Hola: unlimited free VPN and faster internet – on PC and Android

Hola is open VPN that gives access to restricted content, such as geo-restricted content or that blocked by governments, companies or ISPs. But it also bundles some very interesting innovations with it: namely, a scripting language open for use by the community, and the ambitious goal of making your internet 10 times faster. It purports to do this through a combination of technologies, most notably a peer-to-peer network that can accelerate your internet as more and more people use it by using idle resources on remote computers to compress data.

But the fact that it not only provides AD FREE unlimited free VPN, but does it everywhere (in your desktop, browser, AND Android) makes this a winner.

While previously VPN was a program you installed on your PC (think Tunnelbear or HotSpotShield), Hola comes in many guises: a desktop app, browser extensions, as well as an Android app (although  the latter is somewhat less straightforward to operate than the others). Here’s a little information on each.

Hola browser extension: unblocks in real time

Hola Browser Screenshot

Hola in the browser is designed as a very easy an immediate way to unblock geo-restricted sites such as Hulu or BBC iPlayer in countries where they are not supported, automatically and inside the browser. It is similar to previously mentioned Media Hint (although I am only guessing that both work more or less in the same way). It will not accelerate your internet and is generally low involvement; you can easily activate and deactivate it’s unblocking action.

Hola desktop app: unblocks content AND accelerates your internet

Hola Desktop

The desktop version  will provide a more holistic VPN that can be used with desktop apps (such as Spotify for example), but it is also designed to monitor your PC and, if idle, will utilize its unused resources to compress data for other users of the service, and contribute towards giving them a faster internet. Be aware that while it will NOT be active when you are actually using your machine, it will use up some internet bandwidth when you are not, so consider this if you pay your ISP for bandwidth quotas or don’t have unlimited bandwidth

Note that there are a combination of ways that Hola uses to accelerate your internet, including caching, identifying multiple sources for videos and other methods. But the real innovation here seems to be the crowdsourcing of internet access and compression, such that the more people use the service the  more effective it would be.

Hola Android: unblocks content AND accelerates your internet

The Android app DOES NOT require rooting for Android 4.0 and above, and is designed to allow blocked web content and accelerate your internet.

It can also give access to apps blocked in your geographic region; however, you will have to (a) use ‘always use VPN mode’ (from the settings), and (b) search and install your desired apps via the browser, rather than Google Play (see the screenshots below, which illustrate this process).

Hola Android App 1Hola Android App 2Hola Android App 3

Otherwise if you must have Google Play access to geo-restricted apps, use Tunnelbear (instructions here).

Scripting:

For advanced users, Hola allows scripting, which is to say the ability to configure the VPN to re-route requests to certain, user defined URLs through Hola proxies (and then to share them with others). In other words, if there is a certain website that is inaccessible an advanced user can figure out a ‘solution’ for it and share it with other Hola users. More on scripting Hola here.

The verdict:

Freewaregenius 5-Star PickHola has four-fold appeal: unlimited VPN, Ad-free, scriptable, and available on desktop, browser and mobile. And for this it gets our highest accolade.

Update on USAGE: we recommend using Hola for access to content, but not for secure transactions. It may be similar to a public proxy in the way it works, so if it is security you are looking for, look elsewhere (see Kevin’s comment below for more on this).

Aside from VPN, the other functionality, that of speeding up the internet, is more difficult to come to grips with in terms of it’s effectiveness in actually speeding up the internet and in terms of the cost to your device in resources and bandwidth (if that is a concern). Still, the fact that you can decide to opt out of the speedup function (and opt out of sharing your resources) is good, although you may be opting out of the most exciting/innovative part of this technology.

Let us know what you think about Hola in the comments section below.

Click here to get started with Hola (Windows, Mac, Chrome, Firefox, Android). Google play link here (Android).


 
 
 
GeoGuesser: may be the best Google maps based game so far
How to Stream Videos From Your Home PC to your Android: an Odyssey
May 22, 2013
Samer Kurdi
13
flattr this!
  • rpsgc

    “Click here to get started with Hola (Windows, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Android). Google play link here (Android).”

    It doesn’t support Opera (at least there is no Opera download)

    • SamerKurdi

      Oops. Fixed it, thanks!

  • Joshua

    Interesting, I’ve had the Hola chrome extension installed for a while (read about this on Lifehacker a while back), but I never knew anything about the desktop app. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

  • Kevin

    As I understand it, while Hola is running, your computer becomes an open caching proxy in the p2p Hola network, so it’s more of a virtual public network rather than a virtual private network.

    Security-wise, it sounds on par with a public proxy plus potentially notifying all nodes what you are downloading (probably using a DHT or tracker). Some page elements are probably downloaded directly, as well, so don’t depend on its anonymity.

    You also shouldn’t send any logins or passwords over its VPN. A wide variety of exploits may also be technically possible, particularly since the hscripts can roughly control how requests are redirected.

    It’s a neat idea and it sounds fine if you are just avoiding GeoIP checks and there’s no real need for much anonymity or security, but I’d be wary of using it in general while browsing.

    • SamerKurdi

      Thanks for this contribution Kevin. Very useful (and did not occur to me). I update the ‘verdict’ section above accordingly.

      • Kevin

        I’m happy you found my conjecture useful, Samer. Thanks for your useful reviews here!

  • Haris Altaf

    Great information you share about Free VPN For Android i also found the list of free android vpn provider i got this list from bestvpnservice.com

  • Peter Wills

    Anyone experienced any speed benefits when streaming from Hulu and the like?

  • Cloggyjohn

    A pity this doesn’t work with the BBC iPlayer ( I’m in The Netherlands ) otherwise I’d just be one step away from completely switching to Linux.

  • szsjq

    You can also use the free PPTP or OpenVPN service from VPNBook.com

    As PPTP client is included in most operating systems and OpenVPN is an open source project, no propriety software is needed.

    • Gamer

      @ szsjp can you assist in securing a VPNBook account

  • ???? ?????

    I recommend shadeyou.com fast, free service without advertizing and works both at the PC and at Android

  • jamesiswizard_1

    thanks bro by jamesiswizard_1