The VPN by Google's Jigsaw group explained

VPNs are essential to keep consumers safe while browsing the internet. Several services are available, such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or SurfShark VPN, and all work on the best Android phones. Google’s Jigsaw group, which makes solutions for a safer internet, has its own open source VPN called Outline that’s a bit different from traditional VPNs. This article discusses what Outline is, how it compares to other VPNs, and how you can use it to browse safely.

What is Outline?

Outline is a VPN and VPN server offered by Google’s Jigsaw Group that allows people and organizations around the world to connect to the open internet. The Jigsaw group is a special division of Google that creates solutions that make browsing the internet safer. Their products aim to uphold technology as a force of good by combating disinformation, censorship, toxicity, and violent extremism. Their Outline VPN was created as a step towards that goal.

Outline uses a protocol that makes the VPN difficult to detect and, therefore, more difficult for websites or other groups to block. Outline VPN offers two products: Outline Manager and Outline Client. Outline Manager allows you to set up a private VPN server using your choice of cloud providers, including Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud. Outline Client is the application used to access a VPN server once it’s been set up using Outline Manager.

Outline is transparent with its technology and is open source, so it can be easily audited. It has been audited by two independent security firms who have issued their own reports: Radically Open Source and Cure 53.

Several organizations use Outline to help them access the uncensored and open internet in places where that may be difficult. Code for Africa has a testimonial on Outline’s site which explains that it uses Outline to help technologists and activists provide training and internet access to users across the continent. The site also has a blurb about Sudan Ombudsman, who used Outline to access social media during protests when the Sudanese government blocked it.

How does Outline compare with other VPNs?

Outline works differently than traditional VPNs. Since many other VPNs are widely used, websites and other entities see a lot of traffic coming from a certain server, making it easier to detect and block. Your traffic is still anonymous using traditional VPNs, but certain security protocols give each user a unique cryptographic signature that can be identified and blocked. Outline takes a different approach to addressing these problems.

Outline resists more advanced versions of blocking and censorship that traditional VPNs can’t avoid. The protocol Outline uses is handshake-less and look-nothing-like, which intentionally makes it harder to detect your web traffic and therefore makes it harder to block. It’s also harder to track than traditional VPNs since users create their own server that they only share with a few people on a variety of cloud services. This means that websites and other entities will not see a large amount of traffic coming from a single server, so your activity is less likely to be blocked.

How do I use Outline?

Outline consists of two separate applications: the Outline Manager and the Outline client app for iOS and Android. You’ll need to download the Outline Manager app first and select a domain provider from a pre-selected list or the server of your choice. Set up is relatively straightforward, but our Outline VPN set up guide will walk you through all the steps.

Use Outline for safer internet access

Outline is an open source VPN that does things a bit differently than most VPNs. It uses a different protocol than traditional VPNs and allows users to create their own VPN server hosted by the cloud service of their choice. Users can then share their VPN server with select individuals and devices. All of this combined makes Outline harder to track and block than traditional VPNs. To make sure a VPN is right for you, learn more about VPNs and the features they offer.

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