The post-Snowden boom in strongly encrypted services continues. To wit: Lavaboom, a made-in-Germany encrypted email service, which is currently in beta and seeking a $100,000 crowdfunding raise via Indiegogo to get a fully featured product to market.
Co-founder, Felix Müller-Irion, says the idea for Lavaboom came in the wake of U.S. encrypted email service Lavabit’s shut down back in 2013. Building a similar service in Germany, with its robust privacy laws, was the business opportunity the team spied.
“I came to the conclusion that encrypted email is the only way to go forward with this,” says Müller-Irion. “German privacy laws are among the best in the world. There would be huge public outrage if they were to be overlooked.”
Lavaboom is aiming to differentiate its zero knowledge, PGP end-to-end encrypted email service by focusing on simplifying the user experience. Users don’t need to trouble themselves with manually generating and exchanging encryption keys.
“We focus a lot on UX and UI, so we actually put the design process into the front of our minds. I’m from a UI and UX background… It’s focused on giving the users the best possible experience with the least amount of friction possible,” says Müller-Irion.
Metadata is also obfuscated via Lavaboom so that it appears as if the address it was sent from comes from the startup’s offices in Cologne — a partial solution to the hard problem of securing email metadata (Lavabit’s founders are working on reworking email messaging protocols to develop a secure end-to-end messaging protocol that can provide encryption of both message content and the email in transit — aka the Dark Mail project).
Lavaboom has fully open sourced its code, and is hosting it on Github where outsiders can dive in to check its claims. It launched a beta version of the email service around a week ago, and Müller-Irion says some 200,000 emails have been delivered via its system thus far.
“The target audience at the moment is really only for privacy-oriented people however we want to bring this to everyone so that every [consumer] and elderly person can use our service and send encrypted emails,” he adds.
The team is offering the encrypted webmail service free for individual users, with 2GB of storage going to Indiegogo backers, and 1GB for general users. Monetization plans focus on a white label b2b product that companies will be able to run on their own servers for a fee. A premium version of Lavaboom will also likely be offered where users can buy more storage if needed.
The current web-based beta version of Lavaboom, which has been in development for around a year, is pretty limited in terms of feature set. The plan is to flesh that out with “the usual stuff you would expect from your Gmail account or whatever you’re using”, as Müller-Irion puts it, so things like the ability to import and export contacts, create and store drafts, send and view attachments and so on.
Also on the slate for the future is offering iOS and Android version of the Lavaboom client, and a desktop version of the web-based client. He adds Lavaboom also has plans to build out additional encrypted services, such as a Dropbox-style cloud storage offering and perhaps an encrypted calendar module.