Mailpile - taking e-mail back

A modern, fast web-mail client with user-friendly encryption and privacy features. 100% Free and Open Source software.
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Bjarni Rúnar Einarsson
Technology
Reykjavík
Iceland
3 Team Members

The State of E-mail

Mailpile is written by a small team of open source veterans and privacy advocates, based in Reykjavík, Iceland. We believe the world needs a better free software web-mail solution.

Edward Snowden's recent leaks were a wake-up call, confirming what many had long suspected, that the troves of e-mail stored on our behalf by Google, Microsoft and others are irresistable targets for those who would like to invade our privacy, be they criminals or overzealous government organizations like the NSA.

These companies base their businesses on controlling our data and communications and are never going to do the one thing that would protect our mail from the snoops: encrypt it. So, if we want to take control of our e-mail, if we want privacy and encryption, we have to do it ourselves.

Mailpile is free software, a web-mail program that you run on your own computer, so your data stays under your control. Because it is free software (a.k.a. open source), you can look under the hood and see how it works, or even modify it to make it better suit your particular needs. Mailpile is designed for speed and vast amounts of e-mail, it is flexible and themeable and has support for strong encryption built in from the very start.

We need your help to make it a reality!

Who are we?

The Mailpile core team consists of three people: Bjarni Rúnar Einarsson, Brennan Novak and Smári McCarthy.

Bjarni is tech lead for the project. He has been hacking code and slinging networks since the mid-90s, including 6 years fighting spam and viruses and 3 years behind the scenes on Google's site reliability team (SRE).

Brennan Novak thrives on solving challenging interface design & user experience design problems, he has contracted for large companies like Nike and Intel, but he prefers contributing his design & engineering talents to interesting startups like LittleBird & meaningful open source movements like the IndieWeb. Fixing email is right up his alley.

Smári McCarthy is our privacy and security expert. He has spent the last few years working as the director of the International Modern Media Institute, working with activists, NGOs and governments on information security and network policy issues.

We are all passionate about Free Software, we all have a great deal of experience working with the web and e-mail, and we all spend a lot of time in our Inboxes. We know how important e-mail is.

 

What We Need & What You Get

Our goal is to fund two to three man-years of full time work on Mailpile, with our first milestone in January 2014, when we will deliver an alpha version with the following properties:
  • A modern, open source web-mail application which runs well either on a personal computer or in the cloud
  • An intuitive, beautiful user interface that is a joy to use
  • User-friendly support for both OpenPGP and S/MIME encryption and signatures
  • A very fast, scalable search engine
  • Internationalization support, so Mailpile can speak your language
  • Sensible defaults that improve your workflow and help you handle incoming mail
  • A platform developers can customize and build upon, including a plugin architecture, support for themes and alternate user interfaces and of course good documentation

We also have some stretch goals which we will work on later, if we raise extra money:

  • A simple installer for non-technical Windows and Mac users
  • A plug-and-play distribution of Mailpile for USB keys
  • Build-in support for XMPP (Jabber) chat
  • A multi-user version of Mailpile for use by families, groups of friends or small businesses

Following our alpha release, we will spend another 6-9 months fixing bugs, fleshing out features, responding to user feedback and getting the user interface translated to languages other than English. Our goal is to have a stable 1.0 release ready in the summer of 2014.

If we are not fully funded, we will still work on all of these things and deliver as many as we can, but it will take more time if we have to take on other jobs to pay the bills and put food on the table. We will be using an iterative, open development process which means you won't have to wait long to see results. The project already exists and you can check out what we've done so far on github.

The Mailpile Community

Members of the Mailpile Community (contributing $23 or more) get to have a say in the long term direction of the project. When we aren't sure what features to work on next or need to make some other major decision, we will seek input from the Mailpile Community. To this end, we will set up a forum dedicated to this conversation. After all, you are the ones funding the work and your voices should be heard.

This is the Mailpile business model. As long as members of our community are willing to fund development (we will ask you to renew your membership in a years' time), we will dedicate ourselves to Mailpile and build the secure web-mail client you want.

No ads, no spying. Just powerful software backed by a community of people who care.

Mailpile's Impact

At the very least, this project will create some cool new software and advance the state of the art of free and open source software. However, if successful, we hope to accomplish something far more important: strike a blow for privacy on-line.

By making secure communication understandable and less prone to human error, we hope to improve the security of human rights activists, journalists and whistle-blowers the world over and do our part to make the world a better place.

Finally, even if only a fraction of the general public switch away from the proprietary web-mail providers, the mere possibility will put pressure on these big corporations to take more care and respect the privacy of their users. Competition is good for everyone.

Other Ways You Can Help

Even if you can't afford to support us with your hard earned cash, please tell your friends! Share this campaign and talk about it. Follow us on Twitter (@MailpileTeam) and give the software a try when it is ready.

And if you are a hacker or designer, check out our code and join the community. Send us a patch or a bug report. The more, the merrier!

 

Frequently Asked Questions, Answered

Q. Can I use Mailpile on my Mac? Or Windows?

Mailpile is initially being developed and tested on Linux and the Mac. Making sure it runs well on Windows is one of the things we will work on if the project is funded.

Q. Can I access my Mailpile remotely, even if it runs on localhost?

Much like any other self-hosted website, you can make your local Mailpile accessible over the Internet by using port forwarding or a tunneling service like PageKite. Of course, you will have to run it on a machine that is usually switched on if you want frequent remote access.

Q. What technology does Mailpile use?

Mailpile is written in Python, Javascript, HTML and CSS. It has relatively few external dependencies. 

Q. Why Python? And why not notmuch, xapian, lucene, ... ?

As mentioned above, one of the main goals of this project is to make software we can distribute to non-technical users. This will be much easier if we carefully limit our external dependencies.

Python is not only available on all the major platforms, but also happens to be one of the most accessible programming languages in common use today. This lowers the barrier to entry for new contributors or people who just want to understand how the software works.

Q. Is my e-mail secure if I run Mailpile on a VPS?

That depends on who you are keeping it secure from and where your VPS is located. Law enforcement can still subpoena the contents of your VPS's hard drive, and malicious hackers may be able to break in. The technicians of your VPS provider may have access to your data.

For these reasons, most security professionals would strongly advise against storing your encryption keys or processing sensitive data on a VPS. But it really depends on your "risk model", as the cryptogeeks like to say.

Also note that when you host your e-mail on a VPS, your attacker has to target you specifically and make a dedicated effort, which is very different from the kind of wholesale mass surveillance enabled by centralized proprietary web-mail.

Q. Will Mailpile be an SMTP server? Or an IMAP server?

Eventually, that is quite likely as it will help people be even more self sufficient. But for the Alpha in January, we are only focusing on the mail client aspect of the project, Mailpile will download your e-mail from a mail server much like Thunderbird or Mail.app and process it locally.

Q. So can I ask for anything at all at the $4096 level?

No. :-)  First of all, we are focused on building free software for everyone so we are not willing to spend time on anything proprietary. We will only write free software we can share with the entire community. We also have to take care to keep our promises to the other backers, so if your feature is very different from what we had planned already, we can only spend a limited amount of time on it (1-2 weeks). However if your feature is generally useful to everyone and in line with our mission, we will just make it part of the road-map.

Q. Why do you need $100.000?!

We're asking for a lot of money, so of course you should know why. $100.000 means paying two people $4166 a month for a year, including all taxes, insurance and other fees. After all costs and taxes, that's about $2091 each. Renting a small apartment in Reykjavík costs around $1000 a month and a beer is about $7 at a bar, so you can see how fast this money slips away.

And of course some of it will be spent on fees relating to the campaign. Indiegogo take their cut and then we need to have shirts made and letters mailed - but that's all good, right? We also want to spend some money on doing usability studies and attending conferences to learn new stuff and connect with our community, so that'll factor in as well.

Because we believe in the project, we're willing to work a little bit harder and earn a little bit less than we could at a "normal job".

Q. What if you raise over $100,000?

We will spend the money wisely! But seriously, this is happening thanks to your amazing support. We have given the matter some thought and discussed in a blog post.

Q. I detest credit card payments. Got a BTC address I can donate to?

You are in luck. We do happen to have a Bitcoin address: 13z55AGS14pSPiPpMqAAFHb576tSmSmR77

Q. I have more questions!

Just ask and we'll do our best to answer. :-)

Our e-mail is team@mailpile.is and we will do our best to answer every inquiry we get. It may take us a few days, but we will answer!

Find This Campaign On
$163,192USD
raised by 3,639 people in 1 month
163% funded
0 time left
$100,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on September 10, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $1USD
    Binary E-mail User

    You're part of the revolution, baby! - the revolution that started in the 1960's with the creation of the first e-mail systems.

    233 claimed
  • $8USD
    Futurist Telegrapher

    Having not spent a dime on webmail for the last decade, you've realized that the telegraph operators of the world have been keeping copies, and it's time to change that. Thanks for helping us help you!

    281 claimed
  • $13USD
    Lucky Thirteen

    You wish us the best of luck and support our efforts. In return you get access to Mailpile's online source code and the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing you supported something worthwhile.

    308 claimed
  • $23USD
    Prime Member

    You care about our mission and applaud our attempt to use modern mathematics to secure peoples' e-mail. You become an official member of the Mailpile Community, which means you will have a say in how Mailpile develops in the future. We are working for you. Unless you choose to remain anonymous, your name will be listed on the project's official thank-you page.

    1451 claimed
  • $32USD
    E-Mail Power User

    You get so much e-mail you're convinced there must be an entire data center dedicated to processing your inbox in the cloud. Except it still all fits on a 32GB USB stick... maybe you just need Mailpile? You get all the previous perks, plus if this perk turns out to be popular, we will make sure there is a super compact, no-frills theme available for the info-junkies in the crowd.

    421 claimed
  • $42USD
    Paranoid Android

    With a brain the size of a planet, how could you not support this project? In addition to the above perks, if over 200 androids sign up, we'll make sure there is a fjord-themed background shipped with the Mailpile Alpha.

    232 claimed
  • $67USD
    Activist

    You support your ideals with actions and expect us to do the same. In addition to us making you a Community Member, one of our actions will be to mail you a postcard from Iceland, personally thanking you for your support. In addition to your name on the thank-you page, you will be able to specify a web-site URL which we will link to.

    277 claimed
  • $128USD
    Hacker

    You value the ability to hack and tweak and fully control your computing environment, your e-mail included. You will get all the benefits from above, plus we will put your postcard in a nice thick envelope so the government can't read it. And we'll throw in some stickers.

    107 claimed
  • $256USD
    8 Bit Evangelist

    We know, we know. You want a t-shirt. Everybody loves t-shirts. So, here's the deal: you support us with $256, we'll send you an awesome exclusive t-shirt AND all of the above perks AND you will get an awesome mail client as well!

    66 out of 256 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $512USD
    9-bit Digital Philanthropist

    Not only do you have 8 bits, you also have parity! So, you want a t-shirt AND some Icelandic dried fish? Okay, okay. We'll send you some. Also, if we reach the USB distribution stretch goal, we'll send you a USB stick that runs Mailpile!

    11 out of 128 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $1,024USD
    Underfunded Spooks

    So, you're a spook, eh? We understand that as an underfunded intelligence agency, you need help securing your e-mail. We can help. We'll give you the above perks, feature you prominently in our credits and send you a reasonably sized volcanic rock that you can throw through your own window. Spy agencies should be glass houses, right?

    2 out of 32 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $2,048USD
    The Postmaster General

    Our guess is, if supporting Mailpile is worth $2048 to you, then you probably move a lot of e-mail and probably not just your own. The more people go for this perk, the higher we will prioritize the multi-user stretch goal when we update our road-map after the alpha release. In addition, our designer will make a custom theme just for you. You will be prominently featured in our credits and of course receive all the previous perks!

    9 out of 12 claimed
  • $4,096USD
    Icelandophile

    In addition to the previous perks you and your logo will be the most prominently featured in our credits. You also get a custom feature / design theme per your specs (see the FAQ for some fine print). In addition, if you fly to Iceland we'll meet with you to discuss the implementation and then take you on a road trip through the Icelandic countryside, taste fermented shark and our traditional alcohol Brennivín, whilst we talking tech, politics and security.

    3 out of 4 claimed
  • $8,192USD
    Pyromaniac

    Same perks as the Icelandophile except you buy a flight to Iceland for New Years and we'll take care of everything else: a roof over your head, volcanos, bonfires, Icelandic Pirates, fireworks and PGP key signing. It's exactly as dangerous as it sounds, but don't worry, we'll take good care of you.

    0 out of 2 claimed
  • $16,384USD
    Venture Communist

    As a road-raging venture communist you're going to want to access your Mailpile directly from your mobile with no questions asked. If you get this perk, we will hire an Android application developer to start binding Mailpile into a native app as soon as Mailpile's outward facing APIs are stable.

    0 out of 2 claimed
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