Moxie Marlinspike steps down as CEO of Signal • The Register


Moxie Marlinspike, the creator of the secure messaging app Signal, announced his resignation as CEO of the company on Monday.

Marlinspike said he always intended to develop Signal to the point that it could continue without his direct involvement, but that wasn’t possible just four years ago, when he was writing most of the code, managed the employees and personally took care of the support. Fast forward to today and Marlinspike said he rarely writes code and feels comfortable leaving things in the hands of his management team.

Signal is one of only two mobile messaging apps deemed secure enough to be recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where “secure” means end-to-end encrypted with some degree of credibility. The other, Signal’s much bigger rival, is Meta’s (Facebook) WhatsApp.

Coincidentally, Marlinspike’s temporary replacement will be Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, who left this company in 2018 to co-found, along with Marlinspike, the Signal Foundation, the 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”.

“I will continue to remain on the Signal board, determined to help manifest Signal’s mission from this role, and will step down as CEO within the next month to focus on finding candidates, “Marlinspike explained in an article announcing his departure. “Brian Acton, who is also on the Signal Foundation board of directors, volunteered to serve as interim CEO during the research period.”

Signal had around 40 million monthly active users at the start of 2021; WhatsApp has over two billion monthly active users.

Problem at the courier factory

Over the past few months, Signal has rolled out support for MobileCoin, a cryptocurrency that allegedly offers private digital transactions – it operates from an encrypted blockchain as opposed to a public blockchain. Beta tests started last april UK.

The organization’s decision to integrate MobileCoin – for which Marlinspike served as adviser during development – was controversial, and is not easily reconciled with the recent well-received criticism of Marlinspike on “web3”, the IT infrastructure associated with DeFi (decentralized finance), NFT (non-fungible tokens) and associated cryptocurrencies. It also doesn’t easily fit with the idea that Signal is run by a nonprofit.

London-based software developer and cryptocurrency critic Stephen Diehl last year condemned Signal’s adoption of MobileCoin as a punch in the guts and a betrayal.

“Many of us have spent a lot of time and social capital keeping our friends and family away from the mining data siphon platforms offered by Facebook et al, and into Signal in hopes of breaking the cycle. commercial exploitation of our online relationships. “He wrote in a blog post in April 2021.” And some of us are feeling used. “

Two days ago, with Signal’s MobileCoin integration now available to at least some users of the app in the United States, Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, echoed that of Alex Stamos worry that combining end-to-end encryption with hard-to-trace payments is a recipe for disputes with law enforcement authorities and governments.

Cryptographer Bruce Schneier offered a similar assessment of adding MobileCoin support to Signal last year.

“I think that’s a really bad idea,” Schneier wrote in a blog post. “It’s not just the bloat of what used to be a secure and clean communications app. It’s not just that the blockchain is just plain dumb.

“It’s not even that Signal chooses to bind to a specific blockchain currency. It’s that adding a cryptocurrency to an end-to-end encrypted app blurs the morality of the product and invites all kinds of government investigative and regulatory interference: IRS, SEC, FinCEN, and possibly FBI. “

Marlinspike did not respond to a request for comment. ®


Comments are closed.