PRISM was a wake-up call for many even though it is still not really clear how extensive the spying, logging and wiretapping really is. One reasonable approach to the issue is to move away from products of large companies such as Google, Microsoft or Apple as they have been linked to PRISM. But that is not really enough, considering that other companies too may cooperate with the NSA or other agencies, or may do so when they are approached.
Mailpile is a new email service in the making that is currently trying to get enough funds to launch a stable release in summer 2014. That's a long time from now and while that may be disheartening, the features that it will offer are everything but.
First, it is an open source project which means that anyone - with enough knowledge - can audit the code. It is created by three open software enthusiasts from Iceland with prior experience in the field.
Being open source is only one of the features that sets Mailpile apart from other email services. One of the "other" interesting features is that it is fully self-hosted, which means that you will have full control over your email storage. The team notes that you can host it on your laptop or desktop computer, a Raspberry Pi, cloud server you have access to, or a Flash Drive that you carry around with you.
Data can be encrypted or restricted as the user sees fit according to the official website. While it is not clear if that means that data encryption will be built-in, it is very likely that this is meant by that. But since everything is stored locally, you can use encryption software of your own to fully protect the mail client.
Encryption comes in another form as well. The developers will add support for OpenPGP signatures and encryption to the core of Mailpile, so that it can be used intuitively and without all the hassles usually involved in setting this up properly.
What else? A scalable search engine is promised, as is internationalization support, an ad-free environment and a platform that other developers can build upon.
The catch? The team notes that it will pursue the goal no matter if it will hit the requested $100,000 mark or not. Some features may not be implemented though and it may take longer to launch a stable version if the goal is not reached.
A year is a long time and many questions have not been answered yet. For instance, how easy will it be to set this up? Other questions include if you will get an email address when you register, if you can use third party accounts in the application, or how effective the spam filtering will be.
The project is certainly an ambitious one. Good news is that it is not starting from scratch, but that it has been in development for some time now. While it is too early to say how successful it will be, it is likely that it will find its niche fairly easily with all the talks about PRISM and other surveillance techniques.
Much of it depends on the ease of installation and use though. If the team gets that right, it could have a bright future.
Update: An alpha version of Mailpile has been released by the team which supports core features such as integrated spam filtering, a custom search engine, or deep integration of PGP support.
On the downside of things, it is currently only available in source code form. A demo is available however that you can use to browse the interface of the mail client.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.