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History Of VPN Technology – Looking Back 25+ Years

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Last Updated on August 15, 2021 by Admin

It’s not complete to discuss about VPNs without looking at the history of VPN technology. Let’s rewind to the days when the internet took off and look at events that led to the creation of the first VPN.

In case you missed the article I wrote on the uses of a VPN, you can find it here. This helps you get a broad appreciation of what a VPN can do and why you need it.

Now, let’s begin…

Invention of the internet

In 1989, the World Wide Web was invented by Berner-Lee and this was a revolutionary way to share information in universities and institutions.

About 4 years later, in 1993, the first web browser was made available to the public to make it easy for everyone to access the internet.

This browser was released as a royalty-free resource and the internet was fast evolving to become an information goldmine.

When Berner-Lee opened the doors to the internet for everyone, this greatly altered the way people accessed and shared information.

The expansion of the internet led to an increased demand for encryption tools to hide browsing history.

Initially, this was needed by companies, and then with more data breaches taking place, the general public also required protection.

The first VPNs

From 1992 to 1995, a series of researches into IP encryption were conducted.

The US Naval Research Laboratory started working on SIPP or Simple Internet Protocol Plus (IPv6) in 1992.

Come 1993, Columbia University and AT&T Labs made the first VPN protocol which was called swIPe or Software IP encryption protocol.

It was released as an experimental protocol to provide confidentiality, integrity and authentication of network traffic.

This protocol was tested on SunOS, a Unix-based operating system developed by Sun Microsystems.

The following year, 1994, Wei Xu at Trusted Information Systems (TIS) released IPsec or internet protocol security.

This was the first commercial VPN which connected the East coast to the West coast using the IPsec protocol.

1996 was a year when Gurdeep Sign-Pall developed PPTP or Peer-to-Peer Tunneling Protocol.

This allowed employees or company bosses to access files on company servers remotely and securely, while at home or on trips.

In those days, a VPN was configured to work with the company’s intranet but very soon this would change.

history of vpn technology

Why the demand for VPNs increased

As the internet quickly became accessible to more people, VPNs became widely used to address the following issues:

1. Internet censorship

Not all countries embrace the internet as it gives citizens access to vast amounts of new information, in addition to easy exchange of ideas online.

Some governments limit internet freedom by banning major websites completely and examples of countries that suppress internet access are:

  • China
  • Eritrea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Vietman
  • Iran
  • Belarus
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Equatorial Guinea

The best way to access the internet in these countries is by using a VPN.

2. Demand for privacy

In addition to limiting internet access, government agencies in some countries monitor internet activities of citizens.

Over the years, this has intensified especially with the prevalence of cyber-terrorism and political disturbances.

Constant surveillance makes it unsafe to participate in activities that are considered anti-government, a common situation encountered by journalists.

A VPN provides a layer of privacy by masking the IP address and encrypting internet traffic.

Your online activities are also hidden from your ISP and hackers but you need to use one of the recommended VPNs to have a guarantee of anonymity.

3. Streaming online content

With numbers of Netflix subscribers worldwide standing at 209 million in 2021, more people have access to video-on-demand streaming services.

However, content is not available in all countries and a VPN helps to unblock geoblocks.

You connect to a VPN server in a country where you want to watch a TV show.

4. Security

Cyberattacks are also on the rise which puts your data at risk of getting hacked if you don’t secure it.

A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic to provide you with an extra layer of security.

You find more reasons for using a VPN here.

Commercial VPNs

As more data breaches occurred commercial VPN companies started to emerge in the 2000s, with StrongVPN as one of the first VPN providers for consumers.

These commercial VPNs route your internet traffic through private, secure VPN servers instead of ISP servers.

Timeline of VPN protocols

VPN protocols have evolved to make VPNs more secure and they were created in the following sequence:

1993 – Software Internet Protocol Encryption Protocol (swIPe)

This is an experimental protocol that opened doors to further development of VPN services.

1994 – Internet Protocol Security (IPsec)

IPsec provides an encrypted connection over Internet Protocol networks and is defined by two protocols that protect IP packets – Authentication Header (AH) and Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP).

AH is responsible for data integrity and anti-replay services, while ESP encrypts data and authenticates data.

Protection of data can be over IPv4 or IPv6 networks and this VPN protocol is still in use today.

1996 – Point-to-Point Tinneling Protocol (PPTP)

PPTP is a common VPN protocol but it is now obsolete because of security issues.

It was created back in 1996 by Gurdeep Sign-Pall of Microsoft and is know for being a fast, lightweight protocol.

However, the encryption used by PPTP can easily be cracked by hackers and NSA.

All major operating systems are fully compatible with PPTP, hence most VPNs added it to their list of VPN protocols.

PPTP uses a 128-bit system which is not the best option nowadays and it is easily blocked by firewalls.

1999 – Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)

L2TP originates from PPTP and is used to transmit Layer 2 traffic over an IP network.

It doesn’t provide authentication and encryption directly, so it is paired with IPsec for use in a VPN.

Traffic is secured inside the L2TP tunnel and all major operating systems support L2TP/Ipsec.

2001 – OpenVPN

This is a free VPN protocol that is used to secure point-to-point connections.

With OpenVPN, user connections authenticate each other using pre-shared keys, certificates or usernames/passwords.

It uses up to 256-bit encryption, providing more security than other VPN protocols in use, at the expense of speed.

OpenVPN is compatible with major operating systems and that includes DD-WRT routers.

2005 – Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2)

This acts as a key management tool and works together with IPsec, the latter which provides security in a VPN tunnel.

A combination of IKEv2/IPsec provides a powerful encryption which protects your data far better than each protocol on its own.

VPN providers like NordVPN use IKEv2/IPsec as a default protocol in MacOS and iOS apps.

This protocol provides high speed, stability and auto-reconnection when a VPN is active.

Encryption is also strong with support for major operating systems.

2007 – Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)

SSTP is better than L2TP/IPsec and PPTP, with good speeds if there is adequate bandwidth.

It is common in Windows users and was introduced first in Windows Vista.

This protocol transmits Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) through SSL/TLS channel and uses TCP Port 443, the same port used by HTTPS.

Security has a high level of security like OpenVPN but there are issues you should be aware of.

These issues include susceptibility to a TCP meltdown and the fact that NSA has cracked it, thanks to Microsoft.

2017 – WireGuard

The creation of WireGuard was initiated by Jason Donenfeld in 2017 and the first version was released in March 2020.

This VPN is set to overtake OpenVPN and become the best VPN protocol.

It was initially created for Linux operating system but all major operating systems now support it.

Benefits of WireGuard are:

  • Fast speeds
  • More secure
  • Smaller code

Although the first version was released, some VPNs are yet to add WireGuard to the list of VPN protocols they support.

However, VPN providers like NordVPN and CyberGhost have already incorporated this VPN protocol in their apps.

Future of VPN services

The VPN industry, which was valued at $25 billion in 2019, is projected to reach $75 billion by 2027.

More VPN providers are mushrooming and antivirus companies e.g. Avira or Norton 360 have added VPNs to their products.

As technology continues to evolve, VPN providers are adding more privacy and security features to stay ahead of the increasing consumer demands.

In addition, VPNs are becoming lighter and mobile-friendly so that you get online protection without compromising connection speed.

Some VPN providers have incorporated cloud-based solutions to provide ultimate secure use of the internet for businesses and individuals.

Protocol obfuscation is another feature that top VPNs, like NordVPN, are using to avoid detection as some sites block VPN traffic.

While some governments openly impose bans of the internet, a lot of them monitor internet activities of citizens.

Your personal data is valuable to advertisers, hackers and other interested parties. Internet users are now more aware of the need to safeguard their data online.

Recommended top VPNs


A VPN is effective in protecting your internet activities but you need to know that not all VPNs are safe.

Free VPNs have flooded the market and I don’t recommend any of them at all if you want to protect your privacy.

Top VPNs are reliable, with excellent connection speeds so that your internet experience is not affected when a VPN is active.

Are you using a VPN when working with private data online? Leave comments below and share this article with your friends on social media.

Tech writer and VPN expert. DIY enthusiast and loves anything to do with space science.

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