Last weekend’s reading list also included Taking Back Our Privacy, yet another1 New Yorker piece but this time signed by Anna Wiener. This article is a long-read on Moxie Marlinspike, co-founder and CEO of Signal. Moxie is a childhood nickname. That alone signals (pun intended) an original personality. I mean, how many times have you heard of a CEO going by his childhood nickname?
Indeed the personal story of Marlinspike, along with that of the ascent of Signal, is fascinating. I did not know, for example, that in 2013 he met Brian Acton, founder of WhatsApp. Brian expressed interest in adding end-to-end encryption into WhatsApp. Then came Facebook’s acquisition, and, for obvious reasons, Signal Protocol never landed into the messaging service. The story was not over, however:
That year, Acton left Facebook, later attributing his departure to intractable differences about privacy practices. At the heart of the conflict was tension with Facebook’s top executives, Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, who wanted to extend Facebook’s targeted-ad network to WhatsApp. End-to-end encryption precluded the collection of message content that would be valuable to advertisers. In early 2018, Acton and Marlinspike announced the formation of the Signal Foundation, a nonprofit. Acton, the foundation’s chairman and sole member, seeded it with a no-interest, fifty-million-dollar loan.
What a plot twist. What’s even more remarkable is Moxie’s personal biography. He is not your average startup co-founder, not by any mean. He kind stands at the interconnection between activism, ethical hacking, and anarchy, and yet he’s the CEO of a booming startup.