In 2013 the Snowden Revelations shook up the entire world. Impacted by this, three guys from Austria quit their well-paying jobs to build privacy software for the masses.
The year was 2013. The Internet was still this amazing place where anything was possible: You could hang out and chat with your friends. You could also debate with strangers from all over the world. Or you could simply go ahead and discover new and quirky websites every day. In the end, you could just be you - without anybody ever spoiling the fun.
There were talks about bad actors, true, but those were dismissed by the large public. It all still had this innocent vibe. I myself was the biggest Google fanboy out there and never questioned all of the trust I put in them; my whole digital life had a home with Google, and nothing was ever going to stop me. Why talk about rain when sunshine clearly is filling the sky?
This all reminds me of the movie “The Truman Show”. Truman, the main character, lives a perfect life: Great job, happily married and his best buddy is there for him anywhere, anytime. But what he does not know yet - is that he is the main character in a massive reality TV show. His entire life is being broadcast to the entire world. He is being exploited and monetized without his knowledge or consent.
All along, Truman always thought he controlling his life. But since his childhood he was pushed towards the goals of the show runners. He was manipulated. Without even noticing.
something was just not right
And then - just like us - Truman had his “Snowden moment”. The moment he realizes something is just not right. Something is off. And even though he knew his perfect world was about to crumble, he could no longer look away. He had to face the truth.
In summer 2013, the Snowden Revelations unarguably showed that mass surveillance is happening on a global scale. Right in front of our eyes. And still to this day, citizens across the world are being spied upon. They are being monetized, exploited and sometimes even persecuted because of what they say or do online.
At the same time, little or no transparency is given about the programs of mass surveillance and how they are being utilized. The same applies to big-tech algorithms. In hiding, they decide what billions of people see every day.
As such, mass surveillance is a threat to our democracies and freedoms.
Snowden could not stop these programs, but his revelations made it impossible for the world to continue looking the other way. So while things did not change and some things even got worse, Snowden still changed the world. He changed everything. He changed our perception.
And that is where our story begins. Because of Snowden, along with millions of others, we started seeing and discussing the issues of our modern age. And mass surveillance is a complex problem. Super complex. It is a problem that needs to be tackled on many different fronts; be it legislation, regulation, education or with software.
After lots of thought, three guys from Austria quit their day jobs to fully invest their time into creating privacy solutions for the masses. They founded a company named Safing.
- to secure something from a threat
- to make something safe
Us three being quite the nerds, we knew there were ways to protect yourself from mass surveillance. The only problem: it was hard and technical. For everyday people it was just not realistic to easily protect yourself from mass surveillance.
Too much hassle was involved. We knew there HAD to be a better way. Was it too much to ask wanting our moms to be able to manage their own privacy? It SHOULD be that easy. That is what Safing is all about. Making privacy easy for the masses.
So we just went for it and quit our well-paying jobs. To start out, we set up base in a spare room in one of our homes. We moved some desks inside and got going.
Many obstacles lied ahead. Financing our research and development phase with no income yet. Hiring our first amazing employees. Creating company culture. Building team structure. Getting our first “alpha” users. And of course, moving from that spare room into our first office.
Oh my, what a day with big smiles!
Things sped up since. With an amazing team, as well as countless efforts from privacy enthusiasts - using and testing our software from the earliest days - we could mature and develop Portmaster into what it is today.
What started out as a dream caused by the Snowden Revelations, has now became reality.
With version 1.0, Portmaster does the heavy lifting for you. It is an install & forget solution. Perfect for beginners, like my mom. At the same time, advanced users can configure everything to their hearts desire. We are super proud to have made it this far!
And do not take our word for it. If there is any learning from our journey, it is that people WANT privacy, if it is easily available. Just look at what happened to our GitHub stars when we got to 1.0 - can you spot when that happened?
correct - the 1.0 release was recent
Even as our software was labeled as “early development” - it managed to get 4.0k GitHub stars. Thousands of people downloaded and tested early software. Those people were in search for easy privacy.
The masses do not want their entire lives to be surveilled by default. It is simply that they did not have a choice so far. And this is changing. We see it in our growth. Portmaster is the fastest growing open-source project in 2022 without investments (#4 overall). And you will notice this trend too. More and more people are standing their ground to make privacy possible in the age of mass surveillance.
And along our societies, Portmaster will continue to evolve to a better future. There are tons of features planned, and we want to continue to make things simpler and simpler. To grandma and beyond!
February 7, 2023 • Written by David