GSoC project ideas

This page describes ideas you can use as a starting point for your project proposal. If you have not done so yet, you should start by reading our guide on how to apply to a Zulip outreach program. As noted in the guide:

Your first priority during the contribution period should be figuring out how to become an effective Zulip contributor. Start developing your project proposal only once you have experience with iterating on your PRs to get them ready for integration. That way, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want to work on and how much you can accomplish.

Project size

GSoC offers two project size options: 175 hours and 350 hours. We have designed all our projects to have incremental milestones that can be completed throughout the program. Consequently, Zulip projects described below are generally compatible with either project size. Of course, the amount of progress you will be expected to make depends on whether you are doing a 175-hour or 350-hour project.

It’s also important to understand that how much progress one can accomplish over the course of the summer is as much a function of the project as of the contributor. Contributors who learn to consistently package their work into reviewable pull requests tend to accomplish the most during GSoC.

Focus areas

For 2023, we are particularly interested in GSoC contributors who have strong skills at full-stack feature development, Typescript, visual design, HTML/CSS, or performance optimization. So if you’re an applicant with those skills and are looking for an organization to join, we’d love to talk to you!

The Zulip project has a huge surface area, so even when we’re focused on something, a large amount of essential work goes into other parts of the project. Every area of Zulip could benefit from the work of a contributor with strong programming skills, so don’t feel discouraged if the areas mentioned above are not your main strength.

Project ideas by area

This section contains the seeds of project ideas; you will need to do research on the Zulip codebase, read issues on GitHub, read documentation, and talk with developers to put together a complete project proposal. It’s also fine to come up with your own project ideas. As you’ll see below, you can put together a great project around one of the area labels on GitHub; each has a cluster of problems in one part of the Zulip project that we’d love to improve.

Full stack and web frontend focused projects

Code: – Python, Django, JavaScript, and CSS.

  • Contribute to Zulip’s migration to user groups for permissions. This migration is intended to replace every setting in Zulip that currently allows organizations to assign permissions based on role (admin, moderator, etc.) with a setting based on arbitrary “user groups”, making it much more customizable. This is very important for large organizations using Zulip, including businesses and open-source projects. Much of the basic design, API structure, and scaffolding is complete, but there is a lot of work that remains to complete this vision. The project can likely support a couple students; there is considerable work to be done on the settings UI, both for user groups and for stream and organization-level settings, dozens of existing settings to migrate, and many new settings that users have long requested that we’ve delayed adding in order to avoid having to migrate them. 175 or 350 hours; moderate difficulty. Skills required: Python, JavaScript, and CSS. Attention to detail around code reuse/duplication, thoughtful testing, and splitting large migrations into reviewable chunks.

    Experts: Purushottam Tiwari, Sahil Batra

  • Help migrate our JavaScript codebase to Typescript. Zulip is in the process of porting the main web app JavaScript codebase to TypeScript; at present we’ve done much of the necessary tooling setup, and about 8% of lines have been migrated (mostly in libraries used widely); the goal for this project will be to get that to ~75%. This topic in the Zulip development community is a good place to coordinate work on this project. Multiple students are possible; 175 or 350 hours; difficult. Skills required: TypeScript and refactoring expertise; we’re specifically interested in students who are a type theory nerd and are invested in writing types precisely and checking their work carefully.

    Experts: Zixuan James Li, Priyank Patel, Anders Kaseorg

  • Add an Inbox view to the web app. We intend to add a new home screen option for the Zulip web application that works like the mobile app’s home screen – showing just topics containing unread messages, in an organized fashion, in the web app’s center pane. Details are available in the issue and a draft pull request with prototyping towards this was done in GSoC 2022. The goal for this project would be to extract preparatory refactoring changes to make it nicely parallel to the similar “Recent conversations” panel so that it can be merged in a maintainable fashion, work with the community to integrate those changes, complete the Inbox feature through being merged, and then spend the remainder of the summer polishing it. 175 or 350 hours; moderate difficulty. Skills required: JavaScript, CSS, and reading and understanding a complex code path.

    Experts: Aman Agrawal, Shlok Patel

  • Extended notification settings. Extend Zulip’s powerful notification settings model to support additional configuration options. The top priorities in this area are unmuting topics in muted streams and following a topic; these are two of the 5 most requested features for the Zulip project overall. For this project, one will likely want to start with some simpler issues in the notifications (messages) area in order to get familiarity with the code paths in question. There is enough to do in this project that we could have two students working in this area. 175 or 350 hours; moderate difficulty. Skills required: Python and JavaScript, with a bit of CSS, database design, and other aspects of full-stack feature development. Attention to detail, thinking through subtle corner cases, designing good abstractions to help ensure correctness, and writing tests to verify correct behavior in them will be important for this work.

    Experts: Abhijeet Bodas, Ryan Rehman

  • Cluster of priority features. Implement a cluster of new full stack features for Zulip. The high priority label documents hundreds of issues that we’ve identified as important to the project. A great project can be 3-5 significant features around a theme (often, but not necessarily, an area label; the goal will be to implement and get fully merged a cluster of features with a meaningful impact on the project. Zulip has a lot of half-finished PRs, so some features might be completed by reading, understanding, rebasing, and reviving an existing pull request. 175 or 350 hours; difficulty will vary. Skills required: Depends on the features; Tim Abbott will help you select an appropriate cluster once we’ve gotten to know you and your strengths through your getting involved in the project.

    Experts: it depends

  • Zulip’s REST API documentation, which is an important resource for any organization integrating with Zulip, as well as the developers of our API clients. Zulip has a nice framework for writing API documentation built by past GSoC students based on the OpenAPI standard with built-in automated tests of the data both the Python and curl examples. However, the documentation isn’t yet what we’re hoping for: there are a few dozen endpoints that are missing, several of which are quite important, the visual design isn’t perfect (especially for, e.g., GET /events), many templates could be deleted with a bit of framework effort, etc. See the API docs area label for some specific projects in the area; and git grep pending_endpoints to find the list of endpoints that need documentation and their priorities. Our goal for the summer is for 1-2 students to resolve all open issues related to the REST API documentation. 175 or 350 hours; difficulty easy or medium. Skills required: Python programming. Expertise with reading documentation and English writing are valuable, and product thinking about the experience of using third-party APIs is very helpful.

    Expert: Lauryn Menard

  • Improve the UI and visual design of the Zulip web app. We are working on a major redesign for the core surfaces of the Zulip web app – see the redesign label for specced out work, with more to come. We’re particularly excited about students who are interested in making our CSS clean and readable as part of working on the UI. 175 or 350 hours; medium to difficult. Skills required: Design, HTML and CSS skills; most important is the ability to carefully verify that one’s changes are correct and will not break other parts of the app; design changes are very rewarding since they are highly user-facing, but that also means there is a higher bar for correctness and reviewability for one’s work. A great application would include PRs making small, clean improvements to the Zulip UI (whether logged-in or logged-out pages).

    Experts: Aman Agrawal, Alya Abbott

  • Optimize performance and scalability, either for the web frontend or the server. Zulip is already one of the faster web apps out there, but we have a number of ideas for how to make it substantially faster yet. This is likely a particularly challenging project to do well, since there are a lot of subtle interactions to understand. 175 or 350 hours; difficult. Skill recommended: Strong debugging, communication, and code reading skills are most important here. JavaScript experience; some Python/Django experience, some skill with CSS, ideally experience using the Chrome Performance profiling tools (but you can pick this up as you go) can be useful depending on what profiling shows. Our backend scalability design doc and the performance label may be helpful reading for the backend part of this.

    Experts: Tim Abbott, Yash RE

  • Fill in gaps, fix bugs, and improve the framework for Zulip’s library of native integrations. We have about 120 native integrations, but there are a number of others we would like to add. Also, several extensions to the framework that would dramatically improve the user experience of using integrations, e.g., being able to do callbacks to third-party services like Stripe to display more user-friendly notifications. The the integrations label on GitHub lists some of the priorities here (many of which are great preparatory projects). 175 or 350 hours; medium difficulty with various possible difficult extensions. Skills required: Strong Python experience, will to install and do careful manual testing of third-party products. Fluent English, usability sense and/or technical writing skills are all pluses.

    Expert: Zixuan Li

  • Make Zulip integrations easier for nontechnical users to set up. This includes adding a backend permissions system for managing bot permissions (and implementing the enforcement logic), adding an OAuth system for presenting those controls to users, as well as making the /integrations page UI have buttons to create a bot, rather than sending users to the administration page. 175 or 350 hours; easy to difficult depending on scope. Skills recommended: Strong Python/Django; JavaScript, CSS, and design sense helpful. Understanding of implementing OAuth providers, e.g., having built a prototype with the Django OAuth toolkit would be great to demonstrate as part of an application. The Zulip integration writing guide and integration documentation are useful materials for learning about how things currently work, and the integrations label on GitHub has a bunch of good starter issues to demonstrate your skills if you’re interested in this area.

    Expert: Zixuan James Li

  • Work on Zulip’s development and testing infrastructure. Zulip is a project that takes great pride in building great tools for development, but there’s always more to do to make the experience delightful. Significantly, about 10% of Zulip’s open issues are ideas for how to improve the project’s contributor experience, and are in these four labels for tooling improvements.

    This is a somewhat unusual project, in that it would likely consist of dozens of small improvements to the overall codebase, but this sort of work has a huge impact on the experience of other Zulip developers and thus the community as a whole (project leader Tim Abbott spends more time on the development experience than any other single area). 175 or 350 hours; difficult. Skills required: Python, some DevOps, and a passion for checking your work carefully. A strong applicant for this will have completed several projects in these areas.

    Expert: Tim Abbott

Terminal app

Code: Zulip Terminal

Experts: Neil Pilgrim, Aman Agrawal

  • Work on Zulip Terminal, the official terminal client for Zulip. zulip-terminal is out in beta, but there’s still a lot to do for it to approach parity with the web app. We would be happy to accept multiple strong students to work on this project. 175 or 350 hours; medium difficulty. Skills required: Python 3 development skills, good communication and project management skills, good at reading code and testing.

Desktop app

Code: Our cross-platform desktop app written in JavaScript on Electron.

Expert: Anders Kaseorg

  • Contribute to our Electron-based desktop client application. There’s plenty of feature/UI work to do, but focus areas for us include things to (1) improve the release process for the app, using automated testing, TypeScript, etc., and (2) polishing the UI. Browse the open issues and get involved! 175 or 350 hours. This is a difficult project because it is important user-facing code without good automated testing, so the bar for writing high quality, reviewable PRs that convince others your work is correct is high. Skills required: JavaScript, Electron; you can learn Electron as part of your application.

  • Prototype a next generation Zulip desktop app implemented using the Tauri Rust-based framework. Tauri is a promising new project that we believe is likely a better technical direction for client applications than Electron for desktop apps, for security and resource consumption reasons. The goal of this project would be to build a working prototype to evaluate to what extent Tauri is a viable platform for us to migrate the Zulip desktop app to. 350 hours only; difficult. Skills required: Ability to learn quickly. Experience with Rust and secure software design may be helpful.

Mobile apps

Code: React Native mobile app; Flutter prototype app

Experts: Greg Price, Chris Bobbe

We’re exploring rewriting Zulip’s mobile apps, which are currently implemented using React Native, using Flutter. See this development community thread for details.

If you are a Flutter expert and excited about getting involved, feel free to introduce yourself in the #mobile stream in the development community. However because the project and the development process around it are not yet established, we expect not to accept any GSoC contributors for the Zulip mobile apps for GSoC 2023.