Signal’s founder Marlinspike steps down as CEO of messaging app

Moxie Marlinspike, the longtime chief executive officer of the encrypted messaging app Signal, announced that he is replacing himself.

Marlinspike, who started Signal in 2014, said he would transition out of the top job in the next month, but would remain on the board. Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp who is also on Signal’s board, will serve as interim CEO.

“It’s a new year, and I’ve decided it’s a good time to replace myself,” Marlinspike wrote in a blog post on Monday. “It has always been my goal for Signal to grow and sustain beyond my involvement.”

Signal has long been popular with activists, investigative journalists, politicians and assorted law enforcement officials because of its emphasis on privacy and security. It has experienced rapid growth in the last year, in part because of a backlash against a new privacy policy at Meta Platforms Inc.’s WhatsApp.

Marlinspike has developed a devoted following for what many say is his technical genius, his devotion to privacy and his varied interests, which have included punk rock, sailing and anarchism — becoming an unconventional, and sometimes dreadlocked, alternative to his more straightlaced counterparts at tech giants like Facebook and Google.

Signal’s supporters have included Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who urged his Twitter followers to “use Signal” after WhatsApp announced an updated privacy policy about a year ago.

Another Signal advocate is former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked highly classified information in 2013. On Signal’s webpage, Snowden is quoted saying “I use Signal every day.”

In his blog post, Marlinspike said he couldn’t have stepped down four years ago, when he was writing code, facilitating all product development and managing the staff. He said he has spent the past four years trying to change that at Signal, which now has “an amazing group of 30” engineers, designers, support staff and leaders.

“I now feel very comfortable replacing myself as CEO based on the team we have,” he said.

Acton joined Signal in 2018 after quitting WhatsApp, injected $50 million of new funding in the form of an interest-free loan and became executive director of the nonprofit Signal Foundation, which aims to prove that a “nonprofit can innovate and scale as well as any business driven by a profit motive.”

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