Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thawte Discontinues Free Email Certificates and the Web of Trust

Creative Commons Attribution License image courtesy Flickr user Fristle

Thawte's Web of Trust and free email certificates have been a great way to get S/MIME certificates signed for personal use by a large CA. I've been a notary for a few years, and I've found that being able to offer an easy to obtain certificate with a reasonably strong validation process was a great way to introduce S/MIME certificates and secure email to many people.

Today Thawte announced that both their free personal email certificates and the Web of Trust will cease to exist after November 16th, 2009. Details of the impact are covered in their FAQ.

This will remove one of the largest in-person vetted identity certification groups that I know of - a reasonably unique institution. Those who paid money for notarization to receive points in the Web of Trust will find that that investment no longer pays returns. Thawte's consolation prize is a single year of VeriSign's commercial personal email certificate service, and a free one year certificate of the member's choice.

I'm not aware of any viable community replacement for this servicefor S/MIME certificate users, and I'm somewhat disappointed that Thawte hasn't pushed the idea of making this some form of community supported or managed service.

No comments: