The Evolution of VPN

2 min

In some form or the other, VPN has been around since 1996 when PPTP was likely first invented. As we can see, it took a long time for virtual private networks to become mainstream software, which makes tracking its evolution even more interesting. We can even say that it’s because of how VPNs evolved over the last 20 years that they have become an integral part of our online lives.

A notable quality of VPN’s evolution is how it looks lopsided to a specific time in history. The years between 1992 and 2001 seem to be the highlight of VPN’s advancement.

Evolution of VPNs

To understand how VPN technology has evolved over the years, here’s a chronological list of major events that have shaped VPN as we know it. 

  • 1969 – Birth of the first packet-switched network, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) that used TCP/IP.
  • 1992 – Public-wide implementation of Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), an open-source secure network protocol suite. 
  • 1993 – Invention of Software IP Encryption Protocol (SwIPe), an IP security protocol that first offered a way to encrypt data packets in packet-switched networks.
  • 1994 – Invention of Simple Internet Protocol Plus (SIPP), considered a precursor to VPN technology of today.
  • 1996 – Invention of Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) at Microsoft. It allowed VPN connections over the internet for the first time. It was incorporated into Microsoft’s operating systems in 2007.
  • 1998 – Development of Internet Key Exchange version 1 (IKEv1), which helped enable secure connections.
  • 1999 – Birth of Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), a tunneling protocol based on Microsoft’s PPTP and Cisco’s Layer 2 Forwarding Protocol (L2FP). Since it didn’t offer encryption, it was often used in conjunction with IPSec to offer encrypted connections.
  • 2001 – James Yonan invents OpenVPN, another open-source protocol specifically created for virtual private networks. Its biggest advantage over other VPN protocols of the time was the ability to authenticate users with passwords or shared keys. Today, OpenVPN is one of the most widely used and secure protocols.
  • 2005 – Development of IKEv2, which enhanced the security of IPSec.
  • 2015 – Invention of WireGuard, a stronger and faster VPN protocol based on User Datagram Protocol (UDP). In 2020, WireGuard was incorporated into the Linux and Android kernels.

As you can observe, there is a long gap between the inventions of OpenVPN and WireGuard. You could even say that since 2015, there has been no major advancement in the field of VPN technology. Interestingly, independent VPN companies such as tuxlerVPN are innovating in the field and bringing out fresh features. The rise of residential IPs is a good example. Naturally, the popularity of VPNs continues to grow.

What other technologies do you think aided the evolution of VPNs?

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