I live outside of the US and love using VPN to mask my actual location, but not for safer browsing but for region coded content found on the Internet.
I have in the past written about VPNs for use in many situations, least of all for posting to Facebook while in China. But for us who live outside of where the content is region coded, then it becomes a censorship problem. Web censorship is real. Everywhere you go, there is some form of censorship where URLs are blocked for political or religious reasons. But for some of us, we just want to enjoy free content which has been region restricted. For example, YouPorn.com is blocked in many countries and if you happen to love watching free internet porn, you have come to the right place. Hola will satisfy all your desires….for free!
P2P VPN is here…at a Cost
All things free isn’t what it is believed to be, so here’s the stuff Hola won”t tell you. Hola VPN doesn’t make use of a secure connection but a mix of P2P/CDN. Think of it like TOR, the secure network used by Edward Snowden, every computer becomes an exit node, so if you are a user based in China, Hola lets you access Facebook via someone’s exit node in the USA where Facebook isn’t blocked.
Hola relies on YOUR data download and upload bandwidth when you use their VPN to serve other users. So if you happen to have a paltry bandwidth limit on your mobile and keep Hola running all day long, you will exhaust your data limit in a day or two. This can happen if more people choose to browse from the country where you reside. Inside the mobile app, you have a long list of country to choose from, and from it, pick a country you wish to browse from. Hola also operates a CDN, content distribution network, which caches popular content for user to download and stream.
Hola is a free Android app that you can download right now and I suspect that the app is still in Beta. But don’t let that deter you as it works pretty much like a web browser with VPN access. The VPN service is unlimited and is automatically switched on when you launch the app. Hola is still adding more content sources and sorting out the bugs within the app. Even their latest update was very buggy (Feb 18).
How Hola Aims to Change Your Browsing Habits
The P2P network protocol used by Hola is pretty vague at the moment. By opening your own Internet connection to others, you are letting dudes like the NSA come through your browser and into your computer or mobile device. Data leeching can happen since you can’t tell if they are real users or data mining bots. The only security control is to bypass this is to sign up for their premium plan where Hola is prevented from using your computer or mobile as an exit node. Hola could change the way you browse the Internet in China but Chinese URL blockers will eventually find a way around it once they determine the exact DNS Hola operates from. For now, it is a free for all for everyone.
However if you are hoping to browse for content from the US, well you are in luck. Hola works perfectly. With it, you can pretend to surf from the US or for that matter Australia, Britain or Iran for that matter….the choice are up to you but if you are looking for content, just stick to the old time favs.
Hola integrates several streaming services with its own app, such as Pandora, Hulu and Netflix. For Netflix, you need a paid account to get access but you can fib your way to a free one month trial by signing up (with a credit card). I didn’t need to test Facebook or for that matter Google Plus since those are not banned from where I was. But it would be of interest to those who are heading to China.
There is a desktop plug in for PCs, created for Firefox and Chrome and the moment you install it, you will notice some slowdown when you browse using Hola. It could be using your connection as an exit node. To avoid people piggy backing on your bandwidth, you can sign up for Hola premium.
On Android, Hola app pretty much uses a default USA setting for streaming media so you have to change it to the UK if you happen to use it to access BBC content.
For now, Hola for me is the place to go to for all my TV shows on Hulu. My only regret is that I don’t have a Hulu Plus membership to get to all the episodes I want to watch.
Hola for iOS is NOT Free
Please don’t ask me why but you only get a 7 day trial after which you have to pay as long as you are a Apple user. iOS has never had it this good as users are generally considered richer than their Android cousins thus Apple iPhone users have to pay to get access after seven days. This is the premium sign up. So you don’t get people hogging your bandwidth. It is the perfect solution for iPhone users who love using their phones all the time.