Facebook Founder Says the World Needs Wickr

wickr blog 2

Chris Howell, Wickr CTO
March 9, 2019

The other day some pretty amazing news hit the wire that almost made me look up for flying pigs. Before I tell you, let’s play a little game. Which of the following headlines was real on March 6, 2019?

  1. ISIS publishes stunning charter on religious liberty
  2. Democrats praise Trump for strong economic performance
  3. Facebook announces a privacy-focused vision for social networking

Wow, that’s a tough one! If you chose 1 or 2, you’re wrong. The Verge’s headline read like this: “Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will shift to emphasize encrypted ephemeral messages”

(https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/6/18253458/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-privacy-encrypted-messaging-whatsapp-messenger-instagram).

For real.

Clearly I’m poking a little fun at the irony here, which to his credit even Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledges in his blog (https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/a-privacy-focused-vision-for-social-networking/10156700570096634/) announcing the plan. Oh, and for the record, he didn’t actually mention Wickr by name (wink), but if you ask me he may as well have.

In his post, Mark Zuckerberg predicts that communications will “increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever.” All joking aside, I’m not going to be the guy that reads this, stands up and indignantly shouts “how dare you” or pushes Facebook away from the solution table while shaking my finger and muttering that they’re part of the problem. The principles that Facebook’s founder says they “plan to build more of our services around” are good – and are in fact the very principles that have anchored Wickr since our founding. To us, they’re important enough around which to build an entire product line. Here they are, to review:

  • Private interactions. Control of who we communicate with and who can access our communications. Amen.
  • Encryption. End-to-end message security. No one else can read them, not even the provider. Bingo.
  • Reducing permanence. AKA ephemerality. The idea that all data has a useful life, beyond which it’s a liability. Especially true in communications. Yes.
  • Safety. Do everything we can to keep users safe. Of course.
  • Interoperability. Empower users to interact with existing systems, networks and workflows. Check.
  • Secure data storage. It’s more than just storing it in the right place, but OK, I’m with you.

Every one of these principles is core to our products today and hearing them hits my ears like I’m first tenor in the church choir. Whether Facebook is genuine or not is not my place to say, nor is it the point of this post. I’m sure the bulk of the blogosphere will cover that. I’d just like to point out that either way, these principles are darned nice to hear out loud, and whether they’ll ultimately be more than words at Facebook means less to me than knowing that they were at least important enough for them to say. Hearing them from a company who has spent so much time on the complete opposite side of the privacy spectrum is also huge, and massive validation for us at Wickr to keep doing what we’re doing.

Facebook is very right to recognize that private, secure and ephemeral messaging are the fastest growing areas of online communication. Providing it has to be more than a business decision, though. It’s has to be about respecting people, helping to provide what they really need, and not taking advantage of them. That’s the table we set. Welcome to it, Facebook.