A Letter from the Executive Director

I am so proud with what we have achieved in the last year.

Cwtch has graduated from an experiment into a fully fledged application, available on multiple platforms, and is starting to see real world use.

Despite the challenges of recent years, our community has grown; through new translators, volunteer developers, and Cwtch advocates, coming together from across the planet to build a more private, and just, future.

We have had to make some tough decisions this year, and I am eternally grateful for the ongoing support of the Board of Directors, and everyone who works behind the scenes to keep the lights on.

The core of Open Privacy is smaller now that it was last year. We have had to make significant changes to staffing and operations in order to ensure our survival. I encourage you to read about those changes in this report and consider helping us get back to full strength.

To put it simply, to continue this work, we need your help.

Last year we raised less than 26% of our $300,000 goal through new donations, and without significant support from people like you we run the risk of being unable to continue many of our efforts in the years to come.

Our mission has only just begun, and I invite you to join us again as we continue to gain momentum and help build a better world.

Sarah Jamie Lewis
Executive Director, Open Privacy Research Society


What is Cwtch?

Cwtch (/kʊtʃ/ - a Welsh word roughly translating to “a hug that creates a safe place”) is a decentralized, privacy-preserving, multi-party messaging protocol that can be used to build metadata resistant applications.

Decentralized and Open: There is no “Cwtch service” or “Cwtch network”. Participants in Cwtch can host their own safe spaces, or lend their infrastructure to others seeking a safe space. The Cwtch protocol is open, and anyone is free to build bots, services and user interfaces and integrate and interact with Cwtch.

Privacy Preserving: All communication in Cwtch is end-to-end encrypted and takes place over Tor v3 onion services.

Metadata Resistant: Cwtch has been designed such that no information is exchanged or available to anyone without their explicit consent, including on-the-wire messages and protocol metadata.

A screenshot of Cwtch 1.8 demonstrating the new message formatting toolbar.

One year of Cwtch Beta

Last June we put together the finishing touches for the first Cwtch Beta 1.0 release. Since then, we have released 8 major updates:

June 25th 2021: The Launch of Cwtch Beta 1.0

July 15th 2021: Cwtch Beta 1.1 featuring Quoted Replies and Multiline messages

August 31st 2021: Cwtch Beta 1.2 featuring Mac OS support

October 1st 2021: Cwtch Beata 1.3 featuring File Sharing

November 5th 2021: Cwtch Beta 1.4 featuring Server Hosting and Management

December 21st 2021: Cwtch Beta 1.5 featuring Image Previews, new themes, and Clickable Links Experiment

February 11th 2022: Cwtch Beta 1.6 featuring custom Profile Images and advanced Tor configuration

April 22nd 2022: Cwtch Beta 1.7 featuring Profile Import/Export, Android Stability Improvements, and Message Formatting experiment

June 28th 2022: Cwtch Beta 1.8 featuring a new Message formatting toolbar and Apple Silicon support

In addition to the major features, each release also contained a multitude of performance improvements, and UX updates.

The Cwtch Community

Our community of volunteer developers, testers, and translators has grown significantly over the last year. This has led to Cwtch being available in more languages, and more platforms.

We would like to take this opportunity to extend another major thank you to everyone who has contributed to Cwtch.

Localizations and Translations

Since the release of the beta Cwtch has been translated into over a dozen different languages: French, German, Italian, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Welsh, Danish, Norwegian, Turkish, Romanian, Luxembourgish, Greek, and Portuguese by a growing collective of amazing volunteers.

A screenshot of the Settings pane in Cwtch showing all the available localizations

The Cwtch Handbook

In response to an increasing volume of questions over various platforms we also launched The Cwtch Handbook - a user facing guide to using Cwtch, enabling various experiments, and a place for aggregating FAQs on particular features.

The Cwtch Handbook is currently available in both English and German.

A screenshot of the entry in the Cwtch Handbook for Sharing a File

Upstreaming Development

We have also been able to contribute to the Flutter ecosystem. During Cwtch development we produced Docker containers for Linux and Windows Flutter desktop builds. These have since been merged into cirruslabs/docker-images-flutter

Libraries and Bots

This year we have also invested in making it easier to use Cwtch outside of the main UI. At the time of writing we have three official libraries for programmatically creating and interacting with Cwtch peers and groups:

Cwtch - the original Go library

libcwtch-go: Go-to-C Bindings, the interface on which the Flutter UI is based.

libcwtch-rs: Rust Bindings based on libcwtch-go.

We have also released a new experimental library for building higher level applications (e.g. bots):

cwtch-imp - a set of bot creating utilities built on top of libcwtch-rs

update bot - an example of a bot written using the imp framework - the bot notifies subscribers of new versions of Cwtch, and also distributes the new versions via Cwtch.

Continued Development, Nightlies and Testing

We now regularly post new nightlies to the Cwtch Release Candidate Testers group on Cwtch.

Work on Cwtch continues, with new releases in the Beta stream planned every 8-12 weeks. We are current working on laying the groundwork to support our five big ideas for the future of Cwtch.

To keep up to date please follow the @cwtch_im Twitter account, and keep an eye on our development log: Discreet Log.

Donations & Support

Patreon, Paypal, and Cryptocurrencies

Continuing the trend from our 2018, 2019, and 2020 financial years, Open Privacy relied heavily on support from individual donors, rather than organizational or governmental grants in our 2021 financial year. The flexibility of this funding has allowed us to produce research and development that would be impossible to produce in other environments.

In the 2021/2022 financial year we saw a net increase of 16 patrons, contributing to a net monthly support increase of ~$992 CAD bringing our total monthly support on Patreon to ~$3213 CAD at the end of February 2022.

In the 2021/2022 financial year we received ~$9600 CAD through Paypal donations.

In a reversal of 2020, we saw an increased number of cryptocurrency donations in the 2021/2022 financial year, ~$26000 CAD (up from $4650 CAD)

  • Zcash: ~$20,267 CAD
  • Bitcoin: ~$4803.37 CAD
  • Monero: ~$832 CAD

Travel Assistance / Event Discounts / Benefit Events

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Open Privacy attended no conferences in the 2021/2022 financial year, and thus received no travel assistance.

There were no benefit events on behalf of Open Privacy in the 2021/2022 financial year.

New Stickers

At the end of our 2021/2022 we invested in a new sticker sheet featuring Cwtch and Open Privacy logos, in addition to a remix of the popular Speak Math to Power sticker. We started distributing these new sheets to donors and volunteers in early 2022.



Expenses Breakdown

Reflecting our role and mission as a research organization, our largest expense in the 2021 financial year, accounting for over 85% all expenses was that of research and engineering salaries: $122,563.68 (+ $8,524.69 associated taxes).

In stark contrast to the 2020/2021 year, where Exchange Gain contributed to over 50% of revenue, in the 2021/2022 year Exchange Loss accounted for the second largest expense.

As in other years, legal and bank fees, hosting, and other cost centers contributed to less that 10% of total expenses.

Changes in Staffing and Compensation

Prior to February 2022 Open Privacy maintained 3 full time staff members (Executive Director, Director of Research, and Director of Engineering) and 1 part-time Designer.

In response to a stagnation in funding we have made several changes to staffing this year and, as of August 2022, we have reduced these paid positions to 2 part-time staff members (Executive Director and a Designer).

The roles of Director of Research and Director of Engineering will remain unfilled until the necessary funds can be raised to properly compensate the position.

In August 2022 the board voted to increase the salary of the Executive Director to $34.60/hour (up from B.C. minimum wage $15.65) while also voting to reduce the hours of this position from 40 to 10. This change brings compensation for the Executive Director role in line with similar positions.

Combined with staffing cost changes this will reduce overall monthly staffing costs by ~75% (from just under $10,000 CAD/month to ~$2500 CAD).

With these savings we are planning to introduce a “Cwtch Fund” to offer bounties, in addition to shorter term contracts for specific Cwtch features. This will ensure continued development of Cwtch even with reduced core staff levels.

Financial Statements

Unlike in previous years, after being notified of cost increases and a change in the format, the board did not commission a Notice to Reader for the 2021 year.

The board has considered estimates for a formal audit, but the cost would have exceeded 10% of our income, and the board ultimately determined this would not have been a good use of funds. It is the goal of the Executive Committee, and the board, to engage in a formal audit once our funding levels are sufficient to support it.

The Open Privacy Board of Directors

  • Sarah Jamie Lewis - Chair (Executive Director)
  • Erinn Atwater - Vice Chair (Director)
  • Dan Ballard - Treasurer / Secretary (Director)
  • Norman Shamas - Director
  • Yuan Stevens - Director
  • Cynthia Khoo - Director
  • Cecylia Bocovich - Advising Director
  • Kit - Director