Amazon-owned Wickr is shutting down its free encrypted messaging app

Secure communications provider Wickr has announced that it will shutter its free encrypted messaging app, Wickr Me, next year.

Wickr was founded in 2011 and became one of the first mainstream end-to-end encrypted messaging apps, until it was acquired by Amazon’s cloud services giant Amazon Web Services in 2021.

In a post published Friday, Amazon said that Wickr Me will shut down for good on December 31, 2023. Amazon says the app will stop accepting new user registrations on December 31, 2022 before it’s discontinued completely the following year.

The shutdown will only affect the consumer-facing version of Wickr, which has become popular among journalists and whistleblowers looking to send end-to-end encrypted and self-destructing messages. Wickr’s other products, which are geared toward government agencies, military organizations and enterprises, won’t be impacted.

“After careful consideration, we will be concentrating Wickr’s focus on securing our business and public sector customers’ data and communications with AWS Wickr and Wickr Enterprise, and have decided to discontinue our consumer product, Wickr Me,” Amazon said, adding that the company was working on allowing Wickr customers to securely communicate with individuals outside of their organization.

The shutdown announcement follows reports that the company’s free messaging app had allowed criminals to exchange images of child sexual abuse. In June, NBC News, citing court documents, law enforcement and activists, said Amazon had done “little” to proactively address the problem.

Wickr’s, whose backers have included the CIA and controversial private security firm Blackwater, had also become a hub for drug dealers forced off the dark web by the closures of notorious illegal goods marketplaces such as Silk Road, according to reports.