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The new summer of love: ‘People are desperate to have sex – it’s been a long year’ | Sex

Voice Of EU



The past year has changed 35-year-old Georgie’s outlook on dating. Several disappointing socially distanced dates and limp text exchanges meant she stopped using dating apps at the beginning of 2021. And now her parents have been vaccinated, she feels confident about returning to physical dates, “but not to the apps”, she says. “As things open up, I’m going to lean into spontaneity; I’m going to say yes to every invitation and seize every opportunity. If I feel a connection with someone at a social gathering, a festival or even a bus stop, I’ll go and talk to them. I’m going to be way more carpe fucking diem about it.”

Liam, 25, lives in Manchester and has never had a serious relationship. He can’t wait to meet people in real life: “If I never have another conversation via Zoom or WhatsApp, I’d be very happy – especially within my love life.” He gave up on dating apps this year, and is looking forward to the return of proper flirtation. “Vibing with someone on an app or a screen is not the same as seeing someone across a room and feeling that excitement in your stomach. That’s what I need right now.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by 65-year-old Maggie. After receiving her first Covid vaccine at the end of February, she started spending more time on Hampstead Heath in London with her dog. “I don’t want to have to resort to internet dating, so I’ve just been walking a lot, trying to catch eyes with eligible-looking men,” she says. By the time of her second dose she hopes to have lined up at least three or four dates. “If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we absolutely must enjoy one another if we can. After everything, how could this not be a summer of love?”

In April, as lockdown restrictions began to ease in the UK, the dating app Hinge – one of the fastest growing in the UK – released figures which showed that 85% of users were “open to going on a date as soon as lockdown lifts”. In the week leading up to 12 April, almost half of users had already arranged real-life dates for the moment we were legally allowed to meet outdoors. That month, the parent company of Durex announced a “double digit” increase in condom sales in countries including China, where lockdown restrictions had eased; at the end of May, Superdrug announced a 65% increase in the sale of condoms during the week that pubs and restaurants opened indoors, while Match Group, which owns dating apps including Tinder, predicted a year-on-year increase in revenue of more than 20% as a record number of would-be daters flooded the singles market.

But are we ready to date in-person again? To kiss strangers, to flirt, make eye contact, touch? After months of being told to keep our distance, are we ready to get up close and extremely personal – and do we even remember how?

Dan, 23, from Lincolnshire, came out as gay to friends last year. “But I still haven’t had the conversation with my parents.” The isolation of the past year is what convinced him to be honest about who he is. “The pandemic really drove home how much my friends and family mean to me, which made me think more seriously about my love life. I realised I’ll never meet someone if my sexuality is a secret. Being constantly confronted by death also really made me feel like I didn’t have time to waste.” Of the summer, he enthuses: “I’m so excited, I’m so nervous, I’m everything… I’m going to have a lot of sex.”

My own identity as a single person (I’ve been single for almost two years) has always been grounded – partly, at least – in the feelings of freedom and possibility that come from meeting new people. The casualness of those meetings didn’t diminish the joy or sense of purpose I derived from them. And shutting off this part of my life for the last 12 months has been uncomfortable; each lockdown seemed to remove a layer of optimism about the future.

I wonder, though, whether from this emotionally tenderised starting point it might not be easier to connect with others. We’ve all been through something, together. Might it make us more compassionate? Kindness has been missing from the dating landscape for a while – dating apps have long been accused of gamifying the search for love to the point where we treat others more like digital avatars than people with feelings.

Head shot of couple Calm and Violet (both 23) kissing, May 2021
Violet (left) and Calm, both 23, have been together two years; they met at a mutual friend’s party. Photograph: Rosaline Shahnavaz/The Guardian

“Ghosting has always been par for the course,” says Georgie. “But it felt particularly brutal during the pandemic because of the heightened feelings of loss, grief and isolation. A ghosting on top of everything else would give your self-esteem such a battering.” She is optimistic about the potential for reform this summer – for returning to a more honest way of connecting with others, away from any algorithm.

Dan has been thinking about rejection a lot since he came out. “If I’m honest, I’m nervous about the next phase. There’s a lot that I don’t understand about the gay world. There’s a whole language and ideology I haven’t been initiated into. I’m desperate to unleash this new self on to the world, but so worried that I’ll get it all wrong, or just freak out.”

In the post-lockdown world, the knowledge that touch has the potential to spread disease has prompted a spike in so-called re-entry anxiety, with many questioning how comfortable they’ll be when in close proximity to strangers. After a year of isolation, we will all have to become more fluent in the language of consent; more adept at signalling our boundaries and reading the signals from others.

Almaz Ohene, a writer and sexual health educator, has missed eye contact and the thrill of another’s physical presence. Despite that, as soon as she is able she will be leaving London for rural Ghana, for a few months at least. “I’m not sure that I’m 100% OK with having strangers in my physical space yet,” she says. “We’re just coming out of the worst bits of the pandemic and I don’t want someone grinding on me or casually placing their hand on the small of my back – all those old-school flirtatious moves – so I’m removing myself from the equation for a little while longer.”

Ohene says that during the period when many of us will be renegotiating our boundaries and personal space we should all get comfortable with “using our words”. Asking before touching should be a standard. “Saying something like, ‘I’d like to get a bit closer to you, do you mind?’” She suggests trying it with friends if it feels awkward: “‘I’d like to hug, let me know if you’re OK with that.’ The stakes are not very high; your friends are not going to reject you, even if they don’t want a hug. But in the club, it’s definitely about checking and being OK with receiving a ‘no’.”

Dating via apps and websites have, for years, cushioned many of us from rejection (after all, an unrequited swipe is much less confronting than a real-life “no thank you”) and allowed us to avoid the more negative emotions associated with approaching someone we’re attracted to in real life.

“I think as a society we’ve got bad at handling rejection,” says sex educator Ruby Rare. She understands how the impulse to get offline and approach people in a more traditional way will have built up for many people after such an atomised year. “It’ll be interesting to see how people handle these experiences, though. Discomfort and rejection are things you may face if you approach people in real life, but, framed correctly, even these can be good for your self-esteem.” She argues that we should approach people with no expectation that it’ll lead to anything further. “You need to be comfortable with the idea that you’re doing it for yourself; it takes courage to ask someone out, so whatever happens you can be proud that you did it.”

The enforced celibacy of the past year has prompted us to think carefully about what had been missing from our sex lives. Now, after a year or more alone, fantasies have crystallised into desires and, for many, this will be the first opportunity to explore the new facets of their sexual selves.

In London, sex parties have never been more popular. In July, Crossbreed, a queer, sex-positive rave, is hosting the launch event for its summer series (named the Summer of Love) at the nightclub Fabric. All 800 tickets sold out in under an hour. In September, Klub Verboten – a once members-only fetish party which now hosts events for non-members too – is hosting its fifth birthday party at a secret location. All 1,000 tickets are sold out.

Last year the alternative dating app Feeld (which specialises in connecting people who are interested in group sex and kink) released figures showing that during the pandemic their membership increased by 50%. In 2020, members were more interested than ever in a threesome experience, with almost 40% adding it to their “desires” list.

Laurence, 43, from Edinburgh, went through a breakup during the first lockdown (a common experience, with many couples finding the pressure of the pandemic overwhelming). Because of lockdown, the couple carried on living together for six months. “So there was no chance of getting back on the dating scene, even if it had been possible.” Since March, he’s been living alone. “I’m desperate to meet new people. I’ve wanted to explore BDSM for a while and now seems like the best opportunity. But I’m aware that even being physically close to a new person will feel like a whole new experience. In one respect I want to throw myself in and just do it, but in another I’m like: ‘How will this actually feel?’”

For those who are ready to explore a new aspect of their sexuality, Rare suggests making friends with people with similar interests as a first step. “With sex and dating, the emphasis is often on doing the actual thing,” she says. “But finding the community first, and making friends, can be a less nerve-racking way to start a journey of sexual exploration.”

This tactic worked particularly well for Alex Warren, the founder of Crossbreed. “A few years ago, I opened up my relationship with my ex-girlfriend. She went to an orgy and I was really jealous – not because I felt betrayed, but because I wanted to go to an orgy as well. So I just started Googling and found FetLife [a kink- and BDSM-focused social networking website]. I went to a social event and ended up making some amazing friends. I didn’t go to my first sex party until I’d been on the scene for a year or so. By that point I had this really supportive network.” Warren has been a DJ and music producer for more than 10 years and in 2019 decided to bring the two worlds together. “And that’s how Crossbreed came to be.”

As he explains: “It’s not really a sex party. It’s just a good rave with designated safe spaces for sex.” Demand has surpassed expectation. “People are desperate to connect, to express themselves physically, to have sex – it’s been a long year.”

For many single people, and in particular those who live alone, the past year has been both emotionally numbing and existentially destabilising. “Going months without touching another human being has definitely had an impact on me,” says Maggie, who has lived alone for more than 10 years but has felt more isolated during the pandemic than ever before. She finds herself reminiscing about the crackle of fresh sheets on her wedding night, the feel of a lover’s palm on her thigh. “I am surprised by how much I’ve missed intimacy and how vividly these intimate moments come back to me,” she says.

Head shot of couple Jordan Derrien (27) and Rosaline Shahnavaz (30) kissing, May 2021
Jordan, 27, and Rosaline, 30, have been together four months; they met through a mutual friend. Self-portrait: Rosaline Shahnavaz/The Guardian. Jordan’s shirt: Nanushka. Rosaline’s shirt: Rejina Pyo. Masks: Hand & Lock

Undoubtedly, summer 2021 will be coloured by the pent-up frustrations of people who have been forced to keep their dating lives, and their sexual selves, on the proverbial shelf for a year or more. But can it really be compared to the original summer of love and the sexual revolution of the 60s, a moment that prompted a wholesale shift in attitudes towards sex and relationships?

There’s one key difference, says Dr Guy Stevenson, a specialist in the 1960s counterculture: the “nihilism of the internet”. He argues that our overexposure to sexual freedom online means there’s no chance of a period of innocent liberation. “Hasn’t the internet made everyone behave as if nothing’s new, particularly in relation to sex?” he says. Thanks to the pill, promiscuity was a new option in the 60s, “whereas now it’s old hat. And the potential to fulfil any sexual fantasy just by going online means we feel like we’ve seen and done it all already.” A year of isolation might have made us horny, but the 1960s hippy revolution, “was characterised by romanticism and a feeling of innocence”, he says. If we are in for a summer of love, he argues, it may well be one marked by cynicism.

Hera Cook, writer of The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex And Contraception: 1800-1975, agrees that there was an innocence to that period that society has since lost. “There was also free university and a more robust welfare state. And there wasn’t this feeling that the NHS was on the verge of collapse. Basically, attitudes to sex were coming out of a much more hopeful time. In the 60s, people believed things were going to get better and better. Nowadays, with the climate emergency, we all suspect things are going to get worse and worse.”

Instead, Cook likens our current situation to the interwar years. “Traditional gender roles were being broken down in that period,” she says. “There was suffrage for women, who’d been working during the first world war. There was a rejection of the heteronormative, masculine warrior ideal as men saw their older counterparts ravaged by the Great War. It was a much more scarred and cynical time, but compared with the 60s – when promiscuity was enabled, but couched in heteronormativity – it was arguably more exciting.

“One parallel I can see between now and the 60s is the discussion around consent,” continues Cook. “After the pill, a conversation emerged around men’s feelings of entitlement and women’s right to say no. And it seems to be as relevant today.”

Ohene and Rare agree, pointing out that the pandemic has given us all a lesson in consent as we negotiate things like our comfort levels with mask-wearing and distancing. “Before when we talked about consent,” says Rare, “we were always so fixated on sex. And, actually, sexual consent is just one area of our lives where we exercise it. As we’ve seen recently, consent happens all the time, it’s about communicating our feelings and boundaries – right down to how comfortable we are with physically meeting. It’s a dynamic, relational and ongoing conversation.”

This, for them, is where the most exciting and fruitful developments within sex and dating lie. “We have the opportunity to approach one another with a lot more compassion and from a more educated starting point,” says Rare. From here, she suggests, we can create a new and better love.

When I catch up with Maggie, she tells me she’s had her second jab and has got a date. “We’ve been set up by mutual friends though, we didn’t meet while dog walking.” Liam has had his first post-lockdown snog – “a walking date that went well”. Georgie’s social life is just getting going again, “and the last time I was in the pub people definitely had their eyes up, and off their phones, which feels promising”. She’s excited about real-world dating, “especially when gigs and festivals start again”.

As for me, over the pandemic I dated within the confines of what was legal and morally acceptable. There was a recently divorced dad of two who worked in the City of London. “I’m probably not ready for anything serious,” he said. “But let’s keep in touch, I can take you to Torture Garden [a sex and fetish party] when it’s back on.” There was a man who’d recently broken up with someone and moved back to London from Essex. It was the torpor of lockdown in a small town that had broken the relationship, he told me. He planned to replace sex with the gym, but then the gyms closed. “I’ve bought myself a Peloton,” he said, and we never spoke again.

I would like to believe that this summer we will take up the tenets of peace, love, unity and consent, and run with them. But I suspect if I fired up the apps again, it would be more of the same. Still, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all better when we connect offline. Perhaps now is the right time to take romance out of the equation, put our devices down, hug the people we love, and bask in the glory of their physical presence. I’m excited about a summer of love, not a summer of lovers.

Sean Cole (28) and Sophia Alonge (27) lying on the grass and kissing, May 2021
Photograph: Rosaline Shahnavaz/The Guardian. Styling: Peter Bevan. Hair and makeup: Neusa Neves at Terri Manduca using Kevyn Aucoin cosmetics, Glamour Lashes and Innersense Organic haircare. Photographer’s assistant: Jack Storer. Sophia’s shirt: Nanushka. Sean’s shirt: Ahluwalia from Masks: Golden Hour

Let’s get it on, again! Top tips for post-lockdown sex

By Ruby Rare

If it’s been a while since you’ve felt sexy, think about how to create an environment that delights all of your senses. Remember, arousal involves the whole body, not just your genitals. I suggest starting with solo sex; masturbation is a great way to reconnect with your own pleasure before bringing another person’s into the mix.

We’re all out of practice when it comes to physical contact. Rather than trying to cover that up, embrace the clumsiness. Body fluids can end up in unexpected places; your teeth may mash together mid-kiss or you might drip sweat into your partner’s eye (true story). Celebrate this in its weird and wonderful glory.

Remember to smile. Sex is supposed to be fun, so expressing that through your face and body language makes sense. Try putting less emphasis on penetrative sex – especially if that’s not something you’ve done for a while. It’s exciting to see it as one option of many, rather than the default.

Embrace rejection. Don’t let the fear of it stop you approaching someone you fancy in a kind, respectful way. If you’re the person doing the rejecting, keep it short and sweet, and, remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you’re saying no. And if you’re ever in a situation where you fear for your safety, get someone else’s attention as soon as possible and ask for support.

Keep your post-lockdown expectations realistic. This isn’t a race, and you don’t need to tick off everything on your sexy bucket list in the first few months. If you’re interested in trying something different, such as a threesome or a new kink, dating apps can be a great way to be upfront about what you want and find other people who are after the same thing.

There’s no ‘right’ way to do this; it’s about finding out what’s right for you and communicating that to those around you. Go at your own pace, and try to appreciate each step as you get back into dating and sex.

Ruby Rare is a sex educator and author of Sex Ed: A Guide For Adults

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NFT sales hit 12-month low after cryptocurrency crash | Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

Voice Of EU



Non-fungible tokens have been swept up in the cryptocurrency crash as sales reached a 12-month low in June.

NFTs confer ownership of a unique digital item – often a piece of virtual art – upon someone, even if that item can be easily copied. Ownership is recorded on a digital, decentralised ledger known as a blockchain.

Sales of NFTs totalled just over $1bn (£830m) in June, according to the crypto research firm Chainalysis, their worst performance since the same month last year when sales were $648m. Sales reached a peak of $12.6bn in January.

“This decline is definitely linked to the broader slowdown in crypto markets,” said Ethan McMahon, a Chainalysis economist.

“Times like this inevitably lead to consolidation within the affected markets, and for NFTs we will likely see a pullback in terms of the collections and types of NFTs that reach prominence.”

The cryptocurrency market, worth about $3tn last November, is now worth less than $1tn.

NFTs rely on a blockchain – the decentralised ledger first used by bitcoin to track ownership of the cryptocurrency – to record who owns them and allow them to be traded. Most are based on the Ethereum blockchain, which is maintained through a carbon-intensive system called proof of work.

NFT chart

At its peak, the NFT market was attracting vaulting sums including $2.9m for a token of the first tweet by Twitter’s cofounder Jack Dorsey. A digital collage by the visual artist Beeple sold for $69m; the main token for the “play to earn” video game Axie Infinity hit a total value of $9.75bn; and Coca-Cola raised more than $575,000 from selling digital items such as a customised jacket to be worn in the metaverse.

According to the Chainalysis data, NFT sales peaked in January. In April an attempt to sell on the Dorsey NFT was abandoned when bids topped out at $14,000.

However, demand for so-called blue chip NFT collections has held up, according to DappRadar, a firm that tracks NFTs and blockchain-based video games.

The price of the cheapest NFT in the Bored Ape Yacht Club has declined by only 1%, to $90,00o, over the last month, according to DappRadar’s head of research, Pedro Herrera. “Blue chip collections are performing vastly better than the vast majority of NFTs,” he said.

NFT sales reached $40bn last year and the 2022 total has already exceeded that, at more than $42bn, according to Chainalysis. Sales in January and February accounted for more than half of the 2022 total so far.

The cryptocurrency market has come under pressure amid volatility in the wider stock markets, amid fears over rising inflation and higher interest rates, which have dampened appetite for riskier assets including tech stocks and digital assets.

Faith in crypto assets has also been shaken by the collapse of Terra, a so-called stablecoin whose value was supposed to be pegged to the US dollar, and troubles at crypto-related financial institutions such as the Celsius Network, a lender that has paused withdrawals.

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We speak to Purism’ CEO about the Librem 5 USA smartphone • The Register

Voice Of EU



Interview In June, Purism began shipping a privacy-focused smartphone called Librem 5 USA that runs on a version of Linux called PureOS rather than Android or iOS. As the name suggests, it’s made in America – all the electronics are assembled in its Carlsbad, California facility, using as many US-fabricated parts as possible.

While past privacy-focused phones, such as Silent Circle‘s Android-based Blackphone failed to win much market share, the political situation is different now than it was seven years ago.

Supply-chain provenance has become more important in recent years, thanks to concerns about the national security implications of foreign-made tech gear. The Librem 5 USA comes at a cost, starting at $1,999, though there are now US government agencies willing to pay that price for homegrown hardware they can trust – and evidently tech enthusiasts, too.

We first wrote about the Librem 5 smartphone in 2017, considering it a privacy-centric device with a Linux OS. The Librem 5 USA, as noted, tries to use American companies with US fabrication “whenever possible.” It has a 5.7-inch 720×1440 screen with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a user-replaceable 4,500mAh battery.

The goal is to produce a phone that can be trusted from the hardware to the OS and apps, something that Apple and Google have become vocal about, too.

The Register spoke with Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of Purism, about how things are going.

Weaver said Purism is about two weeks away from actually holding stock and selling phones, which isn’t something the company, which began with crowdfunding, has previously had to do. In the past, people have pledged funds with orders, and it has later fulfilled them; now it’s building inventory in anticipation of sales.

“We’re actually transitioning to holding stock and pushing sales,” he explained. “We’ve never had to do that before. We’ve never had to do outbound sales.”

The phone, to start at the hardware level on up, all the way to the operating system, is our manufactured hardware

Previously, said Weaver, the company’s growth has been a result of inbound requests for its products based on the material it has published about its projects.

“The phone, to kind of start at the hardware level on up, all the way to the operating system, is our manufactured hardware,” said Weaver. “It runs on a CPU that is not normally in phones.”

That would be a quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 i.MX8M running at 1.5GHz. Weaver said Purism isolated the device’s baseband modem from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth “so that you can actually turn it off with a hardware kill switch. That basically becomes the ultimate in security.”

A key thing to realize here is that baseband modems are effectively small computers running in handsets and handle the cellular communications; if a modem is compromised or made to run rogue firmware, it can potentially take over the rest of the device, hence Purism’s desire to isolate it, if the user so wishes. In fact, it has three hardware kill switches: one to cut off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, one for cellular, and one for the microphone and cameras. All three will cut off GPS, too.

The main printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) is made by Purism in the US, and its microprocessor, from Dutch semiconductor maker NXP, is also made stateside.

The chip, Weaver explained, “is normally in airplanes, in commercial-grade devices, and in cars. It’s a quad-core CPU. But the reason we had to do that was we wanted to properly isolate. So in every other phone that’s made, the baseband modem – the cellular modem – is attached to memory and CPU. Fundamentally the carriers have firmware access that’s lower than the operating system.”

To make the phone secure, Weaver said, to protect privacy and individual freedoms, Purism had to consider security at the hardware level and move up the stack.

“There are all sorts of ways that has to be solved,” he said. “We solve it from the hardware, software, applications, data, and even services.”

The point, said Weaver, is to be able to just take the device and have peace of mind and control over your own digital life.

“We started in 2014, initially just crowdfunding laptops,” said Weaver. “My goal was to produce phones. But I knew that I had to increment through because we had to show that we can manufacture devices. We can do hardware, software, and services. Our model is very similar to Apple in that regard – we produce hardware and we have an operating system that’s married to it, so that it works.

“And then we also include services that fully respect you. If you had an iPhone or an Android phone and a Purism phone like Librem 5 sitting all next to each other, the iPhone will leak probably about three gigabytes of data without doing anything. Android devices are worse. Ours will leak exactly zero bits – nothing is sent without your explicit interaction, to make a request for weather information or browsing the web.”

Research last year suggested Android and iOS beam back telemetry to base even when users opt out of these transmissions, and a complaint was raised in 2020 over what appeared to be Android’s mysterious wireless data transfers.

While working toward phone manufacturing with the release of the Librem laptop, mini PC, and servers, Weaver explained his company was refining PureOS, its Linux distribution. “It’s our operating system that doesn’t have any mystery code in it,” said Weaver. “It’s all the source code, from the bootloader on up.”

Librem 14

Purism’s quest against Intel’s Management Engine black box CPU now comes in 14 inches


Purism, said Weaver, has been working on modifying the PureOS Linux kernel to conserve energy when idle.

“A lot of the things Android initially did to Linux, we are doing to mainline Linux, so that we can actually have these things idle down better,” he said. “Basically, it’s a better way to do nothing.”

He also said the processor tends toward the toasty side. “We pushed really hard with NXP, modified a bunch of Linux kernel development, so that we could get that cooler. It’s just that CPU runs hot. The next iteration, we’ll be using probably I.MX9 … that’s still probably two years away.”

Weaver also said some thought is being given to the possibility of soldering the currently modular modem in place, which would allow for thinner devices and would please government agencies that see a removable component as a security issue.

Asked what sorts of things are possible with a Librem phone that Android and iOS devices don’t offer, Weaver cited the way tethering works. Mobile providers often charge extras for tethering, but with a Librem 5 phone data is just data. He also pointed to disk encryption with user-controlled keys and chat applications that can handle multiple protocols, such as SMS, MMS, XMPP, and Matrix.

For people who want an alternative to Android or iOS, Weaver said it’s an easy sale. “I almost have to back them off to say that, you know, not all your apps are going to run there,” he said. “It’s got calls, text messaging, browsing the web, a calculator, but not Snapchat.”

It’s got calls, text messaging, browsing the web, a calculator, but not Snapchat

Given the benefit Apple and Google get from their respective app stores, it’s not surprising that Purism is trying to deal with what Weaver calls “the App Gap” – the vast number of mobile apps not available on PureOS at the moment.

“Initially, we developed a lot of the core applications,” said Weaver. “We also wrote a library that allows for all the existing GNU/Linux-based applications to shrink down and run on our mobile phone. So by doing that, you don’t have to write a new application, it’s just include our library, and it will now work on the phone.”

That takes some effort, Weaver conceded, and Purism has produced documentation and helped Linux developers adapt their existing apps.

Purism is also enhancing its PureOS Store by partnering with a group that’s funding Interledger, an open payment network federation system.

“We’re actually going to be adding to PureOS Store, which is equivalent to Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, where we allow for people to charge a subscription or charge for an app,” said Weaver. “And then we also have the ability to pay bounties even, for apps that are really needed that aren’t yet developed. So basically, the solution to fill the App Gap is cash.”

“You have to incentivize developers by ‘Hey, you can get paid,'” he elaborated. “The ecosystem grows and also actually puts money towards that effort. Our business model – by selling hardware with high enough margin, having services that are attached – allows us to basically reinvest to fill the App Gap.”

Privacy has always been a tough sell in the tech industry, at least in a mass market context. But over the past decade, the Snowden revelations about the extent of government information gathering, constant privacy scandals, the online ad industry’s unrepentant intrusiveness, pushback against Big Tech and surveillance capitalism, and the always sorry state of data security have buoyed interest in privacy. Add to that trade tensions with China and the supply chain nationalism that has followed, not to mention competition and privacy regulations emerging in the US, UK, and EU, and it looks like an opportunity.

“We’re not make-or-break off any one of those issues,” said Weaver, “but by fundamentally targeting civil liberties, individual freedoms, and privacy rights, then all of those things come out, and as they do, we see an influx of sales.”

“We have devices in every letter-agency in the US and some governments from outside the US,” said Weaver. “And those devices can vary from air gap laptops, to phones and even phone service.”

Weaver declined to discuss Purism’s financial situation in detail, but said the Librem 5 crowdfunding campaign raised $2 million.

“Since then, we’ve grown by triple digits year over year and even during COVID-19, we had a growth year,” he explained. “So overall, our sales have continued to increase. And we’ve grown mostly from revenue, but we’ve also taken on north of $12 million in investment.”

Weaver said the total available market is huge – billions of people have cell phones.

‘When you’re looking at somebody who cares about privacy rights, or they care about ‘I don’t like Big Tech,’ or ‘I don’t like the duopoly a mobile phone the space,’ or ‘I don’t like the intrusion,’ or I would like to advance civil liberties,’ every one of those areas is a potential customer,” said Weaver. “And those areas are immense. So we have not had a demand problem. We have had a supply problem, from parts to actual availability.

“We lost probably about two years on specific parts to actually manufacture this device in the US. China still has a shortage. We’ve never had that lack of interest. Once we get to the point of actually holding stock, then we’re going to be able to resume promoting.”

Soon, then. ®

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This start-up is offering stressed techies the chance to switch off at its cabins

Voice Of EU



Slow Cabins is coming to Ireland and aiming to tap into the trend for low-impact, sustainable, digital-free tourism.

A hospitality rental company targeting techies who want to digitally detox is preparing to welcome its first guests in Ireland.

Founded in 2017, Slow Cabins seeks to offer people the opportunity to spend time away from their tech lives in relaxed, remote and eco-friendly surroundings.

It is currently taking bookings in Ireland and will open its first cabins here from 1 August. As well as Ireland, the start-up has operations in Belgium and the Netherlands.

All of its cabin locations are secret to purposely encourage guests to switch off and detox from their day-to-day stresses. Guests book their cabins without knowing the exact location, but all cabins are located within a two-and-a-half hour drive from major cities.

Within about two weeks of the trip, guests receive details with the exact location of their cabin. Even then, they may have to park their cars and hike to get to their accommodation.

The idea behind Slow Cabins comes from low-impact and sustainable tourism. Cabins are equipped with queen-sized beds, log burners, solar panels, dry toilets, fire pits, grills and large windows. Each cabin is powered naturally by sunlight and water.

“Recent European studies show that our resilience improves and stress levels decrease by up to 70pc after a stay in nature,” said Slow Cabins Ireland director Matthew Parkinson.

“Getting away from it all brings peace, energy and a sense of perspective. And that’s where Slow Cabins have an interesting role to play in a fast ‘always-on’ society. Profit is not our only goal, but rather a means to create more positive social and environmental impact,” he added.

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