A look back at 2018 and our vision for the future of Proton Mail

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What started out as a part-time experiment is now the largest secure email provider in the world. How did we get here? One word: YOU.

More than other companies, Proton Mail is the sum of its users. And in 2018, millions more of you joined us. We’re growing at an accelerating pace, and many of our efforts this year were focused on building the human and technical infrastructure to accommodate this growing demand.

We see our mission as encompassing three main areas: growing the Proton community, delivering new features and products for the community, and educating the public at large about why privacy matters.

No matter how big we get, we know perfectly well who made it possible. The story of 2018 is more about you than it is about us.

Here, then, are some of the Proton community’s main highlights:

  • In December, Proton Mail surpassed 10 million users. While we still have a large number of journalists, activists, and security-conscious users, new users are increasingly coming from the general public. These new users include celebrities, entrepreneurs, and many corporations.
  • This year also saw significant growth to our team, as a growing user base means we also need more people to answer support questions and interact with the community. We added our 50themployee this year, and we’re constantly looking for talented people who are passionate about privacy to join our team.
  • The Proton Mail Twitter account passed 100,000 followers.
  • Proton VPN also grew rapidly, passing one million users a little over one year after it launched, reflecting the great need for a trustworthy free VPN service.
  • Proton VPN has also added over 100 servers in 30 countries on six continents.

On the features front, we have focused on enhancing the Proton Mail user experience while building out core security features.

Here are some of the major features we launched in 2018 (on top of many smaller features):

  • We unveiled @proton.me/mail short domain email addresses to make it easier to share your Proton Mail address with others.
  • With Address Verification, we reduce the possibility of man-in-the-middle attacks by allowing you to save your contact’s public key into your digitally signed Encrypted Contacts. We are the only email provider (encrypted or not) with this underappreciated feature.
  • Full PGP support means Proton Mail can replace your existing PGP client and enable automatically end-to-end encrypted email to and from any other PGP user.
  • Our Import-Export application is now in beta testing, meaning it’s now possible for you to quickly migrate your entire mailbox to Proton Mail from a non-private email service like Gmail.
  • We recently launched support for Contact Groups and read receipts, two features that are essential for many business users.
  • For Proton VPN, we launched native apps for AndroidmacOS, and iOS in record time (three apps in under one year). We also launched a command line tool for Linux.

It’s not enough just to build online privacy tools; part of our job is making sure the public understands the importance of using them. Education is one of the ways we can magnify our impact on society, and this year, we went beyond our blog and experimented with a couple of new ideas:

  • In September, we went on Reddit and held one of the most popular Ask Me Anything threads of the year, gathering over 1,000 questions and 16,000 upvotes.
  • We joined forces with other privacy-focused online services to launch Privacy Heroes, a platform for raising awareness among consumers and policymakers about privacy. Over the last few months, Privacy Heroes was featured in the easyJet in-flight magazine, reaching millions of travellers.

  • In a groundbreaking experiment, Proton VPN teamed up with Mozilla to introduce VPN to a wider audience.
  • For Christmas, we auctioned off three Proton Mail Lifetime accounts and raised €45,000 for three organizations that support independent journalism: Charter’97, an independent Belarusian news outlet; a digital security program for journalists organized by Reporters Without Borders Germany; and WireGuard, an open source VPN protocol.

2019 roadmap

In 2019, we plan to continue with a number of unique educational initiatives as we push for a safer, more private, and more responsible Internet. To make it easier than ever to join the more private Internet that we are building, we will continue to focus on feature and product development.

For Proton Mail, our ambitious goal is to launch version 4.0 (with encrypted search), conversation view and multi-user support on mobile, and an encrypted calendar in 2019.

For Proton VPN, we plan to further increase the size of our server network to encompass at least 50 countries by the end of 2019. We are also planning a lot of enhancements to our recently launched native applications as they mature. We plan to keep Proton VPN’s emphasis on security and privacy.

Lastly, in line with our vision to launch at least one new product every other year, 2019 should also see the launch of a new product that we have been quietly working on. We are also laying the groundwork to accelerate our product development roadmap, and we hope to have yet another product ready for launch in 2020 instead of 2021 as originally planned.

While new features and products are exciting, there is also the less glamorous, but equally important aspects of our work. As the Proton community has grown, so has our infrastructure, and along with that, the challenges of making this infrastructure reliable and secure. In 2018 alone, we built up two new datacenters and decommissioned an old datacenter (more about this in a later blog post). We also rebuilt our network infrastructure.

Most of this critical work happens behind the scenes, but in terms of priority, it always comes ahead of new features. While everybody is understandably impatient for new features (we are too), if things take longer than expected, it is usually because we are investing in even more important infrastructure and anti-abuse capabilities.

Looking further ahead

One thing is for sure: The Internet of the future must be private. Each new privacy scandal and data breach illustrates the inevitability of this. We believe that together with the Proton community, we can play an important role in bringing about this positive change. Whether it is building technology or spreading the word about why privacy matters, we’re making the world better together.

Thank you for 2018. Let’s make 2019 even better.

Best Regards,
The Proton Mail Team

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