Last year was a great year when it comes to the best VPN services, with notable changes in both software and industry.
We saw exchanges of nearly $ 1 billion sums, massive advancements in the underlying technology, and changes in the way third-party services interact with VPNs that profoundly affected various providers and what customers can expect.
Here, we’ll take a look at what happened in the VPN industry in 2021 and, more importantly, what 2022 might have in store for the cybersecurity world.
WireGuard and proprietary protocols
One of the biggest revelations of 2021 was the widespread adoption of the relatively new WireGuard protocol. Although the protocol has been in development for a few years and has been in use since 2019, last year saw larger and more established VPNs like Surfshark, ProtonVPN, and IPVanish offering support, making WireGuard compatibility the norm in instead of an exception.
This means that connection speeds have exploded, with top tier providers registering over 800 Mbps on a 1 Gbps line in our tests. This has left vendors that only support older protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 in the dust, with reviewers and users alike expecting these incredible speeds.
However, WireGuard isn’t the only way providers are achieving blazing fast speeds. Proprietary protocols are nothing new, but most notably, ExpressVPN developed and released its Lightway protocol and, not long after, made it completely open source. Lightway offers very good (but not entirely class-leading) connection speeds, along with very stable mobile connections, demonstrating ExpressVPN’s position as an innovator in the field.
On the subject of ExpressVPN, 2021 saw the largest acquisition in VPN history – the purchase of the VPN by Kape Technologies for $ 936 million. This followed Kape’s acquisition of Private Internet Access in late 2020 and CyberGhost some time earlier, showing that the British-Israeli firm is looking to solidify its place as an industry leader.
This caused quite a stir in the cybersecurity community, with some journalists and users claiming that this would affect ExpressVPN’s autonomy and privacy, and this was no less influenced by Kape’s somewhat controversial story. To learn more, read our full story on acquiring ExpressVPN.
However, ExpressVPN wasn’t the only VPN to be purchased in 2021. The Atlas VPN, the free VPN favorite, was taken over by the giant NordVPN, and in our recent Atlas VPN review, we saw improvements to their service right away.
Netflix y streaming
Beyond maintaining privacy online, one of the most common reasons to download a VPN is to access geo-blocked streaming content on sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. This is almost always combated in some way by the streaming provider in question, but in mid-2021 Netflix took it a step further.
VPNs bypass geoblocks by using national IP addresses in the chosen country where certain content can be accessed, and prior to the Netflix changes, all you would do is block access to content if that IP was tied to a VPN. However, after the change, it appeared that once Netflix identified a VPN-related IP address, the streaming giant blocked access to a large swath of neighboring IP addresses.
Despite the collateral damage, this technique was incredibly effective in stopping VPN use, and we saw many previously trusted services go down the drain. In our initial research, we found that few providers could cope with the change, and while several providers have since managed to find ways to get around Netflix’s blocks (namely ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN), many are still not the Netflix VPNs they used to be. to be.
What can we expect in 2022?
So 2021 was certainly an action-packed year for the VPN industry, and we don’t expect things to slow down in 2022. Here are our top predictions for what we’ll see in the coming year.
We can’t be sure what new innovations we’ll see in 2022, but what we can be almost certain of is that one vendor or another is working on something shiny and new right now. Our money is in ExpressVPN: With the enormous financial backing of Kape, there is plenty of cash to invest in exciting projects and cutting-edge research.
If we were to get away with it, it would be akin to improving the consistency of unlocking Netflix. While many of the top-tier VPNs have personal privacy almost stitched in, there is still work to be done in terms of unblocking.
Kape surely can’t buy other VPN? Well, we wouldn’t let it pass. However, another thing to consider could be that NordVPN starts spending cash. Your acquisition of Atlas VPN has added a decent free option to your list, and we certainly wouldn’t be surprised if you targeted a rival paid VPN to shore up your place as an industry leader.
A real surprise would be the purchase of NordVPN. While we think this is highly unlikely, anything could happen …
Holistic cybersecurity solutions
One trend that is starting to emerge is that cybersecurity service providers are starting to offer a more holistic package. So, for example, IPVanish and StrongVPN have long partnered with cloud storage provider SugarSync, and ExpressVPN offers a similar option with BackBlaze provider.
However, NordVPN has gone one step further. If you want to be truly rooted in the Nord ecosystem, the company offers the classic NordVPN, the NordLocker storage system, the NordPass password manager, and the enterprise VPN that NordLayer offers. If Nord develops an antivirus like that of its rival Private Internet Access, it could be the first one-stop shop for cybersecurity.
This is also the other way around. Antivirus giants Bitdefender, Avira, and Avast all offer their own VPNs, and while these are usually fairly lightweight, white-label versions of an established standalone VPN, they are easy to access and attractive to casual users.
So the trend is there, and we expect more and more vendors to start developing complete internet security packages, even if that’s just to keep their customers away from the competition.
Usage limits were lifted
Another trend we expect to see is VPN providers starting to lift or increase the usage limits they impose on paying customers. While almost all premium VPNs allow unlimited data transfer, almost all limit the number of devices you can use the VPN on simultaneously.
However, providers are becoming more and more generous with these limits. For example, ProtonVPN has increased its Plus plan limit from five to ten, VyprVPN now offers a whopping 30, and IPVanish and Surfshark have unlimited policies. Considering that one of our few complaints about ExpressVPN is that it only allows five simultaneous connections, we wouldn’t be surprised if providers generally start increasing or even removing these limits.
Quality over quantity
However, the same cannot be said for server count. In this area, VPNs seem to put less emphasis on large numbers and more on the quality of their servers.
For example, PureVPN has significantly reduced its number of servers to get rid of all of its virtual servers. Now all the servers you run are physically located in the country they serve, which is more secure and reliable.
Another example of this is private access to the Internet. At one point in 2021, we saw the number of servers rise to 33,000, somewhat ridiculous, around 25,000 more than its closest rival, but in recent months we’ve seen it drop to around 15,000 still strong but more manageable. We wouldn’t be surprised to see that number go flat even further, and the fact that none of our top 4 providers offer more than 5,000 servers per piece shows that the quality of a VPN’s servers is far more important than the total quantity.
How is 2022 going?
With VPNs becoming more mainstream, we can only hope that providers will better serve the needs of the masses by offering faster connections, apps that are easier to use, comprehensive feature sets, and overall better value for money. .
We don’t have an orb forecasting the future to ponder, so we can’t guarantee anything will happen. But what’s for sure is that the VPN hype isn’t over yet, and if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, there’s still time to tackle it before you leave.
What VPN would we recommend?
- If you travel frequently, check out the best VPN for iPhone and VPN for Android
- For more information, check out our guide to the best VPN uses
- Read our guide on how to download NordVPN