the support quality- do they cater to queries and provide support to users?

3. The ease of deployment and management of the solution 

4. Look for integrations- does it fit or support your current tech stack? Is it feasible for your team in the long run? 

5. Security orientation - if your organization requires specific compliances, ensure that the solution has strong security features to be deployed on-premise 

Before acquiring an open source messaging platform for your organization, ensure that your requirements align with their priorities. Data protection, security, support, and seamless usage should be important aspects to consider before making a purchase.   

So.. what are you waiting for?

Open source messaging platforms bring their own set of advantages to organizations in different industries. We would say that they don’t lack in features compared to market leaders - but they do bring on an extra layer of security and flexibility that’s needed in some cases.

It doesn’t hurt that most open source solutions are cheaper than their proprietary counterparts - and that they can be deployed on-premise so your organization can maintain full control over exchanged data.

At Rocket.Chat, we’re proud to be open source and to stand by the principles of transparent communication. Get in touch with our team to learn more benefits of open source or test the platform yourself!

Sara is an SEO Strategist at Rocket.Chat. She is passionate about topics around digital transformation, workplace experience, open source, and data privacy and security.
Sara Ana Cemazar
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