GPGMail 1.3.0 – Open Source In Action

Yes, I use a Mac. Yes, I hate freedom. Yes, I use

And I am a bit of a security nut.

One of the most useful pieces of software I’ve used over the years is a plug-in for called GPGMail. It was originally written by Stéphane Corthésy and released under an open source license, and it allows one to easily decrypt, encrypt and sign GPG messages right from

The problem is that Apple doesn’t really have an API to make such an integration easy, so with every new release of it would usually break the plug-in, and Stéphane was responsible to fix it.

Well, after awhile Stéphane wanted to move on to other things, and with the advent of Snow Leopard GPGMail was broken – seemingly for good.

Stéphane writes:

I’ve just read the latest emails on the list, without participating. Actually I haven’t participated to the project since a very long time, for personal reasons. Situation will not change in the future, I guess.

It’s been now 10 years since I started GPGMail. At that time we were working on Rhapsody, the ancestor of Mac OS X, the link between Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. gpg had just gone 1.0. I started the project because it might have been a critical piece of code for us at Sen:te in the near future, and it was really fun to develop 🙂

Plugin was then made public, and received some interest in the Mac community, though it was still for geeks. Interest in PGP became bigger, the MacGPG project was born a year later, thanks to Gordon Worley. This encouraged me to go on with GPGMail development, and also MacGPG sub-projects. I spent many week-ends and nights coding for those, and have been very happy to see interest growing more and more.

Then time passed, it became hard to find people able to help on MacGPG development, and very few people were able to spend time to understand the underpinnings of (GPG)Mail, except me, unfortunately. By making the project open-source I had expected that people would come in and make the project go further. I was rather deceived by this, I must admit. There was no real momentum.

On my side, I wanted to explore also other projects, and became tired of working on GPGMail. I wanted something new. It was getting boring, I had less time to reply to user requests, and code had got very messy. GPGMail development quite stalled from that time, I spent time on it only after major system updates. I was still hoping some people would enter and help on the project in the long-term, not only for a single patch. Thus I opened up the project by putting it on SF, with a real OpenSource license that would’t prevent people from working on GPGMail.

To be honest, I waited a rather long time to upgrade to Snow Leopard specifically because GPGMail support was important to me. When Stéphane backed out of the project, the list was abuzz with people wondering about its future. Luckily, a number of people stepped up to take it over. The project launched a new website, the code and bug tracker was moved to github, and various patched versions started to come out.

Stéphane continues:

When Snow Leopard arrived, I was already spending no time on coding during spare time, and was not really willing to. Finally people entered into the dance and started coding, not only whining. And I must admit I’ve been really surprised by the results they obtained (congrats Lukas and others!). I kept telling myself I would update the project, and make a public release, when I’ll find time to, but the fact is that I cannot, for several reasons.

For so many years I’ve been hoping to find people helping me on the project in the long-term, without finding any, but now that time has come, project can fly without me. I hope there will always be enough people to take care of it. Till now, project was organized by only one person, and depended only on me. I took care of every details. It’s time to change that model and let the project be managed more flexibly. The bazaar model, as I would say.

So please, move the project out of SF, leave it opened to developers, designers, writers, aficionados of all kind. It’s no longer dependent on me, it will depend on all of you. I will close the SF project (and mailing list), and redirect the Sen:te web pages to the new site, once you completed the migration, then I’ll have a glance at the project, from time to time, probably to complain 😉 . My baby’s no longer a baby; it no longer needs me.

Thanks all for your support, and now take great care of GPGMail.

Today the team released version 1.3.0 of GPGMail, the first real release under the new model. It installed for me without incident, and I am happy that this project will live on. Thank you Stéphane and thanks to the whole GPGMail team for making this happen. Plus, none of this would have been possible if GPG itself wasn’t open source and packaged by a number of groups. Score one for the open source ecosystem.

Had GPGMail been commercial software, I would have been out of luck, but because it was open source, and that there were many who found it valuable, it lives on and propers.


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