Problems with Tutanota and Protonmail

by Sam on July 16, 2023

Nowadays my mail setup is quite simple. My domain registrar (porkbun) provides inexpensive yearly mail hosting, and I use K9Mail on Android and Geary on Linux. While it’s not the most “private” or “secure” option, it gets the job done and I feel confident enough that my registrar isn’t reading my emails. If something is really private, I can encrypt it using traditional methods.

In the past I’ve used both Protonmail and Tutanota, and while I found them to be quite good overall, there were some pretty large issues which led me back to a more “traditional” email provider.

Protonmail and Tutanota

Protonmail and Tutanota are both very similar in a lot of ways. They’re both priced near 5-10$/month, and will both provide you with encrypted email. Protonmail definitely has more features, such as a VPN, storage, and a password manager, but at the end of the day the email services they provide are quite close in comparison. While not terribly expensive, they're both trying to do more than "just email", and are stepping far out of the 2$/month price range that I think email belongs.

Incompatible protocols

The biggest issue I had with both services is that they are incompatible with current email standards. The incompatibility is a result of how they implement encryption, and it really throws a wrench in using email with regular clients. Options I’ve come to expect like POP3, IMAP, etc.. don’t work, and you’re stuck using the email clients provided for you by Protonmail or Tutanota.

With Tutanota, your only real option is to run their mail client. Protonmail does allow you to run a bridge, which will give you access to your Proton emails via IMAP/SMTP. It’s nice that the bridge exists, but it’s also quite annoying that it’s required, and doesn’t work on all platforms.


DeltaChat is an encrypted chat application that uses email as the backend for communication. It’s a really great idea. Take something everybody already has, and make it easy to use for encrypted communication. Unfortunately, because of the way Protonmail and Tutanota are designed, DeltaChat is not compatible. This is probably the second biggest reason I decided to leave the encrypted email options. While I understand why it’s incompatible, it’s definitely disappointing.

Further reading: An Analysis of the ProtonMail Cryptographic Architecture, Nadim Kobeissi

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