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SOCKS Proxy URL - There are Better Ways to Surf Anonymously

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It astonishes me just how resistant humans are to changing habits. The SOCKS proxy server technology has kept a loyal following since it offers a free solution to the failings of HTTP proxies – you can't anonymize iStore, ICQ, MSN, Outlook, Thunderbird, and torrents with HTTP proxies, SSL browser, but you can with SOCKS. Of course, software is needed to configure such applications to use a SOCKS proxy (if SOCKS support is not already built into the application itself); more software support is needed to switch between the proxies from a SOCKS proxy URL list. Then, if you want to find new lists to feed into your switcher, you guessed it… you need yet more software to automatically search for a new proxy servers list. That's a lot of extraneous software for one service.

Aren't there any easier ways to surf anonymously?

Online Privacy
Online Privacy

At least you would think that after all this installation and configuration, you would have an excellent service at the end of it. Not really: with all these programs bolted together, the user experience is generally fiddly and requires a skilled user to handle and troubleshoot it all. And because SOCKS works on the application level only, there is always a chance that those other internet applications on your computer not set up for SOCKS are unwittingly sending out Java or Flash packets that divulge your real IP address. The most overarching problem, though, is the poor performance of public SOCKS proxies. Experienced SOCKS proxy users repeat the same complaint – it's very hard to find fast servers. Nearly every socks proxy URL that hosts an updated proxy list leads to the same lag problems; even after you run the proxies through a speed checker, after a short period of use, other people connect to the proxies and the connection speed drops to unacceptable levels. But users tolerate all this because there aren't any better ways to surf anonymously, right? (see: ad blocker Chrome)

Wrong. The Virtual Private Network has been serving as an anonymizer for some time now, and is in every way superior to the SOCKS proxy server. For a start, a VPN requires one piece of client software to anonymize all programs and with no special configuration for each. You don't need to visit a new SOCKS proxy URL all the time because a best free VPN service comes with thousands of IP addresses, including designated IPs for bypassing internet censorship. On top of that, a VPN provides highly-secure encryption of all communication to the proxy server, while SOCKS offers no encryption; and if all that weren't enough, a VPN is also much faster than SOCKS. The only reason a person might feasibly stick with using a SOCKS proxy is force of habit, and that alone. I mean, the other reasons would be ridiculous.


Part II: Why are People Still Using SOCKS Proxies?

Written by: 
Robin Welles; expats team, internet security team