From Organic Design

Matrix is an open source project that publishes the Matrix open standard for secure, decentralised, real-time communication, and its Apache licensed reference implementations. Maintained by the non-profit Foundation who aim to create an open platform which is as independent, vibrant and evolving as the Web itself... but for communication. As of June 2019, Matrix is out of beta, and the protocol is fully suitable for production usage.

Docker installation

First you'll need to configure your web-server as a reverse proxy from SSL ports 443 and 8448 to the internal non-SSL port 8008. This is the default Matrix port for unsecured HTTP traffic, so that a reverse proxy needs to be set up from your web-server to handle the HTTPS side of things on exposing the default Matrix HTTPS port of 8448 to the public that connects to the the internal HTTP port on 8008. Also there needs to be a connection from port 443, see the official reverse proxy notes for details about the reverse proxy setup.

We'll be using PostgreSQL instead of the default SQLite database, which means that we'll need to use docker-compose. So first create a directory for the configuration and data and then put a docker-compose.yml file in it with the following content which will create persistent volumes to put the synapse data in data/system and the PostgreSQL data in data/postgres.

version: '3'

    restart: unless-stopped
    image: postgres:9.6-alpine
      - POSTGRES_USER=synapse
      - POSTGRES_DB=synapse
     - internal_network
      - ./data/postgres:/var/lib/postgresql/data

    image: matrixdotorg/synapse:latest
    restart: unless-stopped
      - external_network
      - internal_network
      - ""
      - postgres
      - ./data/system:/data

    internal: true

Next, generate a default configuration file for your domain as follows. This will create a new volume with your persistent configuration file in it called homeserver.yaml as well as some keys for your domain.

docker run -it --rm -v "/FULL/PATH/TO/DIR/data/system:/data" -e -e SYNAPSE_REPORT_STATS=no matrixdotorg/synapse:latest generate

Then start the container in the background.

docker-compose up -d

Now we need to create a database with the correct encoding (we may need to drop an initially created one first). So first log in to the PostgreSQL database.

docker exec -it synapse-docker_postgres_1 psql -U synapse

Connect to the postgres database so you can drop synapse, and then create a new synapse database with the correct encoding.

\connect postgres
 OWNER synapse;

Then edit the data/system/homeserver.yaml configuration and add the following to the database section. Note that the database host is postgres not localhost, because it needs to be accessed via the hostname given to the database service defined in the docker-compose.yml file. The database name and database user must also match the environment given to the database service in the docker-compose.yml file.

  name: psycopg2
    user: synapse
    database: synapse
    host: postgres
    cp_min: 5
    cp_max: 10

Then exit out of PostgreSQL, restart the container and set up a user (check the logs to ensure its running):

docker-compose down
docker-compose up -d
docker exec -it synapse-docker_synapse_1 register_new_matrix_user -c /data/homeserver.yaml http://localhost:8008


Apart from backing up the data directory, it's a good idea to back up the database with a proper dump as well:

docker exec synapse-docker_postgres_1 pg_dump -U synapse synapse > dump.pgsql


Simply upgrade the container and start a new instance:

docker-compose pull
docker-compose up -d

Enabling email

Synapse can use email for user password resetting and notification of missed messages. I was unable to figure out how to connect synapse's in-built SMTP sending facility to the local server, it might be a TLS version conflict judging from the messages in the Exim4 log. So for now a workaround is to add the following SMTP service into the docker-compose.yml configuration file:

    image: juanluisbaptiste/postfix:latest
    restart: unless-stopped
      - SMTP_USERNAME=*****
      - SMTP_PASSWORD=*****
      - DEBUG=yes
      - internal_network
      - external_network
      - "/etc/localtime:/etc/localtime:ro"

Note: The SERVER_HOSTNAME must be different from the domain used by the email clients otherwise the relay server will try to perform local delivery on them instead of relaying them to Exim4.

Use the following settings in the data/system/homeserver.yaml configuration's smtp section, and comment out any other authentication settings to use their defaults.

smtp_host: smtp
  notif_from: "Your Friendly %(app)s homeserver <>"
  app_name: Organic Design Matrix
  enable_notifs: true
  notif_template_html: notif_mail.html
  notif_template_text: notif_mail.txt

Finally, you need to add an email address in your settings in the client. In Riot, you need to enter the email address and click "add", then a confirmation email address gets sent. You click the link in the confirmation email, and then after that you click "continue" in the Riot client. If you click "continue" before you confirmed the email address, it will not be added. You can clearly see when it has been correctly added, because it will ask for your account password to confirm the addition and then is shown whenever you enter the settings window and has a big red "remove" button to the right of it. And don't forget to enable email notifications in the notifications tab of Riot's settings!

Change a user password

First you need to create the password hash using the hash_password script. This needs to be downloaded and can run on the server or done locally. you may need to install some missing packages such as bcrypt which can be done with pip.

./hash_password -p "MyNewPassword"

Next you need to log into the postgreSQL docker container.

docker exec -it synapse-docker_postgres_1 psql -U synapse synapse

Then list the users to get the exact user names, then set the password for the relevant user to the hash obtained above.

SELECT * FROM users;
UPDATE users SET password_hash='$2b$12...XlZyHO' WHERE name='';



File structure

The installation files such as res/templates are inside the container in the directory /usr/local/lib/python3.7/site-packages/synapse/, e.g. list them as follows:

docker exec -it synapse-docker_synapse_1 ls /usr/local/lib/python3.7/site-packages/synapse

CORS issues

Check https://YOURDOMAIN/_matrix/client/versions in a browser, it should respond with something like the following:

  "versions": ["r0.0.1", "r0.1.0", "r0.2.0", "r0.3.0", "r0.4.0", "r0.5.0"],
  "unstable_features": {
    "m.id_access_token": true,
    "m.require_identity_server": false,
    "m.separate_add_and_bind": true,
    "org.matrix.label_based_filtering": true,
    "org.matrix.e2e_cross_signing": true,
    "org.matrix.msc2432": true

And it should have the following CORS headers:

access-control-allow-headers  Origin, X-Requested-With, Content-Type, Accept, Authorization
access-control-allow-methods  GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS
access-control-allow-origin   *

The Element client

The main messaging client for use with the Matrix protocol is Element (was Riot until mid 2020). This has a very good and mature user interface now, but one important thing to note about it is that the end-to-end encryption is session-based which means that if you log out, you will not have access to any of the messages previously encrypted with the keys of the previous session.

When logging in, you get the option to verify yourself using open sessions you have running on other devices which will transfer all the necessary keys to the current session. But if you don't have any other active sessions, you'll need to use the recovery key (the recovery passphrase method offered by default is insufficient). To do this first click "or use recovery passphrase or key", then in the next window click "use your recovery key" and enter the recovery key that you were asked to back up when you signed in for the first time.


Custom configuration

A custom config.json file can be placed in the root of the data directory (e.g. ~/.config/Element on Linux) and it will be processed after a sign out and full app restart. The configuration options are explained in detail here, and the default configuration can be found here.

Voice/video calls

The element client allows voice or video calls to be made from within any room, it uses a direct encrypted p2p connection or a TURN server for conversations between two people, and a Jitsi server for more people. By default the Jitsi server used will be, but this can be changed by creating a custom config.json file and adding a different domain in the preferredDomain key of the jitsi option. For more detail see this document.

See also