VPNs can afford a lot of benefits to users. They route your data through special servers that can help you access content that is only available in certain regions, bypass firewalls that block content like iDownloadBlog or music streaming services, and protect yourself on public networks. They grant these features, usually in exchange for a monthly fee. The new Opera VPN app brings all of this and more, for free. However, it isn’t without compromises.
Opera purchased SurfEasy last year and is using their service as the backbone of their free VPN app. SurfEasy is still offering a paid option that gives you access on your computer, as well as your mobile phone for those who want a full service VPN. This is also similar to the service that Opera recently introduced in their developer preview of their desktop web browser.
Beyond just the VPN, Opera also baked in a tracker blocker that prevents trackers from following you around the web, and an ad blocker. That makes this almost a 2 in 1 app. Instead of having an app to block trackers and ads, then a second app for a VPN, you have one for both. Blocking ads and trackers are both enabled by default, though I recommend disabling the ad tracker. Great sites that provide free content, just like you are reading right now, rely on ad revenue. The ad blocker in the Opera VPN app is all or nothing, with no way to whitelist certain sites. So, at least until a time whereas I can support the sites I enjoy, I keep it turned off.
So what are some things you can do with a VPN? Well, some content can be blocked based on location. As an example, say I was traveling in Canada for work. I want to watch some YouTube videos but they are blocked in CA. If I enable my VPN, I can change the location I am accessing the content from to the US. It routes my traffic through the Opera VPN server, then to YouTube, so as far as the content site is concerned, I am accessing it from within the US. Currently, the Opera VPN app offers 5 geographic locations you can use when connecting.
Aside from accessing location based content, you can also bypass firewalls. So if your office or school blocks blogs or music streaming services, using the VPN can go around that. So you would be able to listen to your favorite music streaming sites/apps, as well as read iDB at the office.
As usual, everything free comes with compromises. Opera does need to get something out of this, and they do. The first is just generating fans and awareness of their desktop web browser. Currently, they are the number 5 browser and they could use more marketshare. Companies like Google pay Opera when they set them as the default search engine in the browser. So if Opera can encourage more people to use Opera, they can increase their revenue.
The other benefit to Opera is they can provide outside companies with anonymized web data from their users. Chris Houston, the president of SurfEasy said “This information is made available to third parties who are interested in better understanding the mobile ecosystem and how it’s evolving,”. While users who are the utmost concerned about privacy should be wary of that, this is not uncommon for many apps that use the same practice. To be clear, no personal or identifying information is being made available to outside parties.
Many people will find a need for a VPN. Whether accessing content while traveling abroad, catching up on their iDB news at work, or just blocking ads and trackers. The Opera VPN app is a free and dead simple way to take advantage of these features.
What do you guys think of Opera VPN? Would you rather get access to a fast VPN for free with the catch that they offer anonymized data to outside parties, or pay to ensure the highest security?