Oslo-based browser company Opera Software has implemented a free VPN directly in Opera 40, allowing users to create secure connections to one of Opera’s five global servers, located in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands, to choose their location while using the Internet.
Opera, used by at least 350 million people, is the first major browser to release VPN service built in by default, utilizing a no-log 256-bit AES encrypted connection.
The in-browser VPN feature is powered by Toronto-based SurfEasy, an Opera subsidiary that the company acquired last March.
SurfEasy was founded in 2011, and received only a seed round of financing from the Angel One Network, BrandProject, Comerica Bank, Mantella Venture Partners, and the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.
The two companies have been testing Opera’s VPN feature in developer beta mode since April.
“We know that people are concerned about their privacy online and that the interest for VPN is increasing,” said Krystian Kolondra, SVP of Opera browser for computers. “However, two major obstacles are blocking people from using it: VPNs are too complicated to use, and they require a monthly subscription. Opera resolves both issues by introducing its free and easy-to-use service right into the browser.”
Opera conducted their own global survey recently that found that more than 80% of people questioned in the USA and Germany were concerned about their online privacy, and that more than 70% of people who knew what a VPN was but still didn’t use one, mainly because of difficulty of use and subscription cost.
Until now, most internet users who bother with VPNs have found that the free VPN services often come bundled with malware or, in the case of recently departed Hola, add each user’s connection to a network that can be hijacked by other users, adding incentive to pay for a reputable VPN.
With a reputation for insecurity and malware infection appearing to be the trade-off for free VPNs, most users have avoided them, making the introduction of an apparently trustworthy and secure free VPN by Opera more or less a first.
While users can select their preferred location, they can also allow the Opera browser to select the optimal server location for them based on network speed, latency, location and server capacity.
Internet users have long used VPNs to look at geo-blocked content like Netflix and Hulu, but they’re also motivated by privacy concerns related to leaky hotel or airport or public Wi-Fi connections regularly patrolled by hackers who can efficiently harvest user information.
“If people knew how the internet truly works, I believe they all would use a VPN,” says Kolondra. “By making our browser VPN free and easy to use, we hope to make it an essential tool, just as the lock and key is to your house.”
Opera 40 also adds an automatic power saving capacity, first introduced with Opera 38, and an RSS feed for Opera’s Newsreader feature.
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Opera also has an Android app that blocks ad-tracking cookies and tests wireless network security among other things, while also allowing users to change their virtual location.
Opera is currently negotiating a $600 million deal that would transfer ownership of its apps to a Chinese consortium that includes anti-virus company Qihoo 360.
Although initial reviews of Opera’s in-browser VPN feature have been positive, The Next Web is reporting that “Less than three hours after this review was published, Netflix has blocked the VPN from accessing its library.”
Opera 40 is available as a freeware download for Windows, Mac OS X 10.9 or later, and 64-bit Linux users.