Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Browse Free with AnchorFree

AnchorFree, a service which allows users to access the internet privately and for free in places where it is often password-protected at the very least, was founded in 2005 by David Gorodyansky. Its Hotspot Shield makes it easy to both protect personal information while you browse and to surf the web in anonymity, safe from firewalls and censorship that may otherwise hamper the experience. AnchorFree offers a free, ad-supported version in addition to a paid, ad-less version.

The importance and benefit of AnchorFree in general and Hotspot Shield in particular cannot be overstated. In an interview, Gorodyansky stated that his intention with the company was to create a way for users to access the internet without restrictions, a mission he rightly feels has been accomplished. The hotbed for Hotspot is the Middle East and China where governments have a tight grip on their country’s internet usage. China, in particular, has seen a 159 percent increase in users over the past year. Hotspot’s use as a proxy server makes it appealing to citizens but a target for government censors, creating a somewhat precarious balancing act.

In the past year, proxy services like AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield have been indispensable tools for pro-democracy uprisings like the Arab Spring. At its peak, more than one million people in Egypt alone were using Hotspot to communicate and plan in private. If governments continue to restrict and monitor internet access, proxy services will become even more indispensable. Or even if the internet is restricted not by governments but by corporations, Hotspot Shield will see its user base continue to expand. I believe that the future will be guided by the ways in which people are able to break free from superficial restrictions; and the success of AnchorFree in the face of otherwise overwhelming opposition only solidifies my belief.

2011 Egyptian protests. Photo courtesy of Essam Sharaf.

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