Embarrassingly slow progress towards a free and privacy-protected internet, means rising demand for VPN services across the world is a sure bet. Widespread scepticism that major internet services and social networks provide full protection for personal information (see here for an example), combined with increasing governmental interference over which websites citizens should (or not) have access to, is fueling the quest for by-ways to secure and free connections.
There are a vast array of VPN services for users to choose from, yet still the market is expected to grow into a multi-billion dollar heavy-weight. One can expect daily additions to the race, each offering new solutions and features. With a continual barrage of new offerings, how to differentiate between them and which will actually gain some traction, are the real questions. According to Simon Specka, the co-founder and managing director of Berlin-based ZenMate, the answer is to offer clients a user-friendly VPN service that will never slow down or bug the browsing experience.
This was the inspiration for ZenMate founders, Specka and Markus Hänel, kicking off the business initially with their one-click Chrome plugin idea, which had won a place among the first cycle of Axel Springer Plug&Play Accelerator program.
Though still in its launch period and free of charge to use, the Berlin-based company already has an impressive 1.1 million users in 177 countries. And this happened only in 6 months. Specka told Webrazzi that the active users of the service have already surpassed 650,000 (creating a data flow of 524,000 GB) by mid-February and the number is rising exponentially.
This can be credited to some pretty outstanding programming work by a team of 15, allowing users to browse whilst being blissfully unaware of it working behind the screen. But it (and many other well-functioning VPNs) undoubtedly owes a significant amount of the popularity to increasing concerns over online censorship and privacy. It’s no coincidence that those markets with the highest growth in user base today, in comparison to last December’s figures, are the US in the West (with 35%) and Pakistan in the East (180%).
In Turkey, whose present government is notorious for arbitrarily interfering with citizens’ internet use and just passed a draconian law to further restrict internet access, ZenMate saw a jump in its user base of 150%. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are now the top markets for ZenMate in the Middle East, with 40,000 and 12,000 active users respectively, according to the figures Specka shared with Webrazzi.
“We don’t think our growth in Turkey is accidental” said Simon Specka, foreseeing even further rises in Turkish user base should the newly passed law be approved by the President, coming into effect shortly after.
The team is well aware of the chances and working hard on additional features before the official roll out. Simon says offering mobile solutions for Android and iOS too is a very high-priority item in their roadmap and will (hopefully) be launching both by the end of Q1 this year. Mid-term targets include adding an instant messaging feature to the extension under a different product name. “We are now working on bringing all the features to the entirety of online communication. We want to evolve ZenMate to a vital solution for the everyday usage of the internet” declared Specka.
Although some websites, like Google Maps, have difficulty passing through ZenMate, it is generally a bug-free extension with additional encryption ensuring increased reliability for users. This is the key to ZenMate’s competitive edge of their copious rivals. Simon added, “We have around 80 of the fastest servers in five locations all over the world and over a half pitabyte of data per month! We are growing very fast and add more servers regularly. We have established ourselves as one of the fastest and most reliable (“VPN-like”) providers on the market”. ZenMate plugin in Chrome store is currently among the top-scorers.
Expecting a new investment in immediate future, ZenMate has been firmly establishing itself as a European-based solution for free and secure internet connection. Hopefully it will be one with affordable prices after its official launch, at least for the sake of geographies that need it most.