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The Top 7
The bad news is that web proxies come and go all of the time. Many proxy services that were very popular just a year ago are no longer in existence. So, these Top 7 Proxies represent the best around today. You might need to find new ones next year. (Don't worry, I got you covered for that too.)
- Anonymous.org - this represents the best free proxy service going right now. Started, mainly to get around web censorship in China, it works great for everyday use. You'll get an ad in the middle of your page, but it takes up less real estate than a lot of other free proxies use.
- Anonymizer.com - As far as I know, they started it all way back in the day. Anonymizer used to offer a free service but doesn't any more. It costs $29.99 for a 1 year subscription. In exchange you get fast customizable anonymous proxy service. If you care about speed and constant connectivity with no ads, this is your service. If you care about free, look somewhere else.
- Guardster.com - Guardster splits the difference between the the top two services by offering both a free service and a pay service. The pay service costs $19.99, removes ads and includes higher speed and more features. The free service puts a banner on the top of every page you visit, so you'll get a smaller web browser out of the deal.
- Fastfreeproxy.net - The top three are all pretty likely to be here next year. This one marks the first that might not. Fast Free Proxy works just like it says. It is both fast and free! Of course, free means that they have to make money some other way besides charging you. There are standard Google ads on the main page where you enter your address. Plus, there is a banner across the top of each webpage. The good news is that the banner is smaller than a lot of others, so you still get a pretty decent browsing experience.
- UsualProxy.com - Another maybe here maybe not service. Usual Proxy puts a pretty beefy banner across the top of each page, plus a Google ad box in the corner which makes it one of the most obtrusive proxies on the list. However, the large banner at the top comes with a selection of check boxes that allows you to quickly and easily customize your experience. So, if you want to turn Java on or off, just click the box. You don't have to go back to the main page to change any settings. Overall, this is not the service for long browsing sessions, but if you just have a couple of sites to visit and you aren't sure if you'll need some settings tweaked while you are there, this can be your winner. I use this when my needs take me to sites I'm not real sure about, like most anything in the .ru domains.
- Vidalia - The best of the best, sort of. I wouldn't even be writing this list if Vidalia were faster and easier to use. Vidalia is a bundle of Tor and Privoxy which allow you to use the anonymous "onion" network. (Vidalia is a kind of onion if you are missing out on the joke.) Unlike the other proxies in this list which simply relay your traffic through their address, Vidalia strings together several machines and passes your traffic through them all. This makes it even harder to trace back your traffic. No it isn't invincible, but it works for most uses. The catch is that you have to download and install software to make it work. Then, you have to configure that software to run properly and then you have to configure your web browser to use it correctly. All in all, this is not the solution for the non-techie. If you handle things like port-forwarding, subnet masks, and default gateways in your sleep, check this out. Otherwise, go for one of the simpler ones.
- Hotspot Shield - Technically this is not a proxy, but it ends up working like one. You have to download and install their software to make it work. Once installed, it sets up a VPN to the Hotspot Shield servers which means that not only is your IP address hidden, but your traffic to and from the proxy server is encrypted. This makes Hotspot Shield the best choice for the user sitting in a coffee shop and looking for a little privacy.
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What About Next Year
Since proxies come and go (and change their features and amount of ads), it is a good idea to have a reference for finding new proxy servers. The site www.proxies.us provides an up to date list without too many ads (just the basic Google ads) and without too much flashing content and boasts about how great they are (try one of the other lists to see why this is a plus). If you don't like the results you get from the list above, try another proxy server on their list.