What is Arbor?

Arbor is an open-source chat collaboration system that thinks a little differently about conversations. Arbor captures more of the context of messages than traditional chat, allowing you and your peers to communicate more clearly with less effort.

Why is it called Arbor?

An arbor is an artificial structure that supports the growth of climbing vines in a garden. Arbor is an artificial structure for chat that helps conversation flourish.

How is it different?

Arbor messages track what you were responding to when you wrote them. Every message explicitly has a parent message that it is a response to. This allows Arbor to visualize the relationships between messages for its users in a way that other chat systems cannot. This makes your conversation history into a tree instead of a list.

If you think about it, most things you say in a conversation are a response to what someone else just said. Arbor simply captures that information and uses it to help you make sense of very large conversations. Ever get confused when many people respond to a message at around the same time? Arbor makes that situation coherent.

Are you technically inclined? You may be interested in our technical overview, which digs a lot deeper into the parts of Arbor and how they work.

Want to try it?

Check out our getting started guide to take Arbor for a test drive!


Arbor started in February 2018 as a wacky idea. We implemented a proof-of-concept system that embodies chat as a tree over the course of the next ten months, and we were really pleased by the results. However, this system had some serious flaws due to its proof-of-concept nature. It had no security, and no good way to build security. We've started over, but this time we're building something serious. It takes a lot of work to build a secure communication platform from the ground up, so it's slow going.


For the new implementation, we have:

For our proof-of-concept implementation, there is:

Get Involved

If you'd like to keep up with what's going on in Arbor or to help us build it, you can:

Who do we need?


Where did the logo come from?

The inspiration for the logo was a sketch by Katerina Waldon. Chris Waldon hacked together the current one in Inkscape.

Why is some stuff on GitHub and some stuff on SourceHut?

When the project started, we didn't know sourcehut existed. We really like some of the ideas behind sourcehut, and we're trying it out for the time being as a possible permanent home for the project. We will try to mirror all of our code back to GitHub to make it all easy to find though.

Why make a new chat application? Isn't the market saturated enough?

Sure; there are hundreds of other applications that do chat, and many of them are very good tools. Arbor's goal isn't to replace them all, but to demonstrate that there are other interesting ways to build chat.

About this wiki

commit e00d1840e6bf1b45af969b8102983f6c30abe086
Author: Andrew Thorp <andrew.thorp.dev@gmail.com>
Date:   2020-02-22T12:40:25-05:00

Update conversation example

Remove whitespace
Clone this wiki
https://git.sr.ht/~whereswaldon/arborchat (read-only)
git@git.sr.ht:~whereswaldon/arborchat (read/write)