WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton has invested $50 million in an encrypted messaging app – Signal – and will work with the newly formed Signal Foundation. In a blog post, Signal chief, Moxie Marlinspike, announced the launch of Signal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and said that it has got a major boost from the fund provided by Acton.
Marlinspike thanked Acton for the funding, and said it would help Signal to expand its capacity, team and ambitions. Even though it is a widely recognized app, and is even used by staff members of the U.S. Senate, the firm has its own share of financial problems hindering the creation of new features.
Since the Signal Foundation is a non-profit organization, Moxie and his team do not have the burden of showing a profit on the balance sheet and paying off the investors. In the blog post, Marlinspike noted how challenges have always weighed on their ambition. He stated that over the lifetime of the project there have been on average 2.3 full-time software developers and the entire staff has never exceeded more than seven.
“With three client platforms to develop, a service to build and run, a growing list of integrations to assist with, and millions of users to support, that has often left us wanting,” Moxie said.
And, despite the financial crunches, the messaging app never sought VC funding because giving profit a priority is not in-line with their intention of building a sustainable project that puts users first. This has often left Signal in a tight spot leaving them without resources or capacity in the short term.
But “we’ve always felt those values would lead to the best possible experience in the long term,” Marlinspike said.
Talking of Acton, Marlinspike said his addition brings, “an incredibly talented engineer and visionary with decades of experience building successful products” to Signal’s team.
Meanwhile, Acton, who will be the nonprofit’s Executive Chairman, noted that they are looking towards making Signal Foundation financially independent, but did not reveal the course of action to achieve that. Acton a Stanford alumnus and a computer programmer stepped down from WhatsApp in September. In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion.
He added that there is an opportunity to act in the public interest and make a considerable contribution to society by working towards sustainable technology that respects users rather than depending on the commoditization of personal data. Further, he said that he shares the belief of Marlinspike that a nonprofit is the best vehicle to achieve it. Acton stated that Signal has always been a collaborative project with a strong community, and that they will continue to learn from the user experience.
Officially, Acton will don the hat of the executive chairman of the Foundation, whereas Marlinspike will remain the CEO of Signal Messenger, its own non-profit under the Foundation Umbrella. Signal as an app would remain as it is, and users would not see any change in the interface.
Signal uses end-to-end encryption under which the message remains between the sender and recipient, thus making it impossible for any third-party to snoop. Signal also offers a solution for other companies to build secure communications into their apps, notes CNN.