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In general I agree with @moxie's arguments, however I've come to to be wary at his condescending attitude and discontent towards people disagreeing with his choices.

Like there's a review on the Android Signal app complaining that it asks for too many permissions, and it does ask for an arm, a leg and your soul, with the reply being unprofessional imho. I understand that this is open-source, but if you publish it and want users, you need to act professional, otherwise it shouldn't be a surprise when people complain.

To the subject at hand, I strongly disagree.

Moxie says that email is frozen, being why it is unencrypted, blaming the lack of progress on it being federated. But you know, I'm willing to bet that in 10 years from now WhatsApp and Slack will be both dead, just like Yahoo Messenger and ICQ before them, while email and IRC will still be around.

And I think that email is unbeatable, because it is federated, because it's governed by standards and because in spite of all constraints, it's quite adaptable, being the kind of platform supporting short term proprietary solutions because (and not in spite of) its client/server decoupling.

Slack for us is just a long and one dimensional stream of greetings, jokes, warnings and meaningless blabbering. Email on the other hand is the archive of everything we do, being the Git of our interactions and the primary channel for knowledge dissemination.

Is it unencrypted? Sure, but it doesn't matter though. Because we are willingly trading that for a capable search engine and a good web interface. Trade secrets aren't communicated over email anyway.

I think Moxie is missing the point. He's emulating WhatsApp, but you can't beat WhatsApp at their own game. Did WhatsApp really deliver encryption to 1 billion users? Well, those are 1 billion users that probably won't use Signal or chat with Signal users. Oops.




I think you're really missing the point here.

> Moxie says that email is frozen, being why it is unencrypted, blaming the lack of progress on it being federated. But you know, I'm willing to bet that in 10 years from now WhatsApp and Slack will be both dead, just like Yahoo Messenger and ICQ before them, while email and IRC will still be around.

Yes, and email will still be unencrypted, while the WhatsApps and Slacks of the future will probably be encrypted end-to-end.

> And I think that email is unbeatable, because it is federated, because it's governed by standards and because in spite of all constraints, it's quite adaptable, being the kind of platform supporting short term proprietary solutions because (and not in spite of) its client/server decoupling.

It's not adaptable enough to introduce meaningful encryption to it.


Slack isn't encrypted and it doesn't make sense to pretend that it is. Introducing encryption is actually difficult for them, since they rely on a web interface connecting to a central server.

But anyway, email can support encryption if you want it, not by one, but two protocols. Email is actually the main channel that journalists and businesses are using for communicating actual secrets over the wire. It's actually the only generally available "meaningful" channel, because even with WhatsApp's encryption, you still can't fully trust a binary blob communicating with a proprietary server, not without the ability to do third-party reviews.

You can do S/MIME, which is encryption with certificates released by an authority (just like HTTPS), or you can do PGP/GPG which is more decentralized, putting the onus of establishing a chain of trust on you. S/MIME is supported out of the box in most email clients and setting up GPG in something like Thunderbird is actually not that hard: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/digitally-signing-and-e... ; And even for web interfaces there's this browser extension called Mailvelope that's pretty cool: https://www.mailvelope.com/

You see, email does support encryption, just not by default. And the reason for why encryption isn't popular with email is because people don't freaking care.

And the often dreaded protocol that Moxie usually speaks against is XMPP. XMPP apparently isn't good for delivering push notifications on mobile phones, but it does supports easy to use encryption. It's called OTR: http://wiki.xmpp.org/web/OTR ; Oh, and there are is of course an open-source Jabber / XMPP client for Android and it does support OTR, working quite well actually: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.siacs.conve...

You see, WhatsApp's progress is extraordinary, but only because of popularity, because they delivered encryption to people that don't care. Which is quite a feat, except that with another update they can also revert all of that, without users being able to do anything about it. And WhatsApp's progress is not extraordinary for its technical challenges.


> Slack isn't encrypted and it doesn't make sense to pretend that it is.

I didn't say it was.

> But anyway, email can support encryption if you want it, not by one, but two protocols. Email is actually the main channel that journalists and businesses are using for communicating actual secrets over the wire.

Yes, but they're using GPG over email. Another example of a nesting protocols approach are plugins that support OTR over XMPP. Nesting protocols is a valid approach for technical users, but the user experience is such that it will never catch on with non-technical users. And, in context, providing e2e encryption that non-technical users will use is a big part of moxie's goals.

S/MIME can't be deployed meaningfully because major webmail providers will never support it; data-mining email is a huge part of their business model.

So no, email does not support encryption.

> And the reason for why encryption isn't popular with email is because people don't freaking care.

Nobody cares about encryption in the abstract, but a great many people care about privacy. Many people who care about privacy simply don't have the technical knowledge to know what encryption they need and use it, and can't give up the communication that email/chat/etc give them. My dad, who has trouble bolding text in Word, learned how to use Signal because he cares about encryption.


> And I think that email is unbeatable, because it is federated, because it's governed by standards and because in spite of all constraints, it's quite adaptable, being the kind of platform supporting short term proprietary solutions because (and not in spite of) its client/server decoupling.

E-mail's biggest problem is that many, many, many people get it wrong either through configuration snafus or a holier-than-thou approach to how it talks to other servers. It's a miracle that it has managed to function as well as it has; and has done so only only out of sheer necessity.

The problems that e-mail face are the problems that Moxie doesn't want to deal with. If other people want to go for a protocol that has interoperability that's fine, but he wants no part in it. He has no obligation to provide a service to clients he doesn't want connecting and he's right to demand that those who use "Signal" in their name cease its use so to not confuse their attempts with his own.

We already saw a revolt when Signal (when it was known as "TextSecure") went away from its SMS model to a client-server one, leading to a version that still relies on SMS. The point of switching away was to further remove metadata that otherwise would have become exposed. This demonstrates that the type of people who want to go against Moxie's wishes are the type that are to get this implemented incorrectly.

> Is it unencrypted? Sure, but it doesn't matter though. Because we are willingly trading that for a capable search engine and a good web interface. Trade secrets aren't communicated over email anyway.

Your username should be enough to tell you that trade secrets are traded over e-mail routinely.

A multitude of inappropriate material that should not be shared via e-mail is done so on a regular basis. If you work at any company that has credit card numbers being used for either expenses or customer details, you'll quickly find that with a search for 16-digit strings within e-mails will give results.

The problem you're neglecting to acknowledge here is that data at rest can be left unencrypted but overall has no business being unencrypted when in transit. If data from party A is meant for party B (and C, D, E, F, and so on) then any party that is not involved has no business knowing about its contents other than where it is destined to--and even that is questionable.

Those who favour convenience over security are part of a huge problem that faces the Internet.

> I think Moxie is missing the point. He's emulating WhatsApp, but you can't beat WhatsApp at their own game. Did WhatsApp really deliver encryption to 1 billion users? Well, those are 1 billion users that probably won't use Signal or chat with Signal users. Oops.

Moxie isn't trying to beat WhatsApp at its game; he in fact went and improved it by incorporating aspects of Signal into it [1]. Signal is meant to be something else and not something to directly compete with WhatsApp on. Signal and WhatsApp cater to different groups and markets.

[1] https://whispersystems.org/blog/whatsapp-complete/


First of all, I really respect Moxie's choices and am very grateful for his work. What he wants to do, it's entirely his choice. Never meant to imply otherwise.

> Those who favour convenience over security are part of a huge problem that faces the Internet.

I'm not necessarily in favor of convenience, the problem is I cannot trust a binary blob communicating with a proprietary server, even if I can trust some of the people that worked on it, at least for now. I cannot trust something like WhatsApp. Signal I can trust, because at least it is open-source and up for review, but Signal will not succeed in being popular. At least not when it makes the same design choices. You say they cater to different markets, but I don't see a difference. For example Signal considers the phone number as being the username, just as WhatsApp.

Hence I end up carrying more about freedom than security. When I changed my email provider from Google Apps to FastMail, nobody noticed and I value that a lot.

> If you work at any company that has credit card numbers being used for either expenses or customer details, you'll quickly find that with a search for 16-digit strings within e-mails will give results

That may happen, but we've got strict policies in place. Nothing over email is communicated that's more important than source code. And given that source code lives in a Git repository provided by a public service, it would be ridiculous to do encrypted email, but not have behind-the-vpn on-premises Git repositories. And I know mistakes are made, etc. I still want federation more than I want end-to-end encryption.




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