A look back at 2018 and our vision for the future

2018-recap-future-roadmap

Today we’re reflecting on the new features, accomplishments, and events that shaped ProtonMail in the past year, and our vision for the future.

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, ProtonMail 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, ProtonMail 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 ProtonMail Twitter account passed 100,000 followers.
  • ProtonVPN 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.
  • ProtonVPN has also added over 100 servers in 30 countries on six continents.

On the features front, we have focused on enhancing the ProtonMail 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 @pm.me short domain email addresses to make it easier to share your ProtonMail 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 ProtonMail 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 ProtonMail 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 ProtonVPN, 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, ProtonVPN teamed up with Mozilla to introduce VPN to a wider audience.
  • For Christmas, we auctioned off three ProtonMail 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 ProtonMail, 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 ProtonVPN, 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 ProtonVPN’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 ProtonMail Team

About the Author

Andy Yen

Andy is a founder of ProtonMail. He is a long time advocate of privacy rights and has spoken at TED, SXSW, and the Asian Investigative Journalism Conference about online privacy issues. Previously, Andy was a research scientist at CERN and has a PhD in Particle Physics from Harvard University. You can watch his TED talk online to learn more about ProtonMail's mission.

 

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19 comments on “A look back at 2018 and our vision for the future

    • It is planned and on our roadmap. We are optimistic that we will have this ready sometime this year. Thank you for your patience.

      Reply
  • On another ProtonMail page, an official statement on 22 August 2018 was “U2F support will be available in ProtonMail soon.”.

    For such a key security feature as U2F, the vague statement just given above “We are optimistic…” is not encouraging. For me, availability within a short term will be the decisive factor for renewing or not of my subscription.

    This is the one feature where I fail to understand why it has not been implemented since long.

    Reply
    • As you already know this is planned and on our road map. We are sorry we couldn’t deliver this sooner but we are working on other priorities. 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.

      Reply
  • Does multi-user support on mobile mean mutiple accounts (Not aliases) on mobile?

    Keep up the good work! Looking foward to it!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support! Multi-user support generally means you can have multiple users connected to one main account, so not aliases but stand-alone email addresses with their own inbox and have them connected under the same paid plan. Multi-account support meaning login in at the same time multiple users on mobile is not currently available. It will be available soon. Please read more here about multi-user support: https://protonmail.com/support/knowledge-base/add-users/

      Reply
  • While this is a good things that ProtonMail is developing at a fast rate, I feel uneasy when hearing you are planning to open “another product”, personally, I prefer an email provider provides an email service to an email provider provides VPN, Drive, … whatever services, and more worst, your services are linked to each others. (I know your service is good, but I think I’m not alone in not wanting to depend on only one service 🙂 )

    As the way it is, I see that you are following Google path (intentionally or without knowing), you are expanding your services to all other fields in the name of “privacy”.

    Answer me: Which filed you intent to step in next? When will you stop?

    Growing is good, but I don’t need another giant 🙂

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, many users are asking for other services, because it is today common to integrate calendar and drive with mail, so this is something that the Proton community is asking for. Unlike Google though, we use end-to-end encryption so we don’t have the ability to access or read your data.

      Reply
  • When will it be possible to search emails using multiple labels? Currently, using the web based interface, it is only currently possible to search on one tag. I would like to be able to search several tags at once.

    Also can you point me to a tutorial or article about advance features and usage (i.e. wildcards, regular expressions, fuzzy search, search syntax, etc) of the search feature on web interface?

    Are there any plans to change the way the encrypted contacts list works such that I can a) either use my contacts via the mobile app to replace my contacts on my phone or b) be able to sync my contacts to my existing contacts app on my phone via something like carddav/davdroid? Ultimately I would like to have all my contacts encrypted and in one place or at least the ability to sync my contacts from a centralized encrypted, hopefully ProtonMail based, location.

    Will the upcoming calendar be caldav compatible or some other standard so I can sync multiple calendars from a single source? I currently use a NextCloud based Swiss-based cloud provider that uses caldav.

    Reply
  • A few things that would be nice in 2019:
    – not seeing deleted items in the all mail view (all platforms)
    – swipe to archive / delete in the all mail view (mobile)
    – one click empty trash (all platforms)

    Reply
    • Thank you for the feedback. We are looking closely at every suggestion our users are reporting and try to implement it in the future updates.

      Reply
  • Been with Proton since the beginning. Zero regrets, never looked back. You guys are the best! Can’t wait for the calendar and whatever else you have in the works. Thank you!

    Reply