A Letter from the Executive Director
It has been an interesting year.
Cwtch has graduated from an experiment into a fully fledged application, available on multiple platforms, in over 20 languages, and continuing to see growth in real world use.
Despite the challenges of recent times, our community has continue to grow; through new translators, volunteer developers, and Cwtch advocates, coming together from across the planet to build a more private, and just, future.
The core of Open Privacy is smaller now that it was in the past. The changes we made to staffing and operations in order to ensure our survival have helped us stay afloat.
But, to put it simply, to continue this work we need your help.
Last year we raised less than 17% 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 Path to Cwtch Stable
This September, after many years of beta releases, we launched Cwtch Stable Release Candidate.
While much more work remains, we are now very confident in the state of the Cwtch library, and the Cwtch UI. We are prepared to make certain commitments regarding peer-to-peer messaging, the UI, and experimental interfaces. In this post we will chart the journey that got us to this point, highlight what is in this new release, and talk about our next steps.
Timeline of Cwtch Beta Releases
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
June 28th 2022: Cwtch Beta 1.8 featuring a new Message formatting toolbar and Apple Silicon support
September 10th 2022: Cwtch Beta 1.9 featuring view replies, manage shared files, and pinning conversations.
December 16th 2022: Cwtch Beta 1.10 featuring improved connection backend, and profile autostart
March 29th 2023: Cwtch Beta 1.11 featuring reproducible library builds and stable api
June 16th 2023: Cwtch Beta 1.12 featuring profile attributes, availability status, support for tails
September 27th 2023: Cwtch 1.13 featuring conversation search, whonix support, and appearing offline
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 twenty different languages: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Luxemboughish, Norwegian, Polish Portuguese (Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Uzbek, and Welsh by a growing collective of amazing volunteers.
Starting in January 2023 we began publishing regular development logs for documenting ongoing Cwtch work and advertising nightly builds that require specific testings.
The Cwtch Handbook
Last year, 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.
Libraries and Bots
This year we have continued to invest 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. This year we have stabilized the official API for this library.
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 have now reached a pivotal moment in Cwtch, one that the team has been working towards for many years. We now believe that Cwtch has reached a point where people can use core features, and enable experimental features, with a confidence that any risks are well understood and appropriately mitigated. As such we are dropping the “beta” label.
Work on Cwtch continues, we have big plans for the future including the long-anticipated Hybrid Groups implementation, a light client for restricted mobile operating systems, a return of the bulletin boards overlay, and much more.
To keep up to date please follow the Cwtch Development Log, and keep an eye on our social media accounts.
Donations & Support
Patreon, Paypal, and Cryptocurrencies
Continuing the trend from previous financial years, Open Privacy relied heavily on support from individual donors, rather than organizational or governmental grants in our 2022/2023 financial year. The flexibility of this funding has allowed us to produce research and development that would be impossible to produce in other environments.
As in 2021/2022, recurring support via Patreon and Paypal was the most significant source of revenue - making up 96% of all donation income this period, totally $ 51,866.31.
Cryptocurrency donations continued their downward trend of previous years totally $3,798.12, with most received in Zcash, following by Bitcoin and Monero.
In the 2022/2023 financial year we saw a net decrease in support across the support across all channels. Feedback we have received from supported cancelling their recurring payments indicates that the prominent cause is the overall state of the wider economy.
Travel Assistance / Event Discounts / Benefit Events
Open Privacy attended no conferences in the 2022/2023 financial year, and thus received no travel assistance.
There were no benefit events on behalf of Open Privacy in the 2022/2023 financial year.
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.
Reflecting our role and mission as a research organization, our largest expense in the 2022/2023 financial year, accounting for over 70% all expenses was that of research and engineering salaries: $ 60,445.51 (including associated taxes).
Due to a shortfall in new funding to cover these expenses we did have to sell some existing assets at slightly below their initial cost value. Resulting in a realized loss of $8,000 ($4,000 net after accounting for sales of assets with realized gains at other times of the year).
As with previous years, website hosting and build infrastructure (gitea/build servers) account for an additional $500 CAD per month in operating costs.
Costs associated with supporter gifts (stickers, t-shirts, and postage) totalled just over $1500 CAD.
Costs associated with organization Administration (accounting, filing fees, PO Box, and phone costs), and fees associated with financial transactions, contributed to less that 10% of total expenses.
All other expenses combined (e.g. bank account fees, refunds, arrear payments etc.) accounted for ~3% of total expenses.
At the end of the 2022/2023 year Open Privacy Research Society held assests totally $11,149.00 after accounting for ongoing liabilities. In comparison to the end of the 2021/2022 year where we held $38,770.08.
In response to a stagnation in funding we made several changes to staffing and, as of August 2022, we have reduced paid positions to two 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 positions.
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, while reflecting the smaller size of the organization.
These staffing cost changes have reduced our overall monthly costs by ~75% (from just under $10,000 CAD/month to ~$2500 CAD/month).
As with the 2021/2022 financial year, after being notified of cost increases and a change in the format, the board did not commission a Notice to Reader for the 2022/2023 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