The History of VPN

3 min

Like most internet products of the bygone era, the now-ubiquitous VPN also had humble beginnings. Online security and privacy technologies have evolved tremendously over the past two decades, with the latest VPN apps offering networks that cover almost the entire globe.

Today, VPNs are faster, more resilient, and have features like multi-hopping and residential internet protocols. Thanks to this evolution. We at tuxlerVPN are continuously striving to improve our residential IP network but we have to thank this evolution for letting us develop over VPN’s foundation.

But how did it all start? How was the first VPN born? In what year? What was VPN’s journey over the years?

Let’s find out in this quick history lesson on virtual private networks.

History of VPNs

It is widely accepted that VPN technology was developed in 1996 by Microsoft. According to Forbes Advisor Australia, virtual private networks evolved as a result of the development of the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Gurdeep Singh-Pall is attributed as the Microsoft engineer who developed PPTP.

Since there is very little evidence that can help us track PPTP’s origins, tuxlerVPN is not able to verify this claim. Also, we think it’s not ideal to attribute the invention of VPN to a single entity or individual. As you can read below, VPN was born out of years of iterative technological advancement. One thing led to another and VPN as we know it today was born.

It’s worth noting that the birth of the ARPANET and TCP/IP in the 1960s by the US Department of Defense preceded PPTP’s development. Years before the assumed invention of VPN in 1996, research on IP layer encryption was conducted by several organizations. It could be said that standards like the Simple Internet Protocol Plus (SIPP) and Software IP Encryption Protocol (SwIPe) were precursors to the birth of VPN. By one estimate, the IPSec protocol was developed either before or around the same time as PPTP. However, PPTP is still regarded as the first – and therefore the oldest – VPN protocol.

PPTP was used to create a smaller network within the internet. The idea was to switch network packets by using IP addresses so that users could safeguard their privacy while communicating within the network, called intranet. It also allowed users to connect virtually, which was perhaps a precursor to the strong work-from-home paradigm shift we saw in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PPTP was the first VPN protocol. Naturally, it didn’t have strong encryption features. Hence, it was only used in a business setting by workers to access company files remotely. However, it led to the development of other protocols such as L2TP, and most recently OpenVPN and WireGuard. This is when VPNs trickled over from commercial applications to general users.

OpenVPN, the first-ever open-source VPN protocol was launched in 2001. It made a lot of today’s VPN features possible, including the ability to log in to a VPN network using a username and a password. WireGuard, launched in 2019, is the latest VPN protocol currently in wide use.

During these years, new encryption standards also were developed. These standards helped VPN software become stronger and their tunnels more resilient. With the advent of cyberattacks and as other harmful features of the internet began to show themselves more widely, VPNs became an option for the general user too.

However, it was the previous decade (2010-2019) that catapulted the need for VPNs among the masses. We have previously discussed how the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for a VPN in every internet-connected device and how the popularity of VPNs grew astronomically.

Since the 1990s, the humble VPN technology has undergone massive changes. The tuxlerVPN app and its browser plugins are great examples that show us how the basic app has changed over the decades. 

Today, you can install a VPN on your computer and smartphone and protect yourself permanently from snoopers and other cyberattacks. All thanks to the teams and individuals that invented technologies that together created the humble virtual private network.

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