WindCon2024: A Joke Too Far for Many.
"It's just a prank bro" isn't enough for many Windscribers it seems.
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WindCon2024: A Joke Too Far for Many.

Daniel Sobey-Harker
Ben Thornton
Graham C
Daniel Sobey-Harker, Ben Thornton, Graham C

You may have seen our April 1st announcement where we declared that there would be "No more jokes". As far as April 1st jokes go, we were actually worried that this would be rather tame compared to our previous pranks, like being acquired by BSVPN, and releasing a password manager, WindPass.

This is where the trouble began. It seems a lot of people didn't make it past the first minute and thought WindCon2024 was a genuine keynote.

The response to the campaign, however, has been quite brutal. We received hundreds of angry responses from Windscribers who hadn't checked their calendar. Refund requests came in, accusations of selling out, and, quite frankly, a lot of abuse.

Did you fall for it?

To Quote Our "High Founder"

Yegor giving the old Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher vibes
"We may have fucked up with this one. People are MAD. Someone just cancelled because they thought we'd become actual fascists."

In our defense, we were going for a CCP vibe with the whole "Comedically- Challenged Persons."

We'll share another rather choice example for an actual refund request to show you what we mean:

Support ticket from an angry user decrying the introduction of corporate bullshit
You can taste the rage

They say that any publicity is good publicity, though, and this was probably our most meticulously planned April Fools' prank yet. We set the groundwork earlier than normal by letting some fake leaks circulate around our Subreddit and Discord.

Step One: The Leaked Email

The email was supposed to be very obvious. Yegor really struggled internally to send this and have his name attached, even as a joke but he played along with the rest of us. Emulating the average VPN CEO and lauding the likes of NordVPN really sticks in the throat.

Screenshot of a "leaked" email from Yegor Sak to Windscribe employees, stating that humor is being removed
This "leaked" memo turned some heads - but most of our community immediately knew what was up. They're too smart for their own good.

Step Two: The Leaked Slack Messages

The email was then followed by some "Slack leaks" showing our staff venting in their respective Slack channels.

This part was actually quite fun! Many of us enjoyed this probably a little too much - we got to rebel against our "tyrant" high founder, Yegor, who ruthlessly allowed Commissioner Boredom to stifle squadron our jokes and even threaten to take our emojis.

This is approximately how it would go if the changes were real. You can take our lives, but you can never take our emojis!

Collage of fake "leaks" from internal Windscribe communications
The shot heard across all Slack internal channels!

Step Three: WindCon is Totally a Real Event

The next step was to act as if #WindCon2024 was an annual event.

So we released some behind-the-scenes shots and other updates on our LinkedIn page. These actually mostly flew under the radar with only a handful of folks noticing them at all.

Screenshot of LinkedIn post hyping up "WindCon 2024"
We don't really use our LinkedIn page for anything. Follow us on X if you want to keep in the loop, or join our Discord.

Step Four: Discord Moderators Revolt!

Our Discord moderators are pretty savvy folks. They run some very dope side projects and are certainly more informed than your average Discord moderators. One day, we should do an article highlighting their awesomeness, but for now, let's stay on track.

4 days before April 1st they "took control" of the Discord server. They listed their demands, which you can see below.

Screenshot of the Discord Mod takeover as part of the April Fools gag
The revolution is now, brothers and sisters of Windscribe!

An obvious hint that this was for April Fools' was that the deadline to avoid a permanent hijack of the server was April 1st.

This attracted a decent amount of attention. Whereas regular Discord members could clearly see what was brewing, we did have a few lurkers unaware of our usual antics that fell for it. More amusingly, we noticed a few community team members from our competitors poke their heads around to verify just what was going on.

Our moderation team had played it beautifully - perhaps a bit too beautifully. I have to say the fabricated PGP confirmation was a stroke of genius.

Step Five: The WindCon Keynote is Released

YouTube title card for WindCon 2024 showing the host and Commissioner Boredom
Not your average keynote. Featuring not one but two murders. Luckily it's just tame enough for YouTube to allow it.

On April 1st at 00:00 (Toronto time), the video went live. We then released links to the keynote speech via our in-app news system and across our social channels.

Screenshot of the in-app notification for internal policy chanes
I mean, c'mon, "As of April 1st" should be a massive hint...

Okay, look, we can see how this could come across as a little scary. It certainly seemed to get attention.

"Windscribe: We're Serious Now"

We flipped our branding to our evil red color scheme, we unlocked evil Garry, and we completely committed to the bit. A bit too well. And it turns out that a 7-minute video is a bit too long for folks these days.

Those who didn't have an attention span greater than 30 seconds quickly, it seems, clicked off the video and went straight to their email client or the subreddit to rant.

A good number of the more aggressive YouTube comments have been self-removed at the time of writing. Perhaps reading all the responses from people who knew it was a joke made them realize they had been fooled and so they quietly removed the evidence of their blunder. Those who went straight to email didn't get to rubber-ducky their response, though, and came in HOT.

The high production value of a stylized corporate presentation meant a lot of people took our announcement at face value.
Maybe the tweet was a little too dry...

To the average Windscriber - those who are aware of our penchant for poking fun now and again - the response seemed pretty good. As you can see below a lot of people actually really enjoyed the video!

Screenshots of various praising comments from our users
As a member of the community team, I genuinely love going through the comments when we release videos like this.

There were also a few folks complaining they couldn't find the secret codes hidden in the video. These discount codes are limited codes that can be found in many of our shorts, videos, and occasionally in articles. We just want to say that, if you're one of the ones who are struggling to find the codes, that's a skill issue and you should gitgud.

Moving on!

Does a Serious Company Produce a Better Product?

Some people think that a VPN company should be quite serious. After all, in censored and restricted regions, VPN usage can be a matter of life or death.

But it's important to note here that we do not waste money on frivolous marketing campaigns, pay for press coverage or reviews, or run affiliate campaigns. Our product quite literally speaks for itself by working better than any other competitor - especially when it comes to circumventing censorship.

An off-the-cuff example is here with one of our favorite rivals, Proton VPN.

Proton VPN is realistically our only true rival in the Free VPN space and they act like a decent VPN should. While we may make jokes and comments at their expense now and again, we think they do their best to provide their services in the same way we do.

The big difference is that they spend money on press campaigns and promotional coverage and we don't. This includes literally having 10 times the staff as we do.

Graph showing interest in Windscribe generally tracking slightly higher than Proton VPN, who spend a LOT on marketing
Blue = Windscribe / Red = Proton VPN

But, while they may employ more people than us, we're actually bigger than them where it counts. Windscribe has the largest physical network out of any VPN in the world. That's because even though we apparently crack jokes too often, we actually use your money responsibly.

Initially, they saw a traffic spike in Iran during the 2022 Iranian Protests thanks to a pretty robust - and likely expensive - promotional push. Things quickly fell through due to them not being able to operate as they expected. Regional censorship and restrictions mean any VPN operating has to play cat-and-mouse games with oppressive regimes.

Proton VPN was very pleased with themselves that they got WireGuard implemented (which we had 2 years prior, but who's counting?) but that, unfortunately, isn't enough. It didn't take long for Iran to stifle their ability to connect and operate. They went rather quiet after that.

We, however, have a pretty nifty solution: Our Circumvent Censorship mode. This is honestly among some of the best work we've ever done and, upon its release, we dethroned Proton VPN as the defacto VPN in the region. We released some relief codes and wrote a few blog articles about our progress - but we never spent a penny on promotion.

Regional interest in Iran comparing Windscribe and Proton - Windscribe are dominant
Blue = Windscribe / Red = Proton VPN

This is the case in many regions where we operate directly against dictatorial oppression and censorship. Go to Google Trends and see for yourself. In fact, that can be a travel tip for you: If you want to see how good a VPN is, compare the trend data between each company for the place you plan to visit.

So while we may joke around a little too much for some people's tastes, we believe you don't need to be a "serious" company to be able to bring home results. We think happier people do better work. We think that having a creative outlet allows us to perform better as a whole.

Sorry, Not Sorry

We don't apologize for who we are.

We will continue with the memes! The jokes! The japes! The shit-posting!

Because yes, while some of you did freak out and demand refunds, we'll always put our money where our mouths are and act on principle, not just profits.

And if that's not enough, then by all means find someone else. This is what makes Windscribe the company it is today and ensures that we are 'April-Fool-Proof' tomorrow.

Daniel Sobey-Harker
Ben Thornton
Graham C
Daniel Sobey-Harker, Ben Thornton, Graham C