• Skiff Mail is a privacy-first alternative to Gmail. 
  • It’s part of the existing privacy-focused Skiff productivity suite. 
  • Skiff mail is encrypted but is only really secure between Skiff mail users. 

Skiff Mail onscreen of laptop on bed

Skiff Mail is a privacy-first email that you might actually want to use.

Skiff Mail is the latest addition to Skiff’s productivity suite, and at first glance, it might even be a little too bare-bones for many people. But the designers at Swift have focussed on making the basics as good as they can and on providing the one thing that you can totally forget about if you use Gmail: Privacy. But is privacy important enough to convince people to move?

“Will people move from Gmail to Skiff for privacy concerns? Undoubtedly. Will that make a significant difference to Gmail’s domination of the email market? Not a bit.” Dragos Badea, founder of hybrid work company Yarooms, told Lifewire via email. “While privacy is extremely important to a niche group of users, it’s not a sufficiently large enough niche to expect anything tremendous to occur.”

Open Letter

First, the privacy angle. Unlike most email service providers (ESP), Skiff protects all your data with end-to-end encryption. That means nobody at Skiff can access your emails or other data (like in the collaborative document editor), even if they want to. Compare this to Gmail, which reads your email in order to serve you relevant ads. Not only that, but any emails sent between Skiff users remain encrypted throughout their journey. 

Then again, maybe nobody cares.

That’s not quite the whole story, though. This encryption model only protects you within Skiff. Email is an insecure medium and sends all emails in plain text over the internet. Think of an email as a postcard that anyone can read along the way rather than as a sealed envelope that hides its contents. If you send a Skiff mail to somebody outside of Skiff, that email will have to fend for itself as soon as it hits the open internet.

That’s just how email works. If you want to send properly-encrypted email messages, both sender and recipient have to implement an encryption protocol just for messages between themselves. For real privacy, you should ignore email and use something like Signal or iMessage instead. 

Skiff Mail interface

But privacy at the ESP level is still not nothing. There’s no centralized place that can comb through your email for sensitive and valuable data. It also signals that the ESP is serious about your privacy. Added to that, the project is entirely open source. 

The Basics

Skiff Mail offers basic features, which the company says it has designed to be fast and easy to use. You can search your mail, sync mail between devices, and use a crypto wallet, which for many people might be a mark against the company. Users of the free plan get 10GB of storage. Later, Skiff plans to add paid tiers with more features for paid accounts. 

Email remains utterly essential, but it is also completely unsuitable for the modern world. It was conceived in a time when all users were trusted, so it needed no protection. Now, we have spam, phishing, and various other scams. We’re—rightly—afraid to click links in email, and yet we use it to send links all the time.

Skiff Mail interface

Skiff Mail doesn’t really fix any of this, but it does at least take the edge off using email. If nothing else, its interface is a breath of fresh air after the busy mess that Gmail has metastasized into over the years. 

Then again, maybe nobody cares.

“I think the general public is not as concerned with privacy as they should be,” Kristen Bolig, CEO of SecurityNerd told Lifewire via email. “When it comes to cybersecurity and personal data protection, most people tend to have the mindset of ‘it’ll never happen to me,’ which is why so many choose poor passwords and wouldn’t want to switch to an email with better privacy. People also get adjusted to their way of doing things, and changing emails might just seem like too much of a hassle.”