ProtonMail was created to help build a more free and open internet that puts people first. This makes it a great Gmail alternative for those who value privacy and security. Founded by scientists who met at CERN, ProtonMail protects all messages with end-to-end encryption and zero-access encryption to ensure nobody can access your emails’ contents.
As the world’s most popular secure and privacy-focused email service, our ethos and business model are very different from email services such as Gmail, which scan users’ inboxes and make money from advertising.
We never spy on our users’ emails, and our service is ad-free. We are based in Switzerland, which is famous for its neutrality. And as a company that puts people first, our interests are perfectly aligned with those of our users.
Tech giants such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook make fortunes from invading the privacy of users. They also exercise a worrying degree of control over the internet. Until 2017, Google scanned all emails sent to or from Gmail users to help build detailed profiles of its users that would allow it to target them with highly personalized ads.
It has since promised to stop this practice, but it continues to scan emails so it can offer features such as Smart Labels and add travel details to Google Calendar, trading privacy for convenience. Google also scans all the receipts you receive in Gmail and stores the data for years, even if your purchases are not from Google.
Simply put, nothing sent via Gmail should be considered private.
In this article, we explain what factors to consider when searching for a Gmail replacement service and how ProtonMail addresses these. ProtonMail offers a free plan that takes only a few seconds to get started with, so it’s easy to try it out for yourself. (No personal data is required to create a free account.)
Better than Gmail privacy
Unlike Gmail, ProtonMail was built from the ground up with privacy and not data collection as our primary focus.
- This starts with our use of strong encryption to ensure nobody can access your messages or abuse them for advertising purposes. ProtonMail can’t spy on your emails, even if we wanted to.
- We minimize the collection of metadata, for instance, by turning off IP logging by default. And no personal information is required to create a free account.
- As a Switzerland-based email provider, your data is protected by strong Swiss privacy laws. This makes it impossible for us to share any of the (little) data we have with foreign countries without an order from the Swiss authorities.
In short, ProtonMail’s goal is to provide you with a private inbox that you can use to send and receive messages securely. Gmail’s goal is to collect more of your personal data so Google can use it to target you with ads. This becomes clear when you compare the two app’s different approaches to data collection.
All emails are secured in transit using TLS encryption and are stored on our servers with zero-access encryption using your private key. This means even we cannot read any of your messages or hand them over to third parties.
For additional security, all emails between ProtonMail users are secured with automatic end-to-end encryption. This means that emails are encrypted by you on your own device and can only be decrypted and read by the intended recipients.
It is also possible to send end-to-end encrypted emails to non-ProtonMail users. ProtonMail also includes native support for the OpenPGP email encryption standard, enabling interoperability with existing PGP users.
Because we store all emails sent or received using zero-access encryption, they are safe from being exploited for profit by services such as Google.
Open source and independently audited
Unlike Gmail and many other popular email services, ProtonMail is free and open source. This means anyone can examine the code for all our apps to ensure it does what it is supposed to, and only what it is supposed to.
We use only time-tested and trusted encryption algorithms to secure emails, such as AES, RSA, and OpenPGP, utilizing only open source cryptographic libraries. The code for our web and mobile apps is available on GitHub for anyone to access, and independent security professionals have audited it.
Based in Switzerland
It is worth remembering that Google was a long-term partner in the NSA’s PRISM mass surveillance program, exposed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. All tech companies based in the United States remain subject to National Security Letters (with accompanying gag orders) and other surveillance demands authorized under FISA, the Patriot Act, and other similar legislation.
ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, a country that is home to some of the strongest data privacy laws in the world. It also has no affiliations or history of cooperation with US security services and their allies.
All of our data is stored in multiple data centers in Switzerland and Germany that we operate without relying on third-party cloud providers. Only ProtonMail employees have access to this infrastructure.
Gmail is not truly free. ProtonMail is.
Much of Gmail’s popularity stems from the fact that it costs no money to use. It is, however, a prime example of the old adage that “if you’re not paying for a service, then you are the service.” Google’s entire business model is to invade its users’ privacy in order to profit from targeted ads.
ProtonMail’s mission is to make privacy, security, and freedom accessible to all. Providing a genuinely free email service available to everybody is therefore central to our mission. And unlike with Gmail, our core product is genuinely free. Free users enjoy the same privacy and security protections as users who choose to upgrade to a premium plan.
ProtonMail exists to serve our community, and it is thanks to our passionate and dedicated community that we can offer a free service.
Users with Plus, Professional, and Visionary plans get extra storage and additional features. (See our plan options.) But our free email service will always remain free and provides all the core functionality most email users require.
To make the transition from Gmail as smooth as possible, we have developed an Import Assistant tool to transfer emails from your old account to ProtonMail.
We also have a detailed guide on how to Migrate from Gmail to ProtonMail.
Our web and mobile apps are easy to use, and for Gmail users, there is no learning curve to adapt to our interface.
Developing a privacy ecosystem
Our vision is to develop an ecosystem of encrypted tools dedicated to protecting our users’ privacy. In 2017, we launched ProtonVPN to protect users’ internet activity from internet service providers and bypass blocked and censored content.
These tools are designed using the same end-to-end encryption that powers ProtonMail.
Join our mission
ProtonMail is now the largest privacy-focused email provider in the world, with tens of millions of users. Our company is profitable and growing thanks to the passionate support of our global community.
You can witness our impact not only in the many journalists and activists who rely on our services to conduct their work safely in high-risk zones but in the millions of everyday users whose data is protected by default.
We envision an internet in which privacy, security, and freedom are accessible to everyone, everywhere. While Google and the other tech giants have made this more challenging, the Proton community is making a meaningful difference. By signing up, you too support this mission. Thank you.
Frequently asked questions about Gmail alternatives
ProtonMail is as easy to use as Gmail and offers many popular features, such as undo send and calendar (now with Android support).
We also offer many features Gmail does not have, such as self-destructing emails and end-to-end encryption.
ProtonMail has invested heavily in the physical infrastructure needed to run a world-class email service, owning and controlling our own server hardware at several locations around Switzerland and Germany. Our users’ data is never stored on-third party cloud services.
Google is good at securing your data against criminal hackers and the like. What this does not do is make your data safe from Google, a company whose massive profits are driven by exploiting its users’ privacy for financial gain. Also, because Google does not use end-to-end encryption, your personal data could potentially be exposed if there is a data breach.
Unlike Gmail, ProtonMail respects your privacy. Messages can be sent end-to-end encrypted even to non-ProtonMail users, giving you total control over your own data. Additionally, our zero-access encrypted storage means that we can never provide the contents of your messages to third parties or use them for advertising purposes.
ProtonMail offers a genuinely free email service. And unlike with Gmail, you do not pay for it with your privacy.
You may choose to upgrade to one of our Plus, Professional, and Visionary plans to help support this free service and gain access to additional storage and some advanced features, but our free service provides everything most email users need. It will also remain free forever.