The ad, tracker, and other “bullshit” blocking VPN beta – How it’s going so far.

Almost a month ago we opened a free, public beta of our VPN service. The purpose of this beta was to help us make sure that our blocklists only blocked ads, trackers, malware, and other “BS” but did not prohibit users from accessing the content that they wish to view.

Preliminary testing shows that: So far, so good!

We have observed that anywhere between 15-30% of all DNS requests made by users are blocked from resolving over our VPN network. These are requests that are embedded into websites and apps that do not serve any meaningful purpose to you, the end-user. Instead, these elements exist to collect information about you (trackers), sell you stuff (advertisements) or in severe cases: Steal your information (phishing and fraud sites). What you receive by using our VPN service is a safer internet and the ability to protect your web identity while using less local bandwidth by us filtering out all the junk.

This public beta was initially launched in our Luxembourg location, but we decided shortly after to make it accessible from an American location as well (Las Vegas). Although our operation exists around privacy and anonymity, we will be offering one or two US-based locations for users who wish to access country-locked content in the USA. (Likely a West Coast option for good connectivity for the Asian region and an East Coast option for good connectivity to Europe)

After some testing of a Kiev, Ukraine based service provider, we have decided that our 3rd location for VPN services will launch there. We were very impressed with the speeds on the network, the connectivity to our other locations and the overall experience and communication with the upstream provider who shares our core values as a company.

In an effort to be as open and transparent as possible, we have released our existing blocklists which are available for public review here as well as available for your own use on any network device that accepts blocklists (pfBlockerNG, pi-hole, etc). These lists were created from current, publicly available and community sourced lists. What we did was simply merge, organize, and remove duplicate entries and known false positives while adding some of our own discoveries to the lists. These lists will evolve over time and be updated frequently.


Feedback has been positive so far.

The purpose of the free beta was to collect feedback, however many who have signed up haven’t actually provided us with any feedback yet. Those who have, however, have had this to say and share:

“Got 165 Mbit through directly wiring into Starlink just now for a test location in Michigan so from Michigan Test Location > Lux > Starlink > Me still hit 165 Mbit”

Beta tester using the Luxembourg location.
Pulling over 500Mbps from their fiber connection at home over our VPN!

“It seems to be as fast as what my Wi-Fi can handle.”

Beta tester using the Luxembourg location.

“I didn’t notice any (ads) on my computer.”

Beta tester using the Las Vegas location.

And although I may be personally biased, I can say with honesty that all my devices at home as well as my phone has been connected to our VPN network for a good month or so now. In every test environment that I have setup I have not installed the normal uBlock ad-blocker plugin for Firefox as I normally would. Instead, I’ve just let the VPN do it’s thing.

There are still some minor limitations. Some ads, such as those served over YouTube, will still load. This is due to how YouTube serves advertisements, using the same URL structure as the actual content they serve so blocking ads would mean blocking YouTube videos from working. Smart move on their behalf, but luckily it does seem that in-browser plugins such as uBlock does well in detecting and stopping those. You can also access YouTube via our Invidious installation, which is a privacy focused front-end for YouTube that disconnects you from Google and serves the videos and content through our network instead. With this method, before and in-video ads are eliminated. Check it out at https://tube.incog.host/ !

With other services such as Spotify, we’ve had success in blocking most, but not all ads along their free service. In my own testing I have been prompted with the normal, “Watch this short video for 30 minutes of ad-free music” and when clicking it, it just goes straight to music and doesn’t try to load the ad. For now, we have the Spotify ad-block list running and will tweak it more as needed.

It would appear that your favorite adult sites will continue to function as normal, though do not be alarmed over the new lack of “hot singles in your area that want to meet you.” Those were ads, and now they are no more… But we’re sure hot singles still want to meet you.

We’re still testing with common and popular phone apps however nothing that we have tested so far has appeared to be broken.

What are your favorite sites or apps? We’ll test them over our VPN network and do everything we can to ensure that we’re stripping out any trackers, ads, or BS.

Comments

  1. I haven’t tested it, but it seems to be a really well intended VPN service proposal. It has a lot of potential, but if I may ask for several features that I would need to see in order to consider using this VPN (instead of my current one, Mullvad VPN)… I would ask for:

    1.- Registration WITHOUT email. This one is a must and a deal breaker for me until implemented. e.g.: Mullvad uses a simple and clever numeric tag system to assign user IDs. You should do the same.

    2.- 3.- Linux GUI. Also a deal breaker if there’s no GUI to control connections and VPN settings. It’s 2021, I’m in Linux and I’m not afraid of the Terminal, but again, it’s 2021, there’s no excuse for CLI stuff. Even a WebUI is acceptable.

    3.- Add Wireguard protocol. Not a deal breaker, but a very close one.

    4.- Make it work with dnscrypt-proxy. I want to be able to switch the VPN on and off seamlessly without having to stop and start dnscrypt-proxy.

    Other than that, the obvious perks, like a good number of servers/locations, competitive prices, open source client…

    But so far, huge kudos for accepting a good variety of cryptocurrencies!

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