Since the launch of Tutanota lots of people have asked about our road to success, so I wanted to share some insights for Tutanota's seventh birthday.
Our pillars for success
Passion for privacy
Seven years ago Arne, Bernd, Hanna, and Matthias have published Tutanota - the first encrypted email client in the world.
Hanna, Arne, Matthias, and Bernd in 2014.
Do you know the saying: It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy? In a way that's how we feel at Tutanota.
Of course, we do not break the law. To the contrary, we are freedom fighters passionate about our human right to privacy. While governments as well as large tech companies constantly try to undermine this right, we work hard to provide you with the most secure email service.
This passion for privacy has been our main pillar for success from the start, and remains so to this day.
It comes to our benefit that in recent years the understanding that we all depend on privacy protection has become mainstream. Privacy has turned into an important selling point for lots of online services, not just for us.
The big plus about Tutantoa is that we do not simply promise privacy. With the built-in encryption in Tutanota, we can guarantee that the data of our users is protected and, thus, their privacy can not be infringed.
Stick to the goals
Since we have started building Tutanota, we have seen encryption projects come and go. For instance, after the Snowden revelations back in 2013 Google promised to add end-to-end encryption to Gmail. But Gmail's encryption project is long dead, and was probably only a marketing move to begin with. Other encrypted email services, such as Lavaboom had to shut down.
Turning a secure email service into a success is hard because you have to invest a lot of time and effort before the product can come close to non-encrypted services in regards to functionalities.
We believe that we were only able to turn Tutanota into a success because of our passion for privacy.
Giving up was never an option.
Focus on security, transparency and open source
Another main pillar for our success is our focus on security.
As you all know Tutanota encrypts as much data as possible end-to-end. But doing security right goes well beyond encryption.
At Tutanota, we have implemented several steps to secure your data:
- Applying end-to-end encryption whenever possible
- Offering two-factor authentication and a secure password reset to maximize login protection
- Regularly conducting security reviews of our code
- Publishing our code as open source so that others can find and report bugs
Doing security right must also mean that you adhere to full transparency. Security and transparency are closely interlinked. Maximum security cannot be achieved without maximum transparency.
An integral part of this is also to publish all client code as open source. Only open source enables others to check the code and detect and report potential security issues.
This is extremely important because without open source, it is much more likely that security vulnerabilites are never detected, or only after several years as the recent example of the Microsoft Exchange hack demonstrates.
Publishing our clients as open source shortly after the first beta release was one of the key factors to our success. The reason for this is obvious: trust.
Security is always a matter of trust. Encrypting all data possible and publishing all client code as open source makes Tutanota a trustworthy service because everyone can check that the data is encrypted and that we have absolutely no access.
By now millions of users all over the world are confident that Tutanota will protect their private emails to the maximum.
Building an ethical business
When we first published Tutanota in 2014, we did this shortly after the Snowden leaks and under the impression that end-to-end encryption is mostly needed to defend citizens from eavesdropping of state actors. This is still the case, and we make our voice heard in the ongoing crypto wars to fight for everybody's right to privacy.
Nevertheless, since then another sector has become much more powerful that we also need to defend ourselves from: AdTech.
AdTech, also often described as Big Tech, refers to companies practicing surveillance capitalism. These companies make money based on user tracking and user profiling. The ultimate goal for these companies is to bombard their users with advertisements to maximize their own profits.
The problem here is that any AdTech service focuses mainly on their paying users. Their focus is to make the advertisers happy, not the users of their products.
Tutanota is a transparent alternative to AdTech that only needs to satisfy one stakeholder: the user.
If it's free, you are the product
It is because of AdTech that the saying "If it's free, you are the product" has become well known among internet users. That's why we at Tutanota are often being asked why we offer a free service in the first place. After all, we pose a clear opposition to the AdTech business.
An important consideration for us was the fact that Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo and others are free of charge and people are not used to paying for webmail. Our goal is to convince as many people as possible that a better internet is possible, and we can only achieve that by offering a limited free version to everyone.
To incentivize more and more email users to quit Gmail, we offer a free version and, in addition, fair and affordable prices so that everyone is able to leave the AdTech business behind - and protect their private emails from mass surveillance by state actors.
That's why we will always offer a free version of Tutanota. It is part of our mission to bring privacy to the world.
Nevertheless, our amazing success to this date depends on our paying users. You enable us to grow our team and improve Tutanota. Together we will make the internet a better, a more private place. Thank you!