Opera announced that it added the SurfEasy VPN technology it bought last year into its browser, so now its users can benefit from a free out-of-the-box VPN service.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, allow users to have a different IP address, either for privacy purposes or to avoid geo-blocking. Opera’s SurfEasy service supports IPs from Canada, the U.S. and Germany. VPNs also encrypt web connections, which can be useful when connecting to an open Wi-Fi network that could steal your passwords as you log in to unencrypted websites.
VPNs are also used to bypass various censorship mechanisms in certain countries, either to communicate with family abroad or to simply be able to read news articles that aren’t allowed in those countries. It can be a good way to bypass firewalls, as well.
According to the Global Web Index, people tend to use VPNs for the following main purposes:
To access better entertainment content (38%)To keep anonymity while browsing (30%)To access restricted networks and sites in my country (28%)To access restricted sites at work (27%)To communicate with friends/family abroad (24%)To access restricted news websites in my country (22%)
Most VPN services are paid, or if they are free, they come with significant limits on bandwidth or total traffic allowed per month. Opera plans to give everyone a VPN service that requires no subscription, is unlimited, and uses its browser out-of-the-box. This seems like a significant step forward in increasing web security and privacy in most case, for those that use the Opera browser.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the other VPN services are now pointless. Opera makes its money through advertising and mining the data that goes through its servers. Meanwhile, there are other paid VPN providers out there that offer a “zero knowledge” service, where logs are deleted almost as soon as they are created for a higher level of privacy.
If Opera’s data-mining seems reasonable to you, then you can benefit from most of a VPN’s regular features for free. The new VPN feature is only available in the developer version, which can still be downloaded from the company’s website. However, if you’d rather get the stable version, then you’ll have to wait a few more months for it.
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu.