RealVNC turns 20 today: Our story so far

Today marks the 20th anniversary of RealVNC. It's exactly two decades since our company was born, funded by early adopter users. Here's the story so far, the moments that helped shape RealVNC's existence, and some of what the future will bring. But, let's start with the beginning…
RealVNC 20 years anniversary remote access

RealVNC’s beginnings

2002 was a year that marked an ending and a beginning for the founders of RealVNC.

After years of collaboration, AT&T’s research laboratory (formerly the Olivetti Research Laboratory) ended its relationship with the Computing Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. And by the late 1990s, VNC technology was one of the most important products of this laboratory.

It was also a beginning because, as the lab closed, our founders and the technology’s creators immediately started RealVNC. The purpose was to create a commercial company, albeit with a particular purpose. Namely, to build a new closed-source and secure VNC from the ground up for customers such as Intel. For companies for which technology plays a crucial role.

Let’s find out more about the early days of the company from Tristan Richardson – the VNC protocol’s inventor and one of the founders of RealVNC, and who still works for the company to this day:

“It was a sad day when the lab closed in 2002, but out of the ashes rose RealVNC Ltd, with the five founders determined that the end of the lab would not be the end of VNC.  Working out of spare bedrooms or wherever we could find a desk with an internet-connected computer we continued to develop the software and support the VNC community.  Gradually the company grew from there, getting our first office, making the product secure, and adding extra features to support the needs of our growing customer base.  Now, 20 years later, huge progress has been achieved, and VNC Connect makes remote access easy for anyone to set up and use.”

Evolution into today’s RealVNC

RealVNC’s open-source counterparts continued to fork its founders’ work from years earlier. However, our focus was on delivering a remote access solution that our engineering team built with excellence, reliability, and robust security to protect users from external threats.

2004 marked the launch of Windows, Mac, and Linux versions. In 2009, VNC Server was getting embedded into the Intel vPro firmware.

As we continued to develop our product over many years, recognition was not far behind. An example was the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award in 2013. We started to understand the freedom our product enabled organizations to experience, empowering them to create remote solutions and resolve problems.

When asked about our growth, RealVNC CEO Adam Greenwood-Byrne says:

It’s because we’re a big part of many people’s missions. Customers have told us that rocket launches into space couldn’t happen without us, that we significantly helped medical teams during the COVID pandemic, and that we’ve helped partially-sighted children thrive and feel included in everyday school lessons. We’re even helping teams track polar bears in the Arctic!

Things changed further in 2016 when we launched our flagship product, VNC Connect. This has also marked RealVNC’s move away from a traditional perpetual software license. With our ground-breaking proprietary cloud technology, a SaaS model made much more sense.

Since then, the product has become much easier to use. We pride ourselves that VNC Connect requires little to no training while keeping your organization’s data secure with strong security settings.

VNC Connect has seen many significant improvements— with the addition of Instant Support for helpdesks (2017), providing high-speed streaming, or allowing Remote HD audio (2019). In addition, every Raspberry Pi distribution comes with VNC Connect preinstalled since 2017, configured from the outset to make your remote access adventure that much easier.

As a result, we now have nearly 40,000 customer accounts spanning 160 countries and multiple industries. We’ve helped the NHS support patients during the COVID 19 pandemic and helped the education industry with its shift towards e-learning. Currently living in the age of flexible work, we’re helping companies safeguard their remote workers with advanced authentication options when accessing information from home. 

2021 has seen another landmark moment for RealVNC: City private equity firm Livingbridge has invested in the company. As a result, we are on a solid growth trajectory and working on ways in which we can help your organization deliver a secure remote access strategy.

Putting security first

The world is evolving rapidly, and so is the need for secure remote access. Whether it’s for monitoring, managing, or supporting, our emphasis on security helps ensure the integrity of your company’s data. You can view our security page for more detail, however, here are our four fundamental security principles:

  1. You don’t need to trust us as a company to trust our software and services.
  2. We don’t record sessions, nor can anyone decrypt data, now or in the future.
  3. We treat every connection as one that’s made in a hostile environment.
  4. It is up to the owner of the remote computer to ultimately decide who can and who cannot connect.

Having opened ourselves up for scrutiny, we asked Cure53, a Berlin-based IT consultancy, to test our product’s resilience. The result was taking further steps to strengthen any identified vulnerabilities and that our service “in scope is now perceivable as strong and stable regarding security posture.”

The future of RealVNC

2022 onwards continues to concentrate on security initiatives, which we’ll talk about throughout the year. RealVNC constantly implements new processes and procedures that improve our security stance. For example, we’ve implemented a shift-left approach into our development processes, which helps us become secure by design – placing security at the core of everything we do.

On the other hand, as our team is growing, make sure you check our careers page. We have some great opportunities for you to join us in helping provide the world with a secure remote access solution.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

Bogdan Bele

Bogdan Bele

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