If you’re not interested in getting a dedicated Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, other options exist. The humble web browser is often one of the best areas to look towards in this area. We’re not talking about browser extensions, but those that come with the VPN option integrated into the browser framework.
Increased cybersecurity risks, companies tracking our data, and even government surveillance is making the web a far more uncomfortable place to be. Unless you’re using a VPN, there are few ways of reliably protecting yourself online.
Before we diver deeper into the list, there’s something of which you should be aware. Most mainstream browsers like Chrome don’t feature a native VPN. Regardless, Chrome remains the most popular, holding a stunning 69% of the web browser market space.
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1. Opera Browser
Opera has a long history as a web browser. First released in 1995, it has similar roots to Chome since it also comes from Chromium-based code. It’s one of the oldest web browsers around but has undergone significant change to adapt to modern times.
Most of the changes that Opera has undergone have mostly been cosmetic. However, we see a clear move towards security with their inclusion of a VPN. The Opera browser VPN uses what is now standard AES 256-bit Encryption.
While high encryption levels are good, Opera doesn’t seem to have entirely perfected the art of VPN. You’ll find that the VPN is easy to set up – it only requires the toggle of some switches in Opera settings. Unfortunately, to turn it on or off is just about your only option.
Browsing with Opera’s VPN is also not entirely pleasurable. While smaller websites aren’t likely to block you, many more established sites will. Website owners don’t love VPN users as it bypasses some level of control for them.
With Opera’s VPN enabled, you’ll find yourself facing many CAPTCHAs that will quickly burn into your browsing time. Honestly, it’s a bit of a nightmare. At least the VPN is fast, though, with speed tests on the default (and unchangeable) server achieving results close to my maximum line speed.
2. Epic Browser
Epic Browser doesn’t make much pretense about being unique or anything similar. Like many other browsers, It has Chromium roots but has foregone cosmetics to present an almost carbon-copy of Google Chrome.
There are also a few other notes about Epic that might raise some eyebrows. The first is that while Epic used to have the proxy/VPN service built-in, it has now separated them and offers the service as an extension instead.
Now that’s gotten your attention, the next thing is regarding the proxy statement. Despite a claim of being a proxy/VPN, there isn’t anything VPN about the Epic browser. It’s a pure and straightforward proxy service that offers not many security privileges a full-blown VPN would.
That said, the service is still free and easy to use. Chrome users won’t feel a difference if migrating to the Epic browser. It is also far more usable than Opera when the “VPN” is active. At least I didn’t encounter quite as many CAPTCHA requests.
3. Aloha Browser
Among web browsers, Aloha is perhaps considered young. It was only launched in 2016, giving it a mere couple of years in the market. The browser seems heavily marketed towards the mobile market, although it also has options for PC and Mac.
Although there’s little information about the framework upon which Aloha was built, it looks almost exactly like Chrome. That means the same tab structure, address bar, default theme, and more. The only visible difference is the addition of a small shield icon near the address bar.
That shield icon is where our interests lie; it’s the toggle switch for the VPN that Aohla has baked into the browser. Clicking the shield enables the VPN; there are no options for protocol selection, choice of server, or anything else. You either have it on or off, and that’s all.
I ran a speed test with Aloha’s VPN active, and it discovered I was being routed through a US-based server. Speed performance was about as expected relative to my location, which was pretty decent for a free service.
The only thing I disliked about this overall experience is the lack of transparency about things. However, that’s about par for the course where services like this come into play.
Is VPN Browser a Good Idea?
Well, yes and no.
Let’s cover the easy answer first; yes. VPNs are, by nature, relatively technical services. It can be challenging to understand the ins and outs of VPN services for those who simply want a safer browsing experience.
That makes options like Opera, Epic, and Aloha a decent choice for this group of users. The browsers are easy to use and offer some modicum of security and privacy. It’s like buying a car with automatic transmission; you aren’t looking for ideal performance but simple usability.
But Browsers with Built-in VPNs are Often Dodgy
Web browsers are generally commercial entities. Opera, for example, is a public listed company valued at over a billion dollars. That money needs to come from somewhere – and it’s generally from the partnerships for ads, which involves tracking.
We use VPNs to avoid tracking, tracing, or any other form of surveillance. So why would we use a VPN source that does the very thing it’s supposed to mitigate?
Another point in contention is the scope of coverage the built-in VPN offers. These only work for data sent via the browser. Today, almost every application on your device is transmitting and receiving data independently – so browser protection alone isn’t enough.
Most dedicated VPN services have platform-specific apps that will give your device blanket protection, which is a much better option.
Consider a VPN Browser Extension Instead
Many top VPN brands build a dedicated browser extension as an alternative to their core applications. Some VPNs only develop a Browser Extension without a core app. It does mean that you get more choice.
What is a VPN Browser Extension?
A VPN Browser Extension is a dedicated addition to your web browser that helps you connect to a VPN server. Today, most browsers are modular and can use Browser Extensions or plugins to increase functionality.
5 Great VPN Browser Extensions to Consider
- NordVPN is one of the best VPN brands in the market. It’s designed for multiple platforms and offers Browser Extension capabilities for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
- ExpressVPN’s Browser Extension is relatively special as it helps you control the full app, thereby increasing privacy and security.
- Surfshark covers Chrome and Firefox with a dedicated Browser Extension
- CyberGhost also has Browser Extensions for Chrome and Firefox
- Windscribe is a free option of VPN Browser Extension
There are lots more available for various browsers, but you’ll find that are designed for either Chrome or Firefox. Browse the Chrome Web Store or Firefox Add-ons page to discover more VPN Browser Extensions.
Aside from the three browsers covered here, there are more available in the market. Yet many of them aren’t focused on privacy and security; the VPN inclusion is merely an attempt to cater to demand.
As an Internet user, if you are concerned about how safe and anonymous you are online, choose a dedicated VPN instead. It will offer much better protection against the threats of cyberspace, even if it costs you a cup of coffee each month.