Today, millions of people use VPNs every day, and they are a necessity if at all you need to restore privacy, security, anonymity, and freedom to the internet. However, despite peaking in recent years, VPN technology has been around since the mid-90s. So how did the recent popularity come to be?
In this post, we’ll look at how VPNs started, how the technology has evolved over the years, and what we think the future holds.
The origin of VPNs
The first VPN came to life back in 1996 when a Microsoft employee Gurdeep Singh-Pall developed the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). This was the first method of implementing a virtual private network, and the idea was that a computer could set up a secure connection, or tunnel, to a remote server.
After the invention, PPTP was introduced to the public in 1999 by a vendor consortium consisting of Microsoft, Ascend Communications, 3Com, and others. The technology was quickly adopted, although it was initially a security tool for the few – government entities and huge organizations.
The evolution of VPNs
It didn’t take long for people to realize that regular internet users could also benefit from the use of VPNs. Soon, consumer VPNs were developed. Different protocols also started being built, and today we have OpenVPN, IKEv2, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, and many more. Different types of encryptions such as hashing, symmetric, and asymmetric encryption were also created to protect users.
Today, when most people talk about, they talk about personal VPNs. These services have become very popular over the years, and according to Statistica, the number of VPN users grew by 165% from 2017 to 2018.
VPN popularity today
As the internet continued to expand, it came with a lot of negatives that made people start embracing the idea of VPNs. Some of these include:
- Censorships were introduced by countries such as China and the Middle East, with the governments aiming to control what they can access and say.
- Edward Snowden’s leaks that government agencies, ISPs, and corporations abuse people’s online privacy rights and the way.
- Geo-restrictions were introduced by streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Hulu, and others.
- The ever-increasing online monitoring and logging did by ISPs all over the world.
- Cybercriminal attacks have increasingly targeted internet users, especially those that use public wifi hotspots.
In between these were are some historical events that drove millions of people towards VPNs, such as the Wanna Cry attack and President Trump’s repeal of the Net Neutrality rules.
The Future of VPNs
Governments are continually trying to increase the surveillance of their citizens, and cyber-attacks happen every day. These two mean that VPN usage is only going to increase as people try to make the internet more safe and free.
In terms of the technology itself, new features are continually being developed, with some VPNs able to prevent ads, popups, malware, tracking, and even create a fake usage profile. However, as more people become invested in the idea of privacy, VPNs may start adopting open source technology, a trend set the OpenVPN project.
This will see community inventions, faster and more secure protocols, and lots of enhanced features. Overall, VPNs will continue to try and make the internet more private, more secure, and freer.