TunnelBear launches VPN extension for Chrome
TunnelBear Beta is a new extension for the Google Chrome web browser that enables TunnelBear's VPN service in the browser.
The main difference between browser-based VPN extensions and VPN services that you set up or install on a computer is the environment limitation.
Since you install the extension only in one browser, it is only working in that browser and not in other programs running on the system.
While that is a limitation, one benefit of this approach is simpler setup and installation.
TunnnelBear Beta adds an icon to Chrome's main toolbar that displays a configuration menu on activation.
You use it to enable and disable the VPN connection, switch server locations and manage your account.
The installation works without issues but when you try to connect to the VPN you will notice that this does not work. The reason for this is that you need to create an account first on the TunnelBear website before you can start to use the extension. The signup page should open automatically right after you click on the extension's icon in the Chrome toolbar. Existing TunnelBear users can sign in using their account instead.
The free version limits bandwidth to 250 Megabyte per month which is not a lot even if you avoid loading large sites or media pages. If you confirm your email address, you get 500 Megabyte of additional data.
Accounts can be upgraded for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year to get unlimited data transfers on up to five computers or mobile devices.
The extension works well and the switching between servers is fluent and without issues. A test on Speedtest.net revealed excellent connection speeds that were a bit lower than the maximum of my Internet connection:
- Ping: 104ms
- Download Speed: 44.75 Mbps (on a 50Mbit line)
- Upload Speed: 8.93 Mbps (on a 10Mbit upload line)
The developers have mapped the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-u to toggle the connection state of the VPN.
The main applications for a browser-based VPN
If you have never used a VPN before you are probably wondering why you should consider it. There are a couple of benefits that VPN connections provide:
- Since your connection is encrypted, you eliminate certain forms of snooping, for instance in wireless or public networks.
- Privacy is improved, as your own IP address is not visible to most sites and services.
- Since you can select servers in different countries, you may be able to bypass geo-restrictions or access blocked websites because of this.
TunnelBear Beta is an easy to use extension for Chrome. While it requires you to create an account first before you can use it, it is simple enough to do so as it is not required currently to verify the email address or other data.
The VPN is fast and works well, but the bandwidth limit of 250 Megabyte (or 750 if you verify the email) is only sufficient for light web browsing.