Encrypted email service ProtonMail now allows customers to buy service credits with bitcoin. These credits can be used to purchase premium email add-ons, and pay for extra online privacy with ProtonVPN.
Paying in bitcoin could prove handy for anyone wishing to use encrypted email or VPN services without revealing their identity. It’s also handy for those without full access to credit cards or PayPal services.
As it has done for years, ProtonMail also accepts bitcoin donations. Until now, though, it did this with a single donation address and manual payment confirmations.
The team’s announcement this week said it needed to implement a more sophisticated automated system to cope with the increasing number of bitcoin payers.
“As we mentioned in our guide on how to buy Bitcoins, secure email can actually play an important role in keeping Bitcoins secure, either as an email address to use with online Bitcoin wallets or exchanges, or for the storage of sensitive data.”
As of the newly-released version 3.11, bitcoin payments and credit top-ups are now built into the main user interface.
The project launched in 2013, from the CERN scientific research facility. It offers basic encrypted webmail for free, with levels of add-on premium services like extra/unlimited storage, filters, and multi-user options.
Its servers are located in Switzerland, deliberately outside both U.S. and E.U. jurisdiction.
ProtonMail’s Past Payment Problems
Customers can also pay with credit card and PayPal. However the ProtonMail team have long been Bitcoin fans — not only is their privacy mission a match, but PayPal once briefly cut off the new company from its $250,000 USD crowdfunding balance in 2014.
At the time, a PayPal support representative questioned whether ProtonMail’s services were legal, and whether it had government permission to encrypt email. For the record, email encryption has never been regulated in this way.
PayPal restored ProtonMail’s access to funds a few weeks later, citing a “technical error”.
Bitcoin Essential to Protect Revenue Stream
Despite this, the company’s experience is a valuable lesson for those who question why Bitcoin is necessary in an advanced economy.
Centralized payment services like credit cards and PayPal have a long history of freezing or shuttering customer accounts. Often this is for legitimate legal reasons, but other times it’s due to “errors”, over-caution, or the increasingly-vague “terms of service violation”.
Whether you agree with the laws or terms isn’t relevant. The fact is, they can change almost at a whim and suspending access to funds — even when temporary — can be fatal for a startup.
ProtonMail’s announcement also reflected this sentiment:
“Ultimately, we believe having a more significant portion of our revenue via Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies actually reduces our business risk, by providing more redundancy in the event of the failure of more traditional payment methods. While this is fairly progressive thinking today, we believe that with time, more businesses will also adopt this view.”
No matter which jurisdiction they exist in, all businesses should consider a BTC payment option for this reason. If nothing else, it’s an emergency valve when more popular options become unreliable.
Do you use ProtonMail? What’s your opinion of it? Let us know in the comments.
Images via ProtonMail, Pixabay