November 2, 2014
Recently, VPN proxy service Hola has surpassed 30 million users, providing people all over the planet with a “freedom of information” from the open internet that they’ve never had before.
The concept behind Hola is simple – provide internet users everywhere with a faster, more accessible and safer Internet experience, by helping each other route traffic in the most optimal manner.
American and European users may find delight in this service, which should provide the ability to access a webpage inside work or school networks which would previously have been blocked. In the same way that one would once have downloaded a Dangermouse album from Napster, Hola uses a peer-to-peer service that is improved with each user added. This means that Hola users who are idle help route other users to content they can’t currently access. This often can create a faster browsing experience because the Internet can be slowed down by server response times, Internet congestion, round trip times, and poorly-written communication stacks in operating systems. Hola removes these bottlenecks by securely caching and compressing content on peers as they view it, and later serving it up to other nearby peers as they need it.
Besides being able to watch Dr. Who or The Olympics, using Hola means that a user can access a site that might be blocked by the country they are navigating from. Hola’s CEO, Ofer Vilenski, commented “We’re delighted to have developed technology that enables so many people to enjoy the Internet as it was meant to be – fast and open. We’re even more amazed by the speed at which our online community is growing by the day showing the hunger for information that has existed.” Governments across the globe are notorious for censoring the sites that their citizens can access. Hola provides a resource to deliver information to these people.
According to the company’s press release, traditional VPN services have always existed to overcome blocks like this, but they have been costly and difficult to set up. The cost of having servers in multiple countries would need to be passed on to users. The peer-to-peer format that Hola utilizes does not have any cost to operate, which makes this the only such service which is offered for free, and can remain free.
Hola is an Israeli startup, funded by an investment of $18m from world class investors such as DFJ (Skype, Tesla, Twilio), Horizons Ventures (Mr. Li Ka-Shing’s fund), Israel’s Chief Scientist Fund, and others. Previously, CEO Ofer Vilenski and CTO Derry Shribman founded KRFTech – a software development tools company. With the profits from the company, they started up Jungo in 2000, and set out to develop the OS for home gateways (like an Android for home devices). In 2006 Jungo was acquired by NDS (Cisco) for $107M. It employed 170 people and was profitable. They then had a thesis that HTTP could be re-invented, thus making the Internet much much faster, and were able to tap into the power of peer-to-peer to offer Hola.
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