Virtual Private Networks (VPN) have become a necessary part of modern life in order to protect against the threats of geo-blocking, censorship, privacy invasion and more. Here is a quick four-part history of one of the most essential tools you can use for browsing the internet and connecting between networks.
US Department of Defence
The first seeds of what we consider to be the modern VPN started in 1960s USA as the US Department of Defence started investigating ways in which people in different remote locations could contact one another securely. These efforts resulted in ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) an early packet switching network that later transformed into the Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol; an early precursor of the World Wide Web.
The Peer-to-Peer Tunnelling Protocol
The main concern among developers in these early days was the importance of private communication. Different iterations for communication were created until 1996, when what some people call the first VPN was created. This was the brainchild of developer Gurdeep Singh-Pall, who created this system for people to access the internet securely while in their own houses. Now the technology is obsolete.
VPNs Used for Business Communication
In the late 1990s and 2000s VPNs were used for enterprise remote access solutions, allowing different employees in a business to communicate with one another even though they weren’t in the same room. At first this was only taken up by large companies, as the upfront costs of such a wide network were rather expensive. What it offered for large companies, however, was the ability to take different offices and to bring them together into the same wide network. Now it is a common part of many businesses, especially those who want to access the IP addresses of other countries that they want to do business with.
Popularity Among Private Users
In the 2010s, VPNs started to be picked up by private users, skyrocketing in popularity thanks to the way they can get around rights issues, censorship and more. Now around a quarter of all internet users use a VPN as a way to freely experience a global internet. Some of the countries with the highest usage of VPNs include Turkey, Indonesia and Thailand. The most popular reason is simply to access geographically-restricted entertainment content on streaming behemoths like Netflix and Disney Plus.
The Future of VPNs
It is likely that VPNs will rise in popularity in the future, especially after the events surrounding both Edward Snowden and Julian Assange showed the need for people to have control over their own privacy — whether it’s the attempts of cybercriminals or government censorship.
Additionally, with more people accessing the internet from developing countries on their phones, the future is also likely to be more mobile, with most VPN providers offering the ability to log into the system through a mobile VPN. Additionally, with global internet threats unlikely to disappear soon, VPNs are likely to play a part in making the internet a more equitable place.