How anonymous surfing works

Anonymizers provide means to surf the net anonymously, to get around web filters and local legislative restrictions on the websites you visit. This article talks about some types of anonymizers and how they are used. The most popular anonymizers will be discussed in detail.

Recently, the Web has become a major part of the Internet, and a browser is open a user’s computer most of the time. Services that originally worked through special programs and protocols are now presented in web versions: they are e-mail, messaging systems, conferences, video chats, and much, much more. At the same time, users are facing with problems of free access to websites. There are many restrictions: employers block access to sites from users' computers, providers and communication operators ban access to web resources by the order of state bodies, website owners and hosts block access for certain countries and regions and so on. All this limits the free use of web resources for ordinary users.

There is another problem. Websites collect a lot of information about the visitors and often registration is required, which includes personal data transfer. Websites install special cookies to track your movements around the site, advertising networks monitor all actions, social networks transmit all information they are entrusted with to third parties such as advertisers and state bodies. Under the pressure of total control over the World Wide Web, ordinary users increasingly wish to keep their privacy and anonymity.

All these problems have one solution which is anonymizers. These are special services or applications that redirect the user's web traffic through their servers. They provide anonymity by hiding the real IP-address of the user and removing special cookies. They also allow bypassing various filters, both regional and installed by your local provider.

Let’s find out how we usually get access to a websites. The user enters the website address in a web browser, it generates an HTTP request and sends it to the website server. On the route to the target web server, user’s traffic can pass one or more filters. It can be a transparent proxy server from the employer designed to monitor the use of the Internet at the workplace, a filter from the provider, designed to enforce federal legislation by blocking access to prohibited sites, and a filter from a telecom operator that performs similar functions. As a result, the request can be rejected and you will be redirected to a dead-end page informing you that the access is prohibited. In this case, the target web server will not even receive your request.

Anonymizer always breaks a direct chain of communication and becomes an intermediary between your web browser and the necessary web server. Your request is sent to the anonymizer server, and since it is not in the banned list and the blocking is not done from its side, the request successfully gets to its destination. In its turn, the anonymizer server creates a new request with your data to the target web server and the response is redirected to your computer.

Types of Anonymizers

There are lots of various types of anonymizers, differing in the technologies used and ways to unblock websites. In addition, anonymizers can be free, shareware, with advertisements on visited websites, with limited traffic, and fully paid. First, we define the types of anonymizers:

Web Anonymizers run in the form of websites and let the user operate without the need to install additional software. All you need is to just go to the web anonymizer, enter the address of the website you want to access, and all the content of this website will be accessible to you. This type of anonymizers has a number of technical limitations. Many complex sites cannot be redirected this way because of the large number of complex links, JavaScript scripts, the use of AJAX technology, and so on. Therefore, a lot of interactive websites will not function properly. Besides, web anonymizers usually do not cope with redirecting multimedia information such as music, videos and other. Web anonymizers are ideal for a quick access to simple websites.

Proxy server technology is actively used in spheres other than anonymizers. However, the proxy server is also ideal for performing these functions. The benefit of this technology is that you do not need to install additional programs. It’s enough to just specify the address of the proxy server in the browser settings and the ability to work with any content. The proxy server performs full translation of all information, so it can work with any interactive websites and all types of multimedia. However, there are disadvantages. The proxy server will work for all websites at once, and not just for the required ones. It cannot work in a chain, which means that if a proxy is already utilized on your network to access the Internet, this method cannot be used.

VPN technology, like proxy server technology, is actively used for a different task. It provides remote access to the internal network. However, VPN technologies are also successfully used for anonymization. The advantages of VPN include the ability to completely redirect traffic, not only web, but any other services. This technology also has its disadvantages such as the need to configure VPN access or install additional programs and the inability to operate through a corporate proxy server.

Browser Extensions are anonymizers that requires installation, after which they can be activated on certain websites and perform traffic redirection through its server. The quality of such anonymizer directly depends on its developer and server operation. Some of them function correctly with any sites and media content like ZenMate, while others produce results worse than web anonymizers. In the same way, they work with corporate proxy servers. Some extensions work through them without problems, while others are not fully functional.

Special browser is a type of anonymization significantly different from the rest and is a special assembly of popular browsers (usually Chromium or Firefox). They have built-in anonymization tools that work through simple extensions described in the previous paragraph, or through anonymous networks, such as TOR. This type of anonymization does not require additional settings. However, you need to install a special browser, which complicates the user's work. You have to remember which websites are better viewed in a special browser, and use two similar programs at the same time.

Almost all these types of anonymizers can be both paid and free, but there is a general tendency. The first type is usually conditionally free and displays ads on the websites you visit, though most of them do not have a paid subscription. The third type is almost always paid, but sometimes services offer traffic-limited trial accounts. The last fifth type is represented only by free solutions.
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