I've tried out a couple of federated social platforms. For chat, I've tested Matrix, Movim, and SimpleX. For social networking, I've tried out Movim (it's a social network as well), Friendica, Diaspora, Gnu Social, Pleroma, and Mastodon.
SimpleX seems to provide the best privacy, but there is no web client, and you can't invite people to your channel via a link either. Instead it works with invitations, like Whatsapp. It is not viable for a bigger community.
Matrix and Movim, on the other hand, are both great. They both support a web client as well as various local clients. It's possible to sign up on both networks without giving an email address. And you can register via Tor Browser, so users can maintain their anonymity. They both aren't for the completely paranoid, though. They support end-to-end encryption (e2ee), but the metadata isn't protected. Traffic analysis can reveal who's talking to whom. But for communities they're good.
There's one bug in Matrix. When you link someone to your channel, it asks the user to register on matrix.org instead of your own server. It still grants them access. Matrix is federated after all. But matrix.org does require people to fill in an email address. You can make the email address optional on your own server, but then you have to share one link with which they register to your server, and a separate link with which they join your specific channel afterward. It's a little messy.
Matrix supports a unique Spaces feature, which is a group of related channels. Anyone can create their own channel on Movim, but they're found in one big channel list without any organization to it. Just like Matrix, Movim generates invite links that are easy to share. Channels are still end-to-end encrypted. With Matrix, the encryption is part of the protocol, while Movim encrypts messages with OMEMO.
My recommendation goes to Movim. Both of these softwares are on-par with each other, but Movim has the added bonus that it provides a complete social network, that's why.
Friendica has a buggy, spastic interface. You could be reading a post, and then suddenly the content gets shifted down because a new post appears at the top. This gives the impression that something new has just been posted, but if you scroll up, you'll see that it's a post from 7 days ago, for example, that's just randomly appearing at the top. Then a minute later, the same thing can happen. I can't imagine that every node has this issue, but it's bad enough that this happened on the random node that I tried. Not a viable option.
Diaspora is very barebones. There are no groups. Instead there are tags which nobody manages. There is no way to get an overview of tags in which people are posting, so it doesn't fascilitate content discovery. It used to have some issues with federation in the past, in that content from other nodes won't always appear in your stream. I don't know if that's fixed. Positive things about it are the clean interface, and the Aspects feature, which are user-definable groups of people with whom you can share things (much like Circles from the Google Plus days). You can have one aspects for your friends, one for family, another one for acquaintances. Useful, but it's not enough.
Pleroma is even more barebones. There are no groups. There are tags, but you can't subscribe to those. There is no content discovery beside browsing a timeline of what people in the network have said most recently. The website is lightweight, but that doesn't make for a good interface unto itself. It has the Twitter-like interface, so the stream will contain random messages from the middle of a conversation. I see no use for this software.
Last on this list is Movim. Like I've mentioned, it doubles as a social media platform. And a pretty one at that. Posts have a similar layout to blog posts, with a centred text and few distractions in the margins. They have a personal feel to them. Each post also has a separate URL that can be accessed from outside the pod. And you can save your posts as drafts. This gives it a great third use as a blogging platform.
It is this high degree of utility that makes me love this software. It's social media, blogging and chat, rolled into one. And it doesn't just provide more features, but actually does it better. Movim has group support! Anyone can create a group about any topic, and then others can discover that from a list of groups (or be invited) and submit their posts. There's an explore section where you can find recent posts, a list of groups / communities for each server on the network, and trending tags. There's only one thing that I'm missing: you can like posts and comment to posts, but for some reason you can't like comments that are attached to posts. It's a small bummer, because that tiny bit of interaction is nice. You often want to acknowledge your friend's post and let them know you chuckled, but typing a message just for that is awkward and would feel like an obligation.
Still, it's only a minor flaw. The great feature set I've described is why Movim once again takes the cake! I recommend it as an integrated, all-in-one social platform.
A review of various federated chat and social media softwares
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