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Decentralized Messaging App Riot Rebrands to Element

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Riot is/was a decentralized instant messaging app based on the open source Matrix protocol.

In late June, Riot (the instant messaging client) announced that they would be changing their name. Yesterday, they revealed that their new name is Element. Let’s see more details on why Riot changed its name and what else is being changed.

Why change the name from Riot to Element?

Before we get to the most recent announcement, let us take a look at why they changed their name in the first place.

According to a blog post dated June 23rd, the group had three reasons for the name change.

First, they stated that “a certain large games company” had repeatedly blocked them from trademarking the Riot and Riot.im product names. (If I had to guess, they are probably referring to this “games company”.)

Second, they originally chose the name Riot to “evoke something disruptive and vibrant”. They are worried that people are instead thinking that the app is “focused on violence”. I imagine that current world events have not helped that situation.

Thirdly, they want to clear up any confusion created by the many brand names involved with Riot. For example, Riot is created by a company named New Vector, while the Riot is hosted on Modular which is also a product of New Vector. They want to simplify their naming system to avoid confusing potential customers. When people look for a messaging solution, they want them to only have to look for one name: Element.

Element is everywhere

Element Desktop

As of July 15th, the name of the app and the name of the company has been changed to Element. Their Matrix hosting service will now be called Element Matrix Services. Their announcement sums it up nicely:

“For those discovering us for the first time: Element is the flagship secure collaboration app for the decentralised Matrix communication network. Element lets you own your own end-to-end encrypted chat server, while still connecting to everyone else in the wider Matrix network.

They chose the name Element because it “reflects the emphasis on simplicity and clarity that we aimed for when designing RiotX; a name that highlights our single-minded mission to make Element the most elegant and usable mainstream comms app imaginable”. They also said they wanted a name “evokes the idea of data ownership and self-sovereignty”. They also thought it was a cool name.

More than just a name change

Riot changed to Element

The recent announcement also makes it clear that this move is more than just a simple name change. Element has also released its “next generation Matrix client for Android”. The client was formerly known as RiotX and is now renamed Element. (What else?) It is a complete rewrite of the former client and now supports VoIP calls and widgets. Element will also be available on iOS with support for iOS 13 with “entirely new push notification support”.

The Element Web client has also received some love with a UI update and a new easier to read font. They have also “rewritten the Room List control – adding in room previews(!!), alphabetic ordering, resizable lists, improved notification UI and more”. They have also started working to improve end-to-end encryption.

Final thought

The people over at Element are taking a big step by making a major name change like this. They may lose some customers in the short term. (This could mainly be due to not being aware of the name change for whatever reason or not liking change.) However in the long run the brand simplification will help them stand out from the crowd.

The only negative note I’ll mention is that this is the third name change they have made in the app’s history. It was originally named Vector when it was released in 2016. The name was changed to Riot later that year. Hopefully, Element is here to stay.

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