…Except it’s not really a VPN, but more of a proxy. More on that in a bit.
The upshot for internet users everywhere is that the Opera browser now offers a free, built-in “VPN” for anyone that chooses to use it.
This means all web traffic through the browser will be encrypted, tracking cookies will be blocked, and the user’s IP address will be hidden. This will give more privacy for Opera users from potentially prying eyes, whether they be criminals trying to sniff Wi-Fi traffic or advertisers trying to track a user’s internet habits.
In addition, use of the VPN can allow web browsers to get around geolocation-locked contents, meaning Opera users may be more easily able to watch television or movies that normally aren’t allowed to stream in their location.
VPNs in general are a good idea when you’re using a public Wi-Fi, or accessing sensitive information (like work email) that you don’t want getting into the wrong hands. Many people make using a VPN a habit at all times, no matter where they are, because of the added security it can offer.
But one major downside is that VPNs can be a bit complex to set up, often cost money, or free versions have a bandwidth cap. Opera hopes its offer of a free, non-bandwidth-limited VPN-like service will attract more privacy-minded users to its download page.
As we’ve mentioned previously, we take some issue with using the term “VPN” to describe what the Opera browser is offering. Given that the traffic being encrypted is only in the browser, and doesn’t cover the rest of your network’s traffic – including anything that might be sent or received via email client, chat, or any other web browser or app – it’s a bit of a misnomer to call what Opera’s offering a true VPN. Since it’s restricted to the browser, it’s really more of a proxy.
Nomenclature aside, you may be thinking that this sounds like a win-win for users who don’t want to be tracked by advertisers and would like a little more anonymity online. Certainly, more privacy is never a bad thing.
Just keep in mind that by using Opera’s “VPN”/proxy, all of your information and browsing habits will be tunneled through its servers, giving Opera insight into what its users are doing. (Opera currently commands a little over 1% of the desktop browser market share right now.)