Purism Launches Librem One, a Suite of Privacy-Protecting, No-Track, No-Ad Apps and Services

Some time back, the folks from Purism sent me a question: "Would you like to record some voice-over for a little commercial we're making?"

"Sure," I say. "Why not?"

They give me a script, show me a rough cut of the footage, and I record a few lines. Easy peasy.

The only problem? The commercial was for something that I think is a really great idea. And, the finished commercial gave me a serious case of the giggles. Yet I couldn't tell anyone about it. I was sworn to secrecy.

For a person who runs his mouth for a living, secrecy isn't always so easy. Keeping my big, dumb mouth shut was downright painful. Painful, I say!

Luckily, I can now, as of today, spill the beans without getting into trouble.

Purism has just launched an online service it has dubbed "Librem One", which is, as Purism calls it, a "suite of apps and services designed to provide users with convenient alternatives to Big Tech products".

There are two components of Librem One that are offered free of cost (or, at least, choose your own price): Chat and Social Media.

The chat component—the aptly named "Librem Chat"—is built on Matrix (which I am also a big fan of) and includes end-to-end encrypted text chat plus audio and video chatting. And, since it's built on Matrix, it has access to all the other users on Matrix out there. Which may not be as big of a user pool as, say, Hangouts or something, but the user base is growing. Quickly.

The Social Media component is built using Activity Pub and Mastodon (a federated, free software social network system).

I want to pause right there a moment, because this is really interesting to me.

That means we now have a social media server that is supported via a subscription model.  Not advertisements. Not data collection. Subscription. Which, in my opinion, is just a much better way to build a social network that respects user data and privacy.

Plus, this solves one of the biggest problems with picking and utilizing a Mastodon server up until this point—that they've mostly been run by hobbyists in their spare time. Thus, servers could go up or down or lose data at any time (which happened to me more than once). A professionally administered Mastodon social-media server supported as part of a subscription online service? Heck yes.

Then there are the services that aren't part of the free (in cost) tier, the ones you'll need to pay to gain access to: Librem Mail (encrypted email), Librem Tunnel (a VPN service), and, according to the Purism folks, they have plans to add a few additional services to Librem One in the future:

  • Encrypted cloud storage.
  • Encrypted long-term backup.
  • Encrypted contact management.
  • A cryptographic payment system.
  • A pay-as-you-go phone service.

Even in its current state (chat, email, VPN and social), this provides an enticing alternative to the "big" services out there (like Google) for a good chunk of the core functionality.

Plus, LibremOne has a policy that is, quite possibly, one of my new favorite things. It's short, human-readable and utterly fantastic. As I go over the key points below (yeah, I'm going to talk about a policy document now), bear in mind that these are for an online service. Try to imagine Google adhering to these same ideals (spoiler: crazy hard to imagine).

This is the (entire) section on advertising:

No Ads. We do not have advertising.

That's the whole thing. How about for tracking?

No Tracking.

That sounds good, Mister Policy Document, but could you expand upon that a little bit more?

We do not track you.

Thus, ends the entire section on tracking—straight to the point.

It continues:

We do not sell nor share anything. We do not build personal, social, nor behavioral profiles of people. We do not alter nor shape user behavior. We do not target people. We do not control people.

We do build products, software, and services that respect society and your privacy. We do release all our source code as free software. We do protect people by default.

I mean...right? Those are all of my favorite words: free software, privacy, no tracking, no ads.

This is basically the type of online service model I've been preaching the benefits of for years now. To see a company (especially a company I'm already a fan of—with a dedication to the Free Software and Linux world) running with it? Super jazzed.

Plus, it has a really great commercial. That definitely doesn't hurt.

Bryan Lunduke is a former Software Tester, former Programmer, former VP of Technology, former Linux Marketing Guy (tm), former openSUSE Board Member... and current Deputy Editor of Linux Journal, Marketing Director for Purism, as well as host of the popular Lunduke Show. More details: http://lunduke.com.

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