Free and open certificate authority Let’s Encrypt on Thursday issued its billionth certificate, four and a half years after issuing the first certificate.
Launched by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) to drive HTTPS adoption, Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA) backed by the Linux Foundation. It provides free digital certificates and also handles the certificate management process for site owners.
The CA launched publicly in December 2015 and issued one million certificates by March 2016. By June 2017, it had issued over 100 million certificates. Retrospectively, the CA says, the Internet is much more encrypted now than it was at that time.
Specifically, around 58% of pages were being loaded over HTTPS in June 2017 globally (64% in the United States), compared to 81% of page loads being served over an encrypted connection now (91% in the U.S.).
“Nothing drives adoption like ease of use, and the foundation for ease of use in the certificate space is our ACME protocol. ACME allows for extensive automation, which means computers can do most of the work. It was also standardized as RFC 8555 in 2019, which allows the Web community to confidently build an even richer ecosystem of software around it,” Josh Aas, ISRG executive director, notes.
Now, ACME clients exist for nearly all deployment environments, Aas says.
For the past three years, Aas notes, browsers started requiring HTTPS for more features, and have also been warning their users about the risks associated with not using HTTPS. With stronger warnings being displayed on sites using HTTP, more website owners have decided to adopt HTTPS.
Let’s Encrypt now serves 192 million websites, but the CA remains a small organization, with only 13 full time staff and an annual budget of approximately $3.35 million. Back in 2017, it served 46 million websites, with 11 full time staff and an annual budget of $2.61 million.
“As a community we’ve done incredible things to protect people on the Web. Having issued one billion certificates is affirmation of all the progress we’ve made as a community, and we’re excited to keep working with you to create an even more secure and privacy-respecting Web for everyone,” Aas notes.