Proton AG, the company behind the increasingly well-known Proton Mail and Proton VPN services has now reached 100 million user accounts — a milestone for the privacy-friendly service provider. The Switzerland-based company, which got its start by offering secure, end-to-end encrypted email was founded in 2014 via the CERN cafeteria.
Proton’s launch was facilitated by a public crowdfunding campaign with 10,000 participants. This was at a time when privacy and security were both severely neglected by the technology industry and the surveillance advertising business model for service providers not only dominated back then, it was used almost exclusively — privacy was considered a joke by many at the time.
Fast forward to today, and the public’s interest in privacy and security has grown — leading to the growth of Proton’s products and services as well. Proton’s rise was also largely supported by open sourcing their software to prove that their ‘freemium’, privacy-friendly business model is what they say it is. ‘Freemium’ in the case of Proton Mail means that revenue from paid accounts subsidizes the cost of the free (but feature and capacity limited) accounts that new users often opt for to try out the service.
This concept of fully open-sourcing front-end apps to show that your data is encrypted offline before sending it off to servers online has been spreading as trust in the largest technology companies have been falling due to multiple scandals and lies about their data handling practices.