When we think of proxy servers, we tend to imagine a high-tech commercial device routing your connection. While it’s true for some services, it couldn’t be further from the truth with residential proxies. The way they are set up at ordinary homes has distinct advantages of staying anonymous online.
Due to the way other proxy types are getting restricted, residential proxies are quickly rising in popularity. Their increased efficiency is bringing back the power of online privacy to common consumers. It all starts from the way home internet connections work.
Home internet connection
Every time someone orders a landline internet plan, two things happen. The internet service provider must install cables, network adapters, and other hardware, but it must also verify the connection digitally.
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is responsible for assigning unique characters in IP addresses. It delegates this task to regional internet registries, roughly equivalent to each continent.
Regional registries are then further categorized into smaller regions (cities or even neighborhoods), which give a full IP address, such as this one – 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1.
ISPs can use IP addresses from the registries, but they must be verified by the IANA. Once they are verified, it can be safely assumed that there is just one such IP address and that it uniquely links to a certain geographical location and the ISP.
Such a verification process ensures the devices can communicate with one another without disturbances, but it also means every web server you want to connect to can tell who your ISP is and from where approximately you are connecting.
Reasons to change your IP address
From North Korea to the UK, government censorship of the internet is widely spread. Some countries are blocking illegal pornography or torrenting websites, while others use it to suppress free speech and political opposition.
Changing your IP address with a proxy will make it harder for your government to know what you are doing online. They will only see that you are connecting to a proxy server and won’t be able to restrict what that proxy wants to achieve on your behalf.
However, you don’t need to look so far for internet censorship. Most of these measures are implemented by network administrators or ISPs. Without a proxy, they can track what you are doing online and restrict certain IP addresses so you won’t have access.
Websites themselves use various ways to track their users. Most corporate websites, including Google and Facebook, are known to track their users for ad purposes or even sell the data to data brokers. Browser fingerprinting and cookies are common ways they achieve this, but your IP address is the primary source of tracking.
lastly, websites can restrict access to data according to the location of your IP address. It can be something as simple as the language in which the site is displayed, but it can also be the selection of videos for streaming or even the prices of goods.
The first proxies
As with the first iteration of the internet, proxy servers were primarily used to help establish connections between universities. Developed around the 90s, the first proxies aimed to improve the security and performance of connecting devices by storing some of the data.
Only later proxies were used for privacy and security purposes they are known today. Since the hardware wasn’t that advanced, it was hard to imagine that a personal computer or a phone could handle the rerouting of multiple connections.
That’s why the first proxies were run on dedicated servers in what today could be called a data center. Nowadays, proxies in such centers are created virtually by assigning thousands of IP addresses to one server. It means that only the root IP can be verified by IANA.
Common ISPs would not allow to host proxies, so a commercial internet connection is used, which makes the verification process different. Every website you visit with a datacenter proxy can easily recognize that it is a proxy.
This wasn’t a problem in the early days of the internet when tracking and censorship weren’t so widespread. But to remain anonymous nowadays, you must have a more legitimate IP address. A new possibility appeared when home devices became powerful enough to support acting as proxies.
How residential proxies were invented?
An ordinary smartphone today is more powerful than computers used for landing people on the moon. Couple this with great internet speed, and you can create a proxy server almost anywhere. Of course, proxies based in data centers are still faster, as they use even better equipment, but the main advantage lies elsewhere.
Residential proxies use IP addresses verified by an ISP. Each of the IPs is also linked to a physical device that must be working to provide the connection. In practice, this means that residential proxies go through the same IP assigning process that your home connection does.
The only difference is that it’s located on the other side of the globe and is set up to act as an intermediary for your connection. Usually, this is another person who has agreed to have his connection used as a proxy.
So, there is no way for websites or services to tell whether it’s a real person connecting or someone using the device as a proxy server. Not from the IP address alone, at least. But even then, a residential proxy can be coupled with something like an anti-detect browser.
Although most proxy providers pay people for using their connections, others aren’t so ethical and incorporate clauses in the terms and conditions of various services.
Final words: residential proxies as a game-changer
Residential proxies are nearly indetectable, and with the advance of modern technology, they aren’t that much slower than datacenter options. It’s a game changer for online privacy as anyone can disguise their home connection with anyone else’s home connection with little chance of detection.