ProtonMail, the encrypted email service, took a step toward its audience and exited the beta stage, while also offering Android and iOS apps.
Until recently, users could get ProtonMail access based on an invitation only, but now the service is free for all, including mobile users who own iOS or Android-powered devices.
ProtonMail is one of the many data security apps that sprouted after Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. government deploys mass surveillance strategies toward its citizens.
"The best way to ensure that encryption and privacy rights are not encroached upon is to get the tools into the hands of the public as soon as possible and widely distributing them," Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, writes in a blog post.
He goes on to add that this puts customers, not official regulators, in charge of privacy issues.
ProtonMail says that as many as 1 million people enrolled in testing its email client in the beta phase. The service went live in 2014 following a successful crowdfunding campaign. In a declaration Yen made for Motherboard, he said that his company steps away from the donation model used by Wikipedia and switches to standardized premium accounts.
Yen notes that in a couple of months it should be clear whether or not people are ready and willing to pay for their privacy.
One advantage of ProtonMail is that users are able to send and receive end-to-end encrypted emails while avoiding hassles such as public or private encryption keys.
The messages get encrypted and decrypted similarly with standard PGP (pretty good privacy) protocols. The difference lies in the fact that the client's browser does the process automatically, which means no additional software must be downloaded. It may not be cutting-edge technology or the perfect encryption, but it is certainly a streamlined and easy process.
ProtonMail notes that the client-side code is open source, and soon enough the code for the apps will join the public domain.
Where the service stands out from everyday PGP is in sending protected messages to users outside the apps.
Let's say you have a Gmail email address and you receive an email from someone with a ProtonMail account. Inside the received email there will be a link to an encrypted, password-locked message. You need to know the password in order to read the specific encrypted message, and the company advises that you use an alternative means of communication to receive the password.
It should be noted that ProtonMail received funding in the sum of $2 million in the past 12 months. This is in addition to the $500,000 it scored via the IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign.
Other similar services reported high success: Tutanota, a rival encryption email service, counts 1 million users under its belt.
However, gray clouds gathered over ProtonMail in November 2015. The company gave in to a DDoS extortion threat and paid $6,000 in ransom, but was unable to escape the subsequent malevolent attacks. The attacks shut down the service for a while, but it eventually got back on track.
Yen underlined that his company currently focuses on email, but there are other fields such as cloud storage services and calendar apps that ProtonMail might take an interest in. For now, interested users can try ProtonMail on Android, iOS or the web.