Since its founding in 2014, ProtonMail has become synonymous with user-friendly encrypted email. Now the company is trying to be synonymous with a whole lot more. On Wednesday morning, it announced that it’s changing its name to, simply, Proton—a nod at its broader ambitions within the universe of online privacy. The company will now offer an “ecosystem” of linked products, all accessed via one paid subscription. Proton subscribers will have access not just to encrypted email, but also an encrypted calendar, file storage platform, and VPN.
This is all part of CEO Andy Yen’s master plan to give Proton something close to a fighting chance against tech giants like Google. A Taiwanese-born former particle physicist, Yen moved to Geneva, Switzerland, after grad school to work at CERN, the nuclear research facility. Geneva proved a natural place to pivot to a privacy-focused startup, thanks to both Switzerland’s privacy-friendly legal regime and to a steady crop of poachable physicists. Today, Yen presides over a company with more than 400 employees and nearly 70 million users. He recently spoke to WIRED about the enduring need for greater privacy, the dangers of Apple's and Google's dominance, and how today’s attacks on encryption recall the rhetorical tactics of the War on Terror.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited.