Personal E-mail certificates from Thawte are gone :-(

Ludovic Hirlimann

Just received an email from Thawte :

Dear Ludovic Hirlimann,
Over the past several years, security compliance requirements have become more restrictive, while the technology infrastructure necessary to meet these requirements has expanded greatly. Despite our strong desire to continue providing the Thawte Personal E-mail Certificate and Web of Trust services, the ever-expanding standards and technology requirements will outpace our ability to maintain these services at the high level of quality we require. As a result, Thawte Personal E-Mail Certificates and the Web of Trust will be discontinued on November 16, 2009 and will no longer be available after that date.

Deciding to conclude these services was a difficult decision for us to bear, specifically because of the community that has been built around these products over the years.

To express our gratitude and sincere appreciation for being a part of our Thawte community, we would like to offer you up to $100.00 off the purchase price of our SSL and/or code signing certificates.

If you would like to take advantage of our offer, please forward this email to our sales department. Their contact details are listed at the foot of this message. Please note that this offer expires on November 16, 2009.

We have also made a special arrangement with VeriSign regarding replacing your personal email certificate. VeriSign’s exclusive offer to you is for a FREE 1-year replacement personal email certificate – a $19.95 value. This offer will be open for 2 months after the service is discontinued and will no longer be available after January 16, 2010. Simply follow appropriate link below to request your certificate:

That email is not even signed – while the service was about digitally signing emails. But let’s see the nice point in the email, they give you an alternative which is free for the first year. A good initiative, plus if you used to be involved actively in the Thawte web of trust, you get a free bonus.
I browsed quickly on the verisign website and it took me a while to locate the equivalent cert (and that page states that Apple Safari is a compliant email client).
The bad part is the lost of the community aspect of Thawte’s certificates – the web of trust is gone. I was unable to find a web of trust mentioned on verisign’s website.

If you are looking for other alternative – I know of Two. The first one is from Startcom, which offer the same Free certs Thawte will cease to offer. StartCom also offers Web of trust services using as a website. The other good news about startcom is that the founder is involved with Thunderbird’s qa process.

The other is the of course Pretty Good Privacy, Gnu Privacy Guard 🙂 which is based on the web of trust concept.