KDE Connect was designed 10 years ago (!) with Android smartphones as one of our first supported platforms. Because of that, when designing the KDE Connect protocol we had to work around many technical limitations that Android had back in its infancy.
This year I will be working on a project named “KDE Connect discovery and transport protocol improvements” that received a grant from the NLnet foundation as part of the NGI Assure fund. This grant will allow me to work full time in KDE Connect, with the goal of updating the protocol and apps to modern standards.
Below are the 3 main areas that will improve thanks to this and become KDE Connect 2.0 (even though some changes will show up sooner, because we release early, release often).
The strength of KDE Connect (compared to some of the non-free alternatives that popped up in these last 10 years) is that KDE Connect only uses your local network for communication and doesn’t need intermediary servers in “the cloud“. This adds a challenge: devices running KDE Connect have to discover each other in the network before they can talk to each other.
Discovery is possible in the current protocol using UDP broadcasts, but the state of the art nowadays is to use multicast DNS (mDNS) instead, which is more reliable and less often blocked by the network configuration. We wanted (and tried) to adopt mDNS for a while, but it was a a bigger endeavour than what we could tackle.
By focussing full time on this, my goal is to implement an mDNS backend for KDE Connect on all supported platforms (Linux, Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS) before fall this year. Wish me luck!
Before Android 5, only TLSv1 and a limited set of cipher suites could be used. We always try to stay compatible with old devices and to fight the programmed obsolescence that plagues modern technology, but that meant keeping the KDE Connect protocol compatible with insecure encryption protocols.
Starting with KDE Connect v1.22 for Android, we now require Android 5 or later so we can drop compatibility with insecure encryption in all the KDE Connect implementations (and not only Android). In addition to that, we are reviewing and updating the dependencies we bundle as part of the app to make sure we have the latest security patches.
Later this year, and also thanks to NLnet, we will get a security audit by Radically Open Security. This will be the second time KDE Connect is audited, after the openSUSE security team did so in 2020.
We recently adopted Material 3 in the Android app (thanks Dmitry Yudin for doing most of the work!) and KDE as a whole is getting ready to migrate our desktop apps to Qt6. These times are a perfect opportunity to review the accessibility of our user interfaces, and for that NLnet is helping us get an accessibility audit by the HAN University also later this year.
All in all, exciting times for the KDE Connect project! Stay tuned for future updates :)