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Our path to continue being an ethical company.

Mistakes happen. But when aiming at being better than Big Tech, one must admit mistakes and improve from there.

2021-03-11
At Tutanota we are building an encrypted, privacy-respecting email service that puts the users first - not the advertisers. However, when we planned our latest subscription changes, we made some severe mistakes that were not up to our own standards. We would like to apologize for these mistakes and explain our lessons learned.

Our goal with Tutanota is not only to enable people to protect their data from malicious attackers online but also from ad-driven tech companies that make huge profits with the help of profiling user data.

In contrast to Big Tech, Tutanota does not exploit user data. We are an ethical company and try to do our share when it comes to our responsibility

  • as an electricity-dependent company for the environment by using only renewable energy,
  • in having fair and transparent salaries,
  • in having a fair and transparent pricing structure.

In accordance to our mission, we would like to explain our recent mistakes when updating our subscription structure transparently with all our users. We are certain that by admitting our mistakes and openly discussing them with our community, we can make sure to improve and to not repeat such mistakes in the future.

What happened

On February 25th 2021, we removed two functionalities from Premium: sending calendar invites and adding multiple domains.

We did not previously communicate this change, nor did we make sure that running Premium subscriptions can continue to use these functionalities until their subscription renews.

These were mistakes that should never have happened. We would like to apologize for this.

Shortly after the release, we realized that the way we introduced these changes were neither acceptable from a user-perspective, nor did they match our own expectations on how we would like to do business. In retrospect, we must admit that these changes were added without thinking about potential consequences as we did not believe these two functionalities to be used by many users. The reason for this is that we do not track our users, and, thus, can not say what functionalities you actually use.

However, this is not an excuse as we would have had the option to do a user questionnaire before planning, let alone releasing, these changes. We simply did not consider this during our day-to-day business.

By now, we have reverted the changes for the existing subscription period and apologized to everyone via email.

Lessons learned

  1. Involve the community: We should have involved the community prior to the decision-making, e.g. via a questionnaire.

  2. Transparent announcement: We should have announced the changes early on.

  3. Fair development: We should have never taken away functionalities for already paid-for subscription periods.

We promise that we will stick to our lessons learned for future development and that we will adhere to these three lessons should we ever plan to change anything in regards to prices or packages.

Why we keep the changes

Several users have told us that they would have preferred to keep using the Premium subscription as it was before February 25th 2021 forever.

However, as a business we must retain the ability to change subscription plans and adapt them in accordance with the overall strategy.

Nevertheless, we would like to point out that we are continuously adding features as well. In the last few years, we have added lots of features to Premium that were not available from the start:

  • Inbox rules
  • Full-text search
  • Desktop clients
  • Calendars
  • Compression of emails

And we plan to continue adding features to Tutanota. Many feature that are currently on our roadmap will be available for Premium users. All features that are security-relevant, e.g. two-factor authentication, pin/fingerprint unlock for the apps, will always be available to all users, even Free ones.

Our mission

Our mission with Tutanota is to build a privacy-respecting alternative to tech giants such as Google and Outlook. However, with about a dozen developers we can obviously not yet compete with these. We know that lots of users are sticking with Tutanota because they share our mission and want to support our goal despite trade-offs in regards to features. To realize our mission as well as to fulfill our users' expectations, we have to grow our development team.

From the start, we have remained true to our mission of protecting your privacy to the maximum. We want to build an ethical service that does not monetize its users by posting targeted ads. The upside of this is that there is absolutely no tracking in Tutanota. The downside is that private and business users who are using Tutanota more extensively than what is available in Premium need to add extensions to their subscriptions.

That is a trade-off that we are not able to solve otherwise.

One of our users has explained this better than we ever could:

"The lesson I'm starting to slowly learn is that internet access and internet services have a cost and that cost is much higher than what we imagine. Somebody has to support those costs. We don't ask questions how a 13 employee company manages to operate one of the most secure email services in the world, develop the email platform and its ecosystem, assure client support and public communication. Actually I never imagined that all that could rely on 13 persons only, other services employ hundreds of people. I like it that the community here is giving a lot of feedback to Tutanota and I hope that they will use it to improve their marketing plan as well as their overall service. But for now, I suggest that we all keep in mind why we chose Tutanota as an email provider and show also some love and support."

How we do business

Over the years, our pricing structure has evolved so that you can upgrade with several subscriptions and add extensions. To enable you to book only the features that you actually need, we have made the pricing page very transparent and included a pricing calculator that helps you make up your choice.

We have a two-week full refund policy when you upgrade to any paid subscription so you can try out if Tutanota matches your needs.

Even if you want to cancel your subscription, but forget to do so before the renewal date, we will issue a full refund if you notify us shortly after the invoice has been issued.

We do not track you or send targeted advertisements to your mailbox. The only revenue we have comes from our paying users. That is to guarantee that we will always protect your data.

We believe that a better way of doing business is possible. We want to treat you with the utmost respect, and we are sorry that we did not live up to this standard with the changes made two weeks ago. All we can do is promise you that we have learned from this and will do better in the future.

We hope you accept our apology.

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