Virtual private networking is a great way to accomplish a number of things, including making sure that your secrets stay your own, protecting against malware attacks, and getting around the geoblocking of audio and video content from networks, labels and basically anyone who wants to restrict your sweet, sweet access. It’s understandable, then, that as computing increasingly goes mobile, VPN would get more popular on mobile, too.
Hotspot Shield, a free VPN from leading provider AnchorFree, has just announced that it has crossed 10 million total downloads on Android and iOS, with a growth rate of around 1.5 million new downloads per month. Hotspot Shield is a top productivity app on iOS, and on Android, it has already grown faster than its iOS counterpart in the Android ecosystem since its launch last year, and now around two-thirds of new users come from Android.
The growth has come on strong very recently, with the app seeing its active user base double between now and the beginning of 2013. The company says it has managed to prevent 28.6 billion malware threats since its debut, and has also saved over 102 million MB of data via its compression algorithms. For paranoid and thrifty travellers, it’s a way to both add an extra layer of security at open public Wi-Fi hotspots like those you’ll often find in airports, and conserve data on tight roaming plans, too.
What’s extra funny about the growth is that there’s a huge elephant in the room and AnchoFree is barely talking about it. In a release announcing the news, they offered this choice tidbit:
Hotspot Shield is also used by travelers to access US content while abroad.
Just that line, on its own, amid a sea of text emphasizing the data savings and security benefits of VPN. Which is probably because it’s unlikely content providers like thinking too much about the other, extremely useful benefit of VPNs: namely allowing you to sidestep geographic restrictions.
If you want Spotify and you live in a country where it isn’t available yet, for instance, you could use a VPN to make it appear as though you’re based in the U.S., no matter where you actually are. Using it if you’re a U.S. citizen travelling abroad rides the fair side of the line, but that’s not how most are employing that particular tech. Beyond U.S. borders, there’s a strong and pervasive appetite for U.S. film and video content, the likes of which you can find on Hulu, for example, but not once you exit U.S. territories.
AnchorFree isn’t playing up that angle, but I’ll bet it’s responsible for driving a fair amount of those 10 million downloads. So as long as some content is restricted in terms of where you can watch, it’s likely growth isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.