We often get stuck in our thoughts thinking “what email service should I use if I don’t want to use Gmail?” and now we finally have what I think is an excellent answer.

ProtonMail is an ad-free, end-to-end encrypted email client that’s been invite-only since 2014 – but it’s now opened its doors to the ordinary civilians and is finally live on both Android and iOS – after delays that it’s blamed on the US government.

In February, the company explained: “Our app is still delayed by the Apple/US Gov approval process.”

“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,” says founder Andy Yen, in a blog post announcing the public launch. “This way, we put the choice in the hands of the consumer, and not government regulators.”

The back-end was built by bods from CERN and MIT, and has so far been tested in closed beta with businesses, activists and journalists, which should all give you some indication of how seriously this platform is taking the privacy issue.

Switzerland-based ProtonMail fired up its business back in mid 2014, inspired by the fallout from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s 2013 discloses of government mass surveillance programs. It went on to crowdfund half a million dollars to build a “zero access architecture” web-based email system. Idea being the company could never be put in the position of being forced to hand over encryption keys if it did not hold them in the first place.

ProtonMail chose to locate its business in Switzerland, which has had a reputation for robust privacy rights, as another bolster for its business. And again, in light of recent legal and legislative developments in other parts of the Western world, vis-a-vis encryption, that decision looks prudent.

“Being in Switzerland, we haven’t gotten much pressure from foreign governments, although we do receive several data requests per month from foreign governments. In all cases, we refer them to seek a court order through the competent Swiss authorities,” he adds, when asked whether ProtonMail has been subject to specific political pressure over its stance on encryption.

Last year it did have to battle a sustained DDoS attack which took its email service offline for more than 24 hours. The hope had been to launch ProtonMail out of beta around that time but the team’s attention was presumably diverted to firefighting the sustained attack on its systems and to the adding protection mechanisms to prevent against attacks of a similar or larger scale in future.

If you sign up for a free account, you get all of the basics that you’d get from any other provider, 500MB of storage, two-factor authentication to access your encrypted inbox, and now a very smart-looking app to access your emails on the go.But beware – if you forget the password to decrypt the email inbox, as opposed to the one for logging into the platform, you can’t retrieve it.ProtonMail is keen for you to become a paid user so it can fund the future of encrypted email. Its v3.1 launched last month and offers custom email domains, aliases and 20GB of storage.

Do check out Proton mail and let us know whether it can replace email giant Gmail ?


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