HipChat and Slack alternatives

Awkward Issue: Native Apps

Only shortly before this article was written did the Rocket.Chat developers released a new version 1.1.0 of their native desktop application. (It was at version 1.3.1 at time of publication.)

Many users don't like web-based chats because they can't be integrated into a desktop as well as an actual chat program. The OS X program icon, which can display a symbol for new messages in the dock, is cited as an example. Also, receiving the chat client's notifications in the system tray is useful because users usually keep an eye on that location.

Rocket.Chat wasn't always up to speed in the past regarding desktop applications: The previous version of Rocket.Chat.Electron – the name of the Rocket.Chat desktop client – was pretty unreliable on OS X, for example. The developers have now solved the problem for v1.2.0.

The Electron project currently offers packages for OS X, Windows, and Linux. The developers also thought about mobile users: Rocket.Chat clients are available both in Google Play and the Apple App Store. (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Rocket.Chat has clients for iOS and Android.


Hip.Chat and Slack face stiff competition in the form of InspIRCd, Rocket.Chat, and Mattermost. These programs sometimes even out-do their role models in the feature list. However, hosted services still offer one major advantage: The chat system is ready immediately after logging on. Any further configuration at most extends to the appearance or behavior of the client, not its basic functionality.

If you want to use one of the tools presented here, you will not be able to avoid a certain amount of installation and configuration work. Operating the chat solution is also more complex; for example, security updates for individual components need to be installed on a regular basis to avoid security holes in the chat environment.

In return, however, a company can be sure that their chat content is stored on a separate server, which is an important factor in the EU because companies are bound by laws relating to data protection.

All three approaches presented here have specific advantages and disadvantages. Anyone looking for a communication solution for teams should certainly consider hosted solutions rather than giving Slack or Hip.Chat their money and data. Mattermost appears to be the strongest candidate at the moment, even if the lead is only marginal. If you want a proven protocol and versatility in terms of clients, combined with a few frills, InspIRCd is a good choice.

The Author

Martin Gerhard Loschwitz works as a cloud architect at SysEleven in Berlin. He is also an official member of the Debian project and has been a Debian developer for more than 12 years.

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