Notion’s Acquisition of Skiff: End of the Line for Early Supporters

Project tracking productivity company Notion has acquired Skiff, a young company that puts privacy at the heart of a Google Workspace suite of apps.

The announcement signals an intent by Notion to move deeper into privacy, with security being a hot topic in the world of digital workspaces and remote working.

Skiff is a platform known for its commitment to end-to-end encryption (E2EE) across productivity tools and suggests Notions’ decision to acquire Skiff, providing users with an added layer of confidentiality in their digital collaborations.

We live in a world where SMBs and enterprises increasingly rely on the cloud, needing the best project management software, and alongside that, they need to know their data is secure and private.

Skiff’s software stood out with its strong privacy-focused, encrypted services, but current users will be worried to know their services will be discontinued in the move into Notion.

It’s a reminder that supporting a startup or early company carries a risk that the future is not future-proof.

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Key Takeaways

  • Notion’s acquisition of Skiff shows the rising importance of privacy in digital workspaces.
  • Skiff, known for its end-to-end encryption, provided secure alternatives to mainstream productivity tools like Google Docs.
  • Notion’s integration of Skiff’s technologies shows a strategic shift towards enhancing privacy and security in its ecosystem and may see services like Notion Mail and Notion Team Chat.
  • Despite Skiff’s advantages, its acquisition by Notion sparked disappointment and debate in the community due to the sudden announcement of its shutdown.
  • SMBs will need to adapt to find a replacement privacy service or see how Notion incorporates Skiff’s privacy-protecting features

What is Skiff?

Skiff is an alternative to Google Docs and Microsoft 365, with productivity tools including Skiff Drive for file storage, Skiff Pages for document creation, Skiff Calendar for organizing events, and Skiff Mail for email services.

Skiff emerged in 2020 and was cofounded by Andrew Milich and Jason Ginsberg. It quickly gained recognition as a pioneering platform that prioritizes privacy.

The main goal is to promote collaboration and communication while protecting every shared interaction and data from prying eyes.

The Advantages and Limitations of Skiff

The advantages of Skiff are numerous, particularly its free access to E2EE email, collaboration tools, and calendar management, making it an appealing choice for users prioritizing privacy without sacrificing usability.

The platform is user-friendly, compatible across multiple operating systems, including macOS, Android, and iOS, and provides essential features at no cost.

However, it has drawbacks. While Skiff’s email alias system offers a degree of personalization and security by preventing alias duplication among users, it falls short of providing the robust disposable email address (DEA) management needed for effective spam and privacy control.

For example, Skiff limits alias creation and deletion, preventing users from fully leveraging DEAs as a privacy tool. This limitation, coupled with the high demand and restricted access to short aliases, underscores a gap in Skiff’s ability to offer comprehensive email privacy and spam prevention compared to some of its counterparts.

Despite these cons, Skiff distinguishes itself from conventional free email and productivity services by eschewing the ad-based revenue model, avoiding the privacy compromises implicit in such platforms.

This principled stance on user privacy, coupled with the platform’s ease of use and comprehensive security features, positioned Skiff as a formidable alternative to Google’s suite, inviting users to reconsider their digital toolsets in favor of a more secure and private online experience.

Merging Privacy with Productivity: The Notion-Skiff Acquisition

Notion, known for its versatile suite of productivity tools, has now acquired Skiff. But what does this mean for the rising star in privacy-focused solutions?

By integrating Skiff’s suite, Notion is pivoting towards enhanced privacy and secure collaboration. This move suggests Notion’s ambition to meet the growing demand for privacy-centric workspaces and responds to the evolving digital workspace landscape, where data security and user privacy are increasingly critical.

 

The acquisition positions Notion as a strong competitor against emerging platforms like AFFiNE Pro, with the potential to introduce Notion Mail.

This new offering could rival the unconventional Hey Email, which has gained a reputation for rethinking email to create something better. The acquisition could also attract new users to Notion’s ecosystem.

But as Skiff is set to shut down in twelve months, as outlined here, the focus is migrating user data to Notion’s expanding, privacy-focused suite.

Community Reactions: Trust and Disappointment

The recent news of Skiff being acquired by Notion and the announcement that Skiff’s services will be discontinued in a year has sparked much discussion online within the online community, which is discussing the question on Reddit and Hacker News.

Many have expressed emotions ranging from disappointment to frustration, primarily focusing on the sudden announcement and what it meant for those who relied on Skiff’s privacy services. 

The tension between business practices and consumer perceptions of privacy is palpable. Business owners often emphasize their adherence to legal compliance concerning data collection, yet consumers feel increasingly surveilled, leading to growing concerns over the erosion of privacy-first tools. 

These sentiments are reflected in the discomforting statistics revealing that 86% of Americans feel businesses collect excessive personal information. Furthermore, 81% of individuals feel powerless over their data once it’s in the hands of companies, with 64% having ceased interactions with organizations perceived to overstep in their data requests. This discrepancy highlights a critical gap in consumer and business expectations and experiences regarding personal data privacy.

Why Should SMBs Care?

The end of a service like Skiff not only narrows the options for businesses seeking reliable privacy solutions but also undermines the confidence both companies and consumers have in the sustainability of privacy-focused tools.

The reliance on startups like Skiff for privacy services poses a risk, prompting firms to reassess their strategies in selecting service providers. The apprehension that other privacy-oriented services might meet a similar fate as Skiff heightens concerns over data protection and the long-term viability of such services. 

This erosion of trust can also deter businesses from adopting innovative technologies that rely on personal data, fearing potential breaches and the consequent legal and reputational repercussions.

For IT managers, this situation accentuates the importance of choosing established and reliable providers to ensure the continuous protection of personal data and to maintain trust with their customer base in an increasingly scrutinized digital space.

Predictably, these concerns have resulted in the CEOs of other privacy-centric solutions quickly attempting to ease the fears that they have no intention of selling privacy to the highest bidder.

Andy Yen, the CEO of Proton, found himself dragged into the conversation. He and his team reiterated their commitment to maintaining privacy, ensuring security, and establishing stability.

Yen told the community:

“I wanted to respond to some of the comments along the lines of “How do we know Proton won’t sell out?”

“The truth is, you can’t know for sure, but Proton is structured in a way that provides a strong assurance, and we’ll be sharing more about this sometime in the next month. But for all intents and purposes, it really isn’t possible for Proton to be acquired.

“Proton is not a product of Silicon Valley, but a crowdfunded project that was conceived at CERN. Proton doesn’t have VC investors (so no pressure to sell), and Proton is profitable (so no pressure from finances). To this day, it continues to be managed and run by scientists, and nobody goes into science to get rich.

“Finally, Proton has scale with 100M+ accounts and 400+ employees. Frankly, if the goal was to sell and make a bunch of money, it could have already been done long ago. Instead, we push onwards.”

The situation surrounding Skiff’s acquisition by Notion highlights the broader challenges and risks associated with depending on emerging tech companies for essential services. It’s a cautionary tale, prompting users to consider their chosen service providers’ long-term viability and privacy commitments. 

The Bottom Line

The acquisition of Skiff by Notion is another sign of the times of constant mergers and acquisitions, likely to be an exciting moment for Notion users, but at the cost of those who simply wanted to use Skiff.

Notion’s move to integrate Skiff’s technologies indicates a strategic shift towards enhancing privacy and security within its ecosystem, potentially introducing innovative services like Notion Mail and Notion Team Chat. 

However, it’s a reminder of our reliance on startups for essential services — their success may be at the cost of early users — and a reminder of how there can be success for dependable, privacy-centric solutions.

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Neil C. Hughes

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with 20 years of experience in IT. He’s the host of the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast, picking up a LinkedIn Top Voice for his influential insights in tech. Apart from Techopedia, his work can be found on INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews. Neil's favorite things in life range from wandering the tech conference show floors from Arizona to Armenia to enjoying a 5-day digital detox at Glastonbury Festival and supporting Derby County.  He believes technology works best when it brings people together.