Wickr redux: in which your enterprising reporter eats crow (or at least a little hat)

This past week I panned Wickr, a popular new iPhone app that promises “secure, military-grade communications” by encrypting your emails and giving you remote delete functionality.

As I mentioned at the time, I was fairly excited about the app at first: totally secure, completely private, and users can erase their own emails on others’ devices. But when I realized that it only worked if the recipients of my emails were also on Wickr, I was a little less enthused.

In fact, I got downright snarky.

So I thought it would be only fair to let the makers of the app share their own perspectives on why Wickr actually does rock. Here’s my interview with Wickr co-founder Nico Sell:

VentureBeat: To be really up front, I still think your app is not mass market. But I want to let you prove me wrong.

Sell: Thanks for being a good sport, John. I’m sorry you have no Wickr friends to chat with. I don’t have any Facebook friends. Hopefully that makes you feel better.

Above: Wickr being installed

Wickr is a social media app. Most of the top social media apps require friends … Kik, Google+, Path, SnapChat … Same concept for Twitter. Each person on Twitter has a different username that you have to find to follow and communicate with.

I don’t have any Facebook friends and I don’t use eVite, but I am proud to invite my family, friends, and colleagues to join Wickr. I consider it a community service message. At least Wickr doesn’t sell your friends’ info or leave it sitting on a server unprotected.

VentureBeat: I have a hard time seeing people use one email app for most of their email, and Wickr for very sensitive emails. Why will they? How will you change established user patterns?

Sell: If users care about their privacy, they will use Wickr when they need it. Privacy is the new black.

VentureBeat: You’re the 16th-ranked app right now, ahead of some tough, tough competition. Does that prove I’m an idiot? How have you risen so fast against such enormous competition?

Sell: There is a huge demand for apps that don’t make their money from ads or big data. People are not stupid. Wickr knows that.

VentureBeat: How often are your users using Wickr? Per day, and per week?

Sell: We can’t see that information, by design.

Wickr is the most used app on my phone. I use it instead of the Apple Text app. I use Wickr 100 times a day, every day, to communicate with the most important people in my life. My family also uses it instead of the Apple Text app, so everyday, numerous times a day.

If you set the session timeout to 4 hours, to a user, it will work almost no different than Apple Text.

VentureBeat: How many contacts does the average user have set up in Wickr?

Sell: We can’t see any of that information, by design.

VentureBeat: I do see opportunities for Wickr in companies as a dedicated email app. Agree?

Sell: Users should have two kinds of communications — traceable and untraceable.

Email is for traceable and Wickr is for untraceable. We have won the big fight once all online communications are untraceable by default.

VentureBeat: How about a military version?

Sell: We have been contacted by various groups about licensing our service.

VentureBeat: Any plans for a white-label edition for just those purposes?

Sell: Yes. We have had some initial discussions on this but have not finalized our strategy.

VentureBeat: Let’s talk about desktop. Can a mobile-only app really handle all your email needs?

Sell: Not yet. Our initial desktop strategy is to port the app over to Windows and Mac so it can be used much like the iPad and tablets are used today.

VentureBeat: What else should I ask?

Sell:  John, you wrote, “But how on earth as a journalist can I ask my sources to not email me, not phone me, not Skype me, but instead have an iPhone, find an app, download it, create an account, connect with me, and then (and only then) communicate with me.”

Maybe you need a more important beat? Cybersecurity is getting very serious, lives are at risk and Wickr will help. There is no better way to communicate anonymously and securely with sources.

Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times just tweeted today, “Dear sources, Let’s Wickr on sensitive intel going forward.”

VentureBeat: Now … where’s that hat?

Image credit: ShutterStock

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