Slow WiFi and an exposed Google history are an avid internet user’s worst nightmares, and the Obama-era rules that protect from these have been under attack since 2017. New FCC leaders could offer hope for a fairer internet, though undoing years of net neutrality bashing is an uphill battle. Squashing these protections essentially gives internet service providers the green light to dish unfair treatment to certain web traffic — like throttling a Netflix connection or charging extra to use a certain social media platform. And don’t get us started on how it could affect smaller sites with smaller budgets.Discussions about the government’s right to spy on your digital habits without a warrant don’t exactly make anyone feel confident, either. Whatever the reason, people are becoming more and more paranoid about the vulnerability of their internet usage (that, or they’re just really tired of American Netflix). In turn, Google has become littered with VPN reviews and lists of the best VPNs according to experts, tech publishers, and regular consumers alike. But if you wanted a more raw take on the day-to-day VPN experience from normal people (with no filter), there’s only one place to go: Reddit.
What is a VPN used for?
The bottom line is simple: People don’t want other people watching what they’re doing online, even if they’re not doing anything wrong.A VPN (virtual private network) is an internet security subscription that basically allows you to make up your own internet rules. It acts as a bodyguard between you and your internet service provider (and hackers, and other third-party weirdos) by hollowing out a personal anonymity tunnel through which you perform all of your internet activities. A VPN’s job is to plug the holes that could be making your data vulnerable to nefarious eyeballs, like creeps scouring public WiFi networks for personal information that could be used to steal your identity. VPNs are as wise of a precaution as antivirus software or a password manager (yes, this applies to Macs too). Hackers love free WiFi for the same reason you do: Connecting to the internet requires no authentication. That network is littered with unsecured devices, many times belonging to working professionals with bank accounts and business credentials that have phishers frothing at the mouth. Often, the easiest thing for hackers to do is slide in between your device and the connection point. This Man-in-the-Middle situation is like eavesdropping, but on emails, credit card info, and work logins. Other hackers use public WiFi to unleash malware to all of the suckers using the network without protection.Many folks avoid the public WiFi risk by recruiting their phone’s hotspot. But on the flip side, cellular data limits might be an issue — setting up a situation where both a laptop and phone need VPN protection. Many Reddit users suggest using something like EasyTether to share the VPN connection. Just download and enable a proxy app on your phone, configure it on your laptop, and you can enjoy a sort of reverse hotspot VPN-style.VPNs also provide a way for people to get around internet roadblocks and censors. These can be location-based or around blocks to certain websites set by, say, your school.
Does a VPN help with streaming?
Unblocking streaming services is probably the most universally useful feature of VPNs, even for casual internet users who don’t think twice about eyes on their browsing habits. All decent VPNs offer a wide selection of servers based in multiple geographic locations. Picking one of those essentially tricks your ISP into thinking your device is based there, maneuvering around geoblocks and opening the door to international content, like another country’s Netflix library or BBC iPlayer. American fans of the UEFA Champions League or Love Island UK could also use location spoofing to watch a live game or episode as they air in another country.
What Redditors care most about in a VPN
Are free VPNs the move?
Reddit has strong feelings about this. It’s bluntly summed up here in response to an inquiry about the “best free VPN”:images-14.fill_.size_2000x489.v1637626809 Reddit users will let you know that comparing free VPNs to paid VPNs just doesn’t make sense. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, and you’ll almost definitely be skimping on some crucial features by opting out of paying. Proof isn’t always provided, but many Redditors are convinced that free VPNs don’t follow a true no-log policy or sell your data to third parties. “Free” is sometimes synonymous with “slow” due to fewer servers in fewer locations.The general consensus seems to be to only use a free VPN to test the waters, then cough up the credit card info (or Paypal, or Bitcoin, or Visa gift cards from your grandma). Most times, this can be done through a trusted paid VPN that has a free tier to experiment with, or via a free trial, which many services offer. In a rare turn of events, Reddit backs Windscribe’s free service hard. However, free VPNs can step up to the job for more temporary endeavors — like having access to your home country’s streaming services while going abroad for a semester or keeping up with a certain sport for a season. Because paid VPNs only really get affordable when a one or two-year subscription is met, it may not make sense to pay $10 or $12 per month for the few months that you need a VPN.
The Wireguard vs. OpenVPN debate: Which VPN protocol is best?
If you know to check Reddit for VPN advice, you likely already have some general knowledge about VPN protocols. But here’s a breakdown if you need a refresher: A protocol is the rulebook that dictates how the VPN client talks to the VPN server and creates a tunnel, ultimately playing a role in security and vulnerabilities. Outdated-yet-popular protocols like L2TP/IPSec and PPTP, two more modern protocols often come up in conversation on Reddit: Wireguard and OpenVPN.Both are open source, giving anyone in the community access to the source code to conduct their own investigation on potential security flaws — and Reddit users appreciate the ability to take things into their own hands. Wireguard’s simpler code base is a little easier to crack and offers technical perks like better encryption and connection times, but it’s not as polished as OpenVPN. OpenVPN, on the other hand, is the go-to for streams and gamers.Subreddits get much further into the weeds than this, and TechRadar does a sweet job of unpacking it all.