Signal CEO steps down, WhatsApp co-founder becomes interim head

11 Jan 2022

Image: © prima91/

Moxie Marlinspike wrote in a blog post that after almost a decade working on the Signal app, it was time for a change.

The chief executive of messaging app Signal is stepping down from his role, with entrepreneur Brian Acton stepping in as interim CEO.

Moxie Marlinspike, who created the messaging tech and co-founded the Signal Foundation in 2018 with Acton, made the announcement in a blog post yesterday (10 January). He said that after working on Signal for almost a decade, and as CEO for four years, “it’s a good time to replace myself”.

The WhatsApp and Telegram competitor develops a free and encrypted instant messaging service that can be used on smartphones and desktops. It was founded in 2014 and got a boost in 2018 with $50m in funding from Acton to establish the Signal Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to developing open-source privacy tech for communications.

Acton previously co-founded WhatsApp, which went on to be acquired by Meta (then Facebook) in February 2014 for more than $19bn. After leaving WhatsApp in 2017, Acton became the executive chair of the Signal Foundation in 2018 – a role he has held since.

Marlinspike said that it was always his goal for Signal to grow and sustain beyond his involvement in developing and running the app, an idea “that still would not have been possible” four years ago when he was responsible for writing code, taking calls and managing everything in the company’s initial stages.

“I couldn’t ever leave cell service, had to take my laptop with me everywhere in case of emergencies, and occasionally found myself sitting alone on the sidewalk in the rain late at night trying to diagnose a service degradation,” he wrote in the blog post.

Signal now has 30 employees across engineering, design and support staff, as well as “a very accomplished and committed leadership team” that honours “the values and the mission that Signal was built on”, Marlinspike added.

He said that a new CEO would be an “important step” for Signal’s growth.

Concerns around WhatsApp’s privacy policy updates last year gave a boost to alternative end-to-end encrypted messaging services such as Telegram and Signal. As of January last year, Signal had around 40m users worldwide and had been downloaded more than 105m times.

According to The Verge, Signal has also been looking at adding cryptocurrency payments to its platform.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic