AnchorFree is a software company that provides a virtual private network (VPN) for secure web browsing. The company is led by David Gorodyansky, who founded the firm in 2005. The company has headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Concept and Strategy
The company works with a “freemium” model, providing free software with advertisements, and a paid version without ads. The software is available for desktops, smart phones and tablet computers using Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Android and iOS operating systems. The software has been downloaded 120 million times and has 20 million active monthly users in 190 countries.
Hotspot Shield has been used in countries where the Internet is censored because the software allows users to gain access to websites privately and thus remain uncensored. AnchorFree has data centers in the United States, Japan, Germany and Switzerland, locations which are not subject to Internet censorship. The firm reported an increase in its Egyptian user base from 100,000 users to one million during the Arab Spring. During this time, the program was used to access social media websites like Twitter to organize protests. The firm's website is now blocked from some Middle Eastern countries, China and Thailand; the company set up an auto-reply email with a VPN software attachment to circumvent the censorship and provide clients with the application. It was also used in Tunisia and Libya before the Arab Spring.
Hotspot Shield program
A March 2012 review on CNET's web site complained about visual clutter. Seth Rosenblatt credited the program with improvements in its design and installation but urged the company to serve its ads in a less annoying way. Rosenblatt still described it as a must-have utility for anybody who uses public Wi-Fi networks.
In an April 2012 review, PC Magazine stated, "It's a useful tool to have if you spend a lot of time on public Wi-Fi networks". The reviewer, Fahmida Rashid, had concerns about the program automatically inserting an ad for the Hotspot Shield service into whatever web page the user was visiting. She also noted that the free version of Hotspot Shield was receiving a tracking pixel and that the address of the site the ad was being displayed on was being sent back to rpt.anchorfree.com. She commented on the ads: "The free version of Hotspot Shield's ad-delivery mechanism and how it affects Web browsers tempered my enthusiasm for the service a bit... The ads make the experience just annoying enough that users are willing to upgrade to Elite." She did see the logic of using ads to make the paid version more appealing. PC Magazine marked the program as an Editor's Choice.
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