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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2019-12
End: 2019-12

CryptPad for communities

Collaborative web editor with client-side encryption

CryptPad is a secure and encrypted open-source collaboration platform, that allows people to work together online on documents, spreadsheets and other types of documents. The amazing thing is that while the participants can work with these web applications as they would with any normal tool, the server has no way of telling what it is they are working on. Everything is encrypted on the device of the user, before it is sent to the server. The "CryptPad for communities" project will improve the experience of users adopting the platform for community management tasks. We'll spend time solving the issues most commonly reported by our users as obstacles to their broader adoption of the platform as an alternative to proprietary services. Document review is as important to many as collaborative editing, so we'll implement comment workflows that integrate our recently introduced social features into our text editors. Our Kanban and spreadsheet apps will both receive some crucial updates to better facilitate project management tasks without compromising on privacy. We'll develop extra access control features based on users' public keys for documents that require stricter protection than is currently offered. Those hosting their own CryptPad instance will benefit from new functionality for their admin panel as well as detailed documentation to make server management more accessible. Finally, we'll implement extra controls permitting admins to limit access to their instance by requiring invites for registration. Altogether we hope these tools will allow communities more determination when it comes to their data, their processes, and their ability to work together productively.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Collaboratively writing a document together in real-time with others is still a bit magic. Someone else, perhaps on the other side of the planet, is typing something. And within a fraction of a second, the text magically appears on your screen. If you insert some text in the text just typed, this travels to all people you are in the session with. This amazing technology is the ideal companion for say an online meeting - everyone can contribute, and correct any flawed minutes without much effort.

For this kind of collaboration in real-time, there is a limited set of options in the market you can use. Most available services in the market like Google Docs, Microsoft Office or LibreOffice Online share one very undesirable characteristic: you need to fully trust the company running the service you use. Whomever has access to the servers used to connect everyone together, can read everything you have written - and deleted. That means that if you need to work on something confidential like an important contract, you may want to reconsider using the service. If you by accident cut and paste a password in the wrong window, you probably need to change it.

Especially if you write about sensitive topics like corruption, money laundering or state surveillance this open backend you cannot control is a really significant problem. If the server is located in another jurisdiction, you probably want to watch carefully what you write - you may inadvertently violate some laws you are literally unaware of.

Cryptpad is different: it is free and open source software you can run anywhere you want yourself. This means you can choose someone you really trust, rather than being forced to trust. But even better, CryptPad will make everything you do undecipherable to the outside world before anything is sent to the service to be distributed among all the participants. From a user perspective it works as any other application. That means CryptPad puts you square back in control.

In this project, Cryptpad will become more accessible and usable for groups of users, introducing highly requested features like adding comments to documents and more access control for Cryptpad-hosts of group members. Ultimately this will give user communities more control over how they work together and share data efficiently and safely.

Run by XWiki SAS

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.