VPNGate is a free P2P VPN service set up by Tsukuba University in Japan to help people bypass their government ISP Internet censorship firewall, the service relies on worldwide volunteers to provide their own computer or server resources acting as VPN gateway to the Internet, SoftEhter is a VPN client whose development is subsidized by the Japanese Government Ministry of Economy, to be released as open source.
VPNGate can be set up with your favourite VPN/L2TP/SSTP client or in conjunction with SoftEther, an alternative OpenVPN software developed by the same Japanese university that works with Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD and Solaris. I played for a couple of hours with SoftEther and attempted to set up a manual VPN tunnel using one the VPN hostnames supplied on VPNGate website and I did not succeed, I found SoftEther to be a very complicated VPN client for the average user, advanced settings come with an explanation of what everything is for but you need a technological background to understand what it means and lots of time. My view is that SoftEther VPN client is not something you can send to non computer knowledgeable people, there is an “Easy” mode that allows you to connect to a VPN server with a single click, but you can’t use it unless you have set up a VPN tunnel first which requires the advanced mode. I only managed to use VPNGate after downloading SoftEther bundled with the VPNGate plugin which automatically downloads a list of available public VPN relay servers and allows you to connect to one of them with a simple mouse selection.
During SotEther VPN installation you can choose to only install management tools or the whole package, once you set up a VPN tunnel you can export it with a .vpn extension and import it later on, if the server you are connecting to is reliable it is a good idea to do that, keep in mind that the tunnels are run by volunteers and there are no guarantees of uptime or speed, depending on what country you choose the VPN itself can have filters, I spotted an Italian VPN server run by a College announcing that they run Untangled Internet content filtering, I also connected to an Iranian VPN gateway that was blocking access to all Israeli websites, gambling and adult entertainment content, this was obviously done by Iranian ISP and not the user.
VPNGate can be a magnificent tool to check if your website is accessible abroad, another advantage of a P2P VPN is that you get a real ISP computer IP, with a traditional VPN service the IP is announced as non conventional listing the IP organisation owner in a data centre instead of an Internet Service Provider, I have used VPN services for years and only in VPNGate I was able to get an Sbcglobal IP, many credit card fraud systems flag any purchase attempt done through VPN server, I see potential for credit card fraud with VPNGate, the service logs all activities but there is nothing stopping people from using a double VPN or tor proxy with VPNGate and make themselves untraceable.
VPNGate has not been designed to hide your computer IP, this is not an anonymity service, the idea is to bypass Internet censorship like the great firewall of China or the Iranian Internet filter, activities are logged and SoftEther corporation warns that it will help the police if necessary with the warning that people has been arrested in the past for using their services to commit a crime. The service has public access logs viewable on their website, showing VPN sessions with partial IP numbers the country they belong to and the chosen VPN server, gateways are allocated a quality score based on reliability and speed, according to the logs at the moment most of the exit nodes appear to be located in Japan and most users based in China, using a Japanese VPN from Europe will cause Internet lagging, it is not a good idea, theoretically there is no reason why an European surfer would need to connect to VPNGate since they are not the target public this project is aimed at.
I loved being able to connect to far away locations to check if my website was being blocked and what advertisements Google was displaying based on location, something I noticed is that Iranian visitors are not shown any advertising from Google Adsense, it could have to do with international sanctions and Google being a US company. VPNGate has vowed to always remain free, Tsubuka University rules prohibit any monetary profit from their activities, unless legal or technical difficulties arise they intend to keep the VPNGate academic research project alive for in between three to eight years.