HipChat and Slack alternatives

A Cornucopia of Functions

Once Mattermost is up and running, the fun can begin. Thanks to a rich set of features and the aforementioned formatting features, Mattermost provides a system-wide full-text search. Themes let you customize the look to your personal preferences or company requirements (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Themes are part of Mattermost's functionality: A client in company colors is therefore conceivable.

Mattermost is clearly aimed at Slack converts. The Slack apps contributed by third parties, for example, extend Slack, adding many functions that are missing in the plain vanilla version. Mattermost has an interface for webhooks that makes it easy to integrate Slack apps into Mattermost chats. Moreover, logs and accounts can be imported from Slack directly into Mattermost, making migration significantly easier. Anyone using a Slack theme can import it into Mattermost and will even find more configuration possibilities there than in the original.

Many clever community functions, such as GitHub or GitLab external systems, can be integrated directly into the service using webhooks (Figure 4). The developers see a webhook as a URL that calls the respective version control system if a certain action occurs. Slack can be replaced easily with Mattermost, because Mattermost uses the same syntax for webhook calls as Slack.

Figure 4: Mattermost has various features for DevOps, such as the integration of GitHub using webhooks.

A separate plugin for GitLab connects the service even more closely with Mattermost: Pull requests, comments, and issues can thus be presented natively in the chat software.

If you are running GitLab with an LDAP connection, you can use GitLab as a single sign-on source to ensure that all employees log on to Mattermost directly with their LDAP credentials. Separate user management provides the option to map a company's hierarchy directly in the communication system in Mattermost. This even works if LDAP is used as a source for user data. An IRC gateway translates between Mattermost and any IRC server.

A Successful Product

All in all, working with Mattermost is great fun, once you have battled your way through the installation. For testing purposes, Mattermost images are available both in Amazon's cloud service and in the form of Docker containers, but to use the service in production requires the manual setup. Matterfront desktop clients are available for OS X, Windows, and Linux, and Mattermost apps for Apple iOS and Android. Mattermost has a corresponding theme for mobile devices.

If the developers were to provide complete packages for various Linux systems and make it possibly to install the software sensibly and automatically, Mattermost might well be considered the Slack and HipChat killer.


The third test candidate, Rocket.Chat, is positioned in the same segment as Mattermost and aims to provide an alternative to HipChat and Slack.

Rocket.Chat also serves as an all-inclusive package: The service provides a web interface, although access via a native client is also possible. The biggest difference is that Rocket.Chat offers both normal text chat and the exchange of voice messages or video chat with WebRTC. Rocket.Chat itself is implemented in Node.js, meaning the operation requires a functioning Node.js installation.

Before thinking about Node.js, you first need to prepare the target system for Rocket.Chat, which insists on having access to a database. Like Mattermost, Rocket.Chat stores persistent data such as chat content in its database so that it can be accessed later. The Rocket.Chat developers decided on MongoDB as the database of choice, so the MongoDB configuration needs to be completed before Rocket.Chat can be installed.

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