December 2019 - Email: Trust & Challenges

Email – A Wonderful Tool with a lot of Freedom

Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange talks to Julia Janssen-Holldiek from the CSA about innovating email and achieving security through openness.

Email – A Wonderful Tool with a lot of Freedom

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Watch the 4-minute video here or on YouTube, or read the transcript below.


Julia Janssen-Holldiek: Email is the foundation of online communication, and email usage and market revenue have been growing in the past. What will it take, in your opinion, to maintain this success? 

Rafael Laguna: Email is an open federated protocol and we have to keep it open. There are a lot of attacks against it, not only from the real-time messengers, but also from the very large email platforms that are less and less taking emails from smaller platforms, thus destroying the “federatedness” of email. So we’ve got to fight that. We’ve got to be very careful that this cannot happen. It’s unlawful, but it’s done in the dark. So we as an industry have to notify the authorities when this happens and we have to make noise. And trust me, Open-Xchange is doing that.

The other thing is we have to innovate email, obviously. That hasn’t been happening much. And I wonder why we have real-time messengers in some silos that are proprietary, where we have to ask everybody, “What messenger are you using?”. We don’t do that with email, which is very convenient. I only need to know your email address and I can send you email and I don’t care what service you’re using, what client you’re using, or whatever. So another one is maybe we should innovate so that email can also replace the real-time messengers, so that we only have one data bucket with all our messaging.

Janssen-Holldiek: Do you think this can be done by just one company? Or do we need a network and a close cooperation for that?

Laguna: It needs to be an open approach. It can only be done in the open, it can only be done with open source, and it can only be done if the email providers work together and actually support these sort of innovations in the platforms that they offer to consumers. 

Janssen-Holldiek: We all know that security and privacy issues are becoming increasingly important these days. To what extent do these factors really influence a customer purchasing decision? 

Laguna: When you think of it, email is a quite secure method of communicating – even though many people would say, look, it’s not end-to-end encrypted, and what have you. Yes, but it’s very distributed. We have some 7.2 billion active email accounts out there in the world, but they sit on something like 8 million servers. That gets you an average of about a thousand accounts per server. So if one server gets hacked, a thousand accounts get hacked, and nothing much else. As opposed to the very large monopolistic platforms, which have sometimes a billion users or even more on them. If they get hacked, that’s a real mess. So that’s one.

The other one is, because it’s all out in the open, we know what software, what code is running. And every crypto expert would say a crypto algorithm can only be good if the world looks at it - it’s out there in the open.

Janssen-Holldiek: So you’d rather trust that the world looks at the algorithm instead of trusting just one company?

Laguna: Just one company who has the magic whatever…

Janssen-Holldiek: Right. Because they don’t!

Laguna: They don’t. It’s software!

Janssen-Holldiek: What do users expect from their providers these days? And are those expectations realistic for you as a provider?

Laguna: I think we have to wake up users a little bit and create more expectations. Email has almost become like infrastructure. You have to have an email account for e-commerce, and what have you. You really only get it when you are a little older. Young people now grow up with the real-time messengers and only maybe later in school or at college do they get their email accounts, or when they start buying at Amazon on their own accounts. Then they sort of grow up into this email thing, which is like a technology for old people. I think by innovating email, we have to sort of tell people, “Look, this is a wonderful tool. You own your email address, you own your email account. If you don’t like your provider, you can switch and take your email with you. You know, these kinds of things, there’s a lot of freedom in it. And you should enjoy that freedom.” But I think we have to educate people that this is the way real Internet services are.

Janssen-Holldiek: Many thanks, Rafael Laguna, for sharing your very futuristic view on email.

Laguna: Thanks for having me.


Co-founder and CEO of Open-Xchange, Rafael Laguna has been building and growing software companies for over 25 years. Rafael is a long-time advocate and campaigner for open-source software and the open web and has repeatedly proven that open approaches can produce profitable, high-grade commercial software without compromising user privacy or safety. Since its launch in 2005, Open-Xchange has partnered with many of the largest providers in the world in order to deliver email and productivity solutions, including secure storage, file and document management, and best-in-class IMAP and DNS management.


Julia Janssen-Holldiek became part of the CSA team in 2014 and Director in 2017, and is passionate about creating and enabling quality standards for commercial emailing. Prior to the CSA she worked for several years in Marketing and Sales at Dell. Julia studied business administration at the University of Cologne and the Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires.

Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.