But he says Proton can never be a true competitor to Google as long as the Internet is an unregulated Wild West. “We are growing on the goodwill of the tech giants,” Yen says from his headquarters in Geneva. That also applies to the very existence of his company, he adds. “Tech giants could remove us from the Internet today without any legal or financial consequences.”
Andy Yen has big dreams for ProtonMail, the secure email service he founded in 2014 that now has 50 million users worldwide. One day, he hopes, it could be a competitor to Gmail, the communications giant owned by Google that has more than 1.5 billion users.
Like Proton, many companies across Europe are pinning their hopes on the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the first overhaul of EU rules on Internet competition in 20 years. It is one of two major pieces of technology legislation in the works in Brussels; the other is the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will address areas such as data privacy and data use.
The antitrust legislation has the potential to completely change the way these giant companies do business and override their core strategy of integration, which has enabled them to retain users, dominate markets and generate billions of euros in revenue.
The law, which is aimed at companies with a market capitalization of more than €65 billion, sets out for the first time the rules under which major online platforms must compete in the EU market. It could force Google, for example, to give users a choice of alternative email providers when installing a new smartphone, or Apple to open its app store to competing services.
The DMA poses the biggest immediate threat to the digital empires built by so-called gatekeepers like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft over the past two decades. Lawmakers are expected to finalize the bill’s wording and scope this week in an effort to open up markets captured by Big Tech and allow local competitors to flourish.