Moxie Marlinspike, creator of secure messaging app Signal, announced on Monday his resignation as the company’s CEO.
Marlinspike said he had always intended to develop Signal so much that it could go on without his direct involvement, but that wasn’t possible as recently as four years ago when he was writing most of the code, managing staff, and handling support personally. Fast forward to today, Marlinspike said he rarely writes code and feels comfortable leaving matters in the hands of his leadership team.
Signal is one of only two mobile messaging apps that are secure enough to be recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where “secure” means end-to-end encryption with a certain degree of credibility. The other one, Signal’s much bigger competitor, is Meta (Facebook) WhatsApp.
Coincidentally, Marlinspike’s temporary replacement will be Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, who left that company in 2018 to partner with Marlinspike, the Signal Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit that oversees Signal Messenger, LLC, the apps company.
The Foundation’s mission is to “develop open source privacy technology that protects freedom of expression and enables secure global communication.”
Marlinspike explained in a post declaring it an article. “Brian Acton, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Signal Foundation, has volunteered to serve as interim CEO during the research period.”
Signal had about 40 million active monthly users at the beginning of 2021; WhatsApp has more than two billion monthly active users.
Message factory problem
Signal over the past few months has been providing support for MobileCoin, a cryptocurrency that purports to offer private digital transactions – it works through an encrypted blockchain rather than a public blockchain. beta test It started last April in the UK.
The organization’s decision to incorporate MobileCoin – of which Marlinspike acted as a consultant during development – was ControversialThese are not easily reconciled with Marlinspike’s recent laudable critique of “web3” and IT infrastructures tied to DeFi (decentralized finance), NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and associated cryptocurrencies. It also does not fit easily with the idea that Signal is run by a non-profit organization.
Stephen Diehl, a London-based software developer and crypto critic, has condemned Signal’s embrace of MobileCoin as a punch in the gut and betrayal.
“Many of us have spent significant time and social capital moving our friends and family away from the exploitative data platforms provided by Facebook et al, and into Signal in hopes of breaking the cycle of commercial exploitation of our online relationships,” he wrote in a blog in April 2021. user”.
A couple of days ago, with Signal’s MobileCoin integration now available to at least some of the app’s users in the US, Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, echo Alex Stamos they Combining end-to-end encryption with hard-to-track payments is a recipe for conflict with law enforcement and governments.
Cryptocurrency Bruce Schneier gave a similar assessment of Signal’s addition of MobileCoin support last year.
“I think this is a very bad idea,” Schneier wrote in a blog. “It’s not just inflation of what used to be a clean secure communications app. It’s not just that blockchain is just dumb.
“It’s not even that Signal chooses to associate itself with a specific blockchain. Adding cryptocurrency to an end-to-end crypto application subverts the ethics of the product, inviting all kinds of investigative and regulatory government intervention: via the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission, FinCEN, and possibly the Bureau of Federal Investigations”.
Marlinspike did not respond to a request for comment. ®