In terms of how many companies are currently selling them, the marketed concept behind the increased use of virtual private networks (VPNs) as services is anonymity. Since what users really want is privacy, they sign up for these services and try to exploit their features for everything they’re worth.
The ability to do whatever they want without being identified as the one doing these things online is what people really desire. They want to hide their minute-to-minute browser activity and browser history. They need privacy and the ability to evade onlookers. The problem with this, though, is that true anonymity is not feasible on the Internet even with a VPN.
There’s No Such Thing As Anonymity on the Web
On the Internet, the very notion of true anonymity is very much a fleeting concept, and the reason for this is that sites log your IP address when you visit them due to every online entity that you interact with needing a means to discern one user from another. Granted, you are theoretically not detectable by these means when using VPNs because their purpose is to obfuscate your IP address; nevertheless, there are completely new but admittedly smaller problems that are presented by the way they operate. These sites have to be able to distinguish between users one way or another, and indeed, VPNs put in a false IP address instead of your own when they interface between the server of the site you visit and your computer during the process of verifying authentication.
The main problem is that you still have to basically give the VPN service providers your IP address in order for you to use the VPN. These providers have a way to figure out which user you are even if the VPN were to obscure your IP address to the providers themselves in some way. What this means is that you end up sacrificing all your efforts for real anonymity in the first place when you supply the VPN with your IP address. You can see the evidence of this in the fact that, as we all know all too well, a paid VPN service is always going to bill you for having used their service. Clearly, they have to have a way of knowing which user has which IP address and has not paid for service in order to do this efficiently. The point of all this is that real anonymity is not an attainable concept on the Internet.
At Least You Still Have SOME Privacy
The issue with anonymity is its absolution. Anonymity is the state of being unidentified or perceivably unidentifiable. On the other hand, privacy is not a state of being; moreover, it is not absolute. Privacy is, in a manner of speaking, something that you can possess. To the extent that you can limit how many people who know where you are, know what you’re doing, or know who you are, you can technically have a degree of privacy. This is a legitimate kind of limitation that, as a result, presents itself as a much more attainable objective than sheer anonymity.
Even though a VPN does not actually give you the anonymity their service providers usually promise you, they do deliver on a silver lining, which is a certain measure of privacy. Privacy’s got no absolution, of course, since they still know which user you are, but if your goal is just to keep certain sites from seeing what you’re really doing and who you really are, you genuinely do benefit from that service. As far as many of the sites you usually visit during your browsing go, you’re basically untraceable, which means that a lot of users still find significant value in VPNs.