Analysis. Products and services, which try to embed privacy and work ethically responsible with data, are finally progressing. It is uphill to compete with monopoly tech’s convenient and dirt cheap or ‘free’ products, but more and more individuals seem to realise that they pay a too high price for ‘free’ with their data. We have looked at some of the successful services and their growth.
We are looking at four services, who are not stalking or profiling you based on whatever data they can suck up about you. German document sharing Nextcloud, American search engine DuckDuckGo, Norwegian video conferencing Whereby and American browser Brave are all experiencing success both economically and in the number of users, which are so important in order to develop the product and grow more competitive. Unfortunately both the German browser Cliqz and its ad-blocker Ghostery went out of business in April 2020 and also Swedish social media and chat app Idka are gone. But let’s look at the positive side:
Nextcloud is a German self-hosted productivity platform that keeps you in control of your data. An ethical alternative to e.g. Google Docs. You can meet them at the data ethics conference in Copenhagen or online October 22nd 2020. Before the Corona virus hit the world, Nextcloud publicized record numbers in users and growth.
“Nextcloud accelerated its sales growth, signing twice as many new customers in 2019 as during 2018. 179 new enterprises and government organisations from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas joined the existing customer base, more than doubling its size. Besides over 100 organisations in a wide variety of industries from finance and insurance to transportation and engineering, about 30 universities and research institutes, more than 15 local and federal government agencies and a dozen health and hospital institutions joined as new customers,” it stated in a blog post in March.
DuckDuckGo is a US-based search engine that pops up as a search engine choice in Chrome, because the EU demanded of Google to give us other choices than their own search (though implemented horribly with an auction system, where small search engines have to bid for at place). While Google tracks and profiles it users, Duckduckgo, founded in 2008, lives from advertising related to your search topic, not a detailed profile on you. And that is what more and more users long for. Since 2014 DuckDuckGo has been profitable, and according to the company forecasts, it will pass the $100 million revenue barrier for the first time in 2020 probably due to people using screens more during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Wired article. The founder Gabriel Weinberg tells Wired that DuckDuckGo’s key users are people who both care about their privacy and are willing to act upon it. “The caring really went up after Snowden,” he says. “After Cambridge Analytica the acting percentage has really skyrocketed.”
In August, Marketwatch reported that Google Search suffered a decline in Search for the first time ever (though still sitting on over 90% of the global market for search) and that DuckDuckGo is number six on the list of global search engines market share. In May 2012, DuckDuckGo was attracting 1.5 million searches a day. By May 2020, 66 million searches occurred every day on DuckDuckGo, according to MarketWatch.
Other privacy-focused search engines on the rise are German Ecosia and Danish givero.com and not least the Dutch startpage.com.
Whereby is a Norwegian-based webinar and conference tool like Zoom. It has a free version, where you can be up to 4 people in a conference and paid versions for up to 12 or 50 participants. At the beginning of the year there was a lot of talk about Zoom being unsafe, and Zoom seem to have changed for the better, but Whereby, an innovation coming from the highly regulated telco Telenor, has been focusing on privacy from the outset. During the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Whereby platform has nearly three times as may users compare to the year before. Marketing Associate John Pafford at Whereby says: ‘As a consequence of the current period of global self-isolation, Whereby has experienced a 450% increase in global users and saw 180% growth in annual recurring revenue (ARR) in March alone: a result of individuals and teams across the world discovering a secure platform perfectly suited to the needs of remote working.’
According to Ingrid Ødegaard, Co-founder and Chief Product & Technology Officer at Whereby we are talking about 3.57 mio monthly active users up from 1.98 million.
Brave is a browser founded by Brendan Eich, who also co-founded Mozilla. In June this year, it reported following:
“This May, Brave saw its monthly active users pass the 15 million mark with 15.4 million users, a growth of 50% since the Brave 1.0 aunch this past November, and of 125% or 2.25x over the past year. Daily active users also went up significantly, with 5.3 million users browsing with Brave on a daily basis, up from 2 million one year ago.”
Another interesting browser on the rise is the Norwegian Vivaldi, owned by its 50 employees with no investors, and co-founded by Jon von Tetzchner who also built the Opera browser, which he sold to investors. It works together with other privacy focused ventures such as Whereby and Startpage.
Finally, it seems like privacy and ethics focused services are gaining traction. Regulation – not least enforcement – is one important reason. So is the fact that companies start building products with privacy at the forefront and that they think of the ethics of their suppliers – just think off the boycot of Facebook and Youtube ads from big advertisers.
But YOU are also important. We consumers, citizens and users also have a responsibility for using alternatives to those big monopoly tech platform, who are not respecting our right to our own data. We must switch to alternatives, because the more users they have, the better they become.