The CEO behind Signal explains how it became the red-hot encrypted messaging app promoted by Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey without venture capital or a plan for profitability

Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike

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Signal is undeniably having a moment.

The encrypted messaging app has soared to the top of the charts for free app downloads on the Google and Apple app stores, where it’s floated for over a week. More than 7.5 million people installed Signal between January 6 and 10 — a 4,200% increase from the previous week, according to Sensor Tower — spurred by data policy changes at rival WhatsApp and endorsements from the likes of Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and Edward Snowden. 

But Signal is an unusual tech success story. Owned by a nonprofit and funded by grants from the likes of WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton and the Knight Foundation, the app maker hasn’t expressed any plans to raise venture capital or cash-in on its popularity. All the code it writes, including its core encryption protocols, are open source and free for anybody to use.

Signal’s strength is its simplicity, according to cofounder and CEO Moxie Marlinspike. Signal’s open-source encryption lets people send messages to individuals or groups that nobody else — including Signal itself — can read, and the firm also doesn’t share any data about its users with third parties or sell ads. That commitment to privacy is increasingly rare among messaging apps. 

“I actually think that what we’re doing is extremely normal, and it’s everything else that is absolutely insane,” Marlinspike said.

In a wide-ranging interview held in August, Marlinspike told Insider about Signal’s origins and its meteoric rise over the past year, as well as its plans for the future. Excerpts from the interview were included in Insider’s 2020 Transformers series, but Marlinspike’s full remarks have not been published until now.

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Marlinspike wants Signal to be a standard-bearer for privacy as other apps increasingly rely on the monetization of people’s personal data. He sees a shifting tide in public opinion towards tech companies, with the optimism of the early 2010s usurped by growing consumer mistrust and a desire for privacy.

“When somebody sends their friend a message, their intention is not to also send that message to a conglomerate of advertisers, to hackers, to big tech companies. And people are always upset when they discover that that is not the reality,” Marlinspike said.

As Signal’s popularity grows, Marlinspike hinted that the company might eventually move into other products products beyond a messaging app.

When asked whether Signal is exploring privacy-focused products for functions like web browsing, Marlinspike said Signal’s “ultimate goal” is to “expand to address other aspects of technology,” but declined to go into more detail.

For the time being, he said, Signal is focusing on meeting the moment as hordes of new users flock to the app. The remote-first company employed 36 people as of October, and its jobs page lists openings for five new developer roles.

If you’ve ever considered applying to work with us at Signal, now is a great time to get involved! We’re just over here working on a plan to power the western hemisphere with the heat from our servers: …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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