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Web-based Anonymizer Discontinued 159

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the end-of-the-road dept.
RobertB-DC writes "With no fanfare, and apparently no outcry from the privacy community, Anonymizer Inc. discontinued its web-based Private Surfing service effective June 20, 2007. No reason was given, either on the Anonymizer web site or on founder Lance Cottrell's privacy blog. Private Surfing customers are now required to download a anonymizing client that handles all TCP traffic, but the program is Windows-only (with Vista support still a work-in-progress). And of course it's closed-source, which means it has few advantages over several other alternatives."
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Web-based Anonymizer Discontinued

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  • Well.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by NickCatal (865805)
    All they needed to do was connect to Internet2 and replace the ads on MySpace with their own and they would have been set...
  • by teutonic_leech (596265) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:32PM (#19921593)
    ... to say that this really sucks. I used Anonymizer all the time....
    • by Shawn is an Asshole (845769) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:42PM (#19921707)
      Well, Peacefire [peacefire.org] should meet your web based anonymizing needs. If you need more, that's what Tor [eff.org] and JAP [tu-dresden.de] are for.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:49PM (#19921761)

      ... to say that this really sucks. I used Anonymizer all the time....
      Oops! I meant to post as AC. Ignore that previous post. It wasn't me. Really.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fourtyfive (862341)
      [blatant advertising]
      sureproxy.com!
      [/blatant advertising]
    • by bahamat (187909) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:22AM (#19925901) Homepage
      I'm the senior systems administrator for Anonymizer.

      The reason Private Surfing was discontinued is because it was designed almost 10 years ago using Apache modules coded in C and some horrible Lex. All of our flagship products since then (Privacy Manager, Anonymizer 2004/2005, Total Privacy Suite and Anonymous Surfing) have been evolutions of that code base. Today our Anonymous Surfing server looks nothing like the old Private Surfing. PS was badly showing its age, and the reality of the situation was that it was becoming increasingly difficult to compile current versions of Apache with that old code. Every Apache security update provided more headaches for us. It didn't really work with any of the newer Web 2.0 AJAX stuff either. Javascript is extremely difficult to anonymize in a web based client and still continue to work. Gmail and Google Maps, just to name two, were completely unusable. This is also the case with any other web based proxy that I have ever seen.

      Also, PS had very few subscribers, and an extremely low conversion rate for the free PS to any other product, even though free PS was very overloaded, slow, had rate limits, request count limits, blocking of many major websites (including Slashdot) and our pay services are very cheap. Total Net Shield is less than $9/month, and Anonymous Surfing is $2.50/month (seriously, how much of a tightwad do you have to be to put up with using the free version of PS every day and not pay for AS?). After all, Anonymizer is a business, and from the business side of the company it wasn't cost effective to continue maintaining PS any longer. We didn't kill it, so much as it died a slow lingering death of natural causes.

      Contrary to popular belief, our products are not Windows only. Unfortunately, the Anonymous Surfing and Total Net Shield clients we produce are Windows based. However, Total Net Shield uses pure and simple SSH tunneling. That means any SSH compliant client (including the handy dandy (and bundled with your favorite Linux distribution, Mac OS X, Solaris and *BSD), and open source, OpenSSH) can be used with TNS. That also means that for people experienced with setting up SSH tunnels you can configure it to use any TCP port, or OpenSSH's built in SOCKS proxy. Nyms (disposable e-mail addresses) is fully web based. All of our enterprise level products (check our website if you're curious what this is) are platform independent and require no software installation.

      We also have some benefits over TOR. Because we combine multi-layer proxies with multi-layer NAT our users can't be tracked by clock skews, there's no exit node snooping vulnerability (yes, technically we can see everything but all of our products are either not logged or logs are purged after 2 days), and we have a lot better speed/reliability than TOR.

      One last thing, is that we the Anonymizer administrators are a part of this community. We work for Anonymizer because we're concerned about privacy, free speech, etc. We see and hear what's going on. Most of us read sites like slashdot, digg and del.icio.us every day. We don't always comment and sometimes we can't. But we're anonymously standing here right next to you.
  • LOL (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Shut down, closed source and windows only. It's a trifecta!
  • no loss (Score:3, Insightful)

    by batray (257663) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:33PM (#19921605)
    I have blocked anoymizer access to my BBS for several years. It was only used by abusive posters to block their identity.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have blocked anoymizer access to my BBS for several years. It was only used by abusive posters to block their identity.
      Shut up or I'll punch you in the mouth!
    • Re:no loss (Score:5, Funny)

      by riceboy50 (631755) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:17PM (#19921975)
      In other words it enabled freedom of speech? *ducks*
      • Re:no loss (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bcat24 (914105) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:48PM (#19922153) Homepage Journal
        Freedom of speech only goes so far. You can say whatever you want on your own server, but I have no obligation to allow you to say it on *my* server.
        • Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the justification behind the zoning of free speech?
        • There are court decisions that might disagree: if you open your private property to enough of the public, then it is treated like a public forum. I doubt any court would see the argument like that right now, but give the courts 50 years to get a bunch of netizens benched, and we'll probably see developments like that.

          But only if your server is analogous to an old world bazaar or a mall. When a case comes down to private property rights v. free speech rights, free speech can win occasionally. There's a case
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by operagost (62405)
        "Freedom of speech" doesn't mean you get to be anonymous. It never has.
        • Re:no loss (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:59PM (#19923025)

          "Freedom of speech" doesn't mean you get to be anonymous. It never has.
          You need to completely eviscerate that false belief from your world view.

          Held:
          Section 3599.09(A)'s prohibition of the distribution of anonymous campaign literature abridges the freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment.

          --Mcintyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1975) [findlaw.com]
          • Interesting case. And surely it's true that "speech" from the very start was meant to include anonymous pamphleteers. For the analogy to apply to this case, though, you'd need to discover a Supreme Court opinion holding, for example, that anyone who owns a printing press must allow anonymous pamphleteers to use it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by soapthgr8 (949548)

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
        The first amendment only prohibits Congress from abridging free speech, not an individual server administrator.
    • I have blocked anoymizer access to my BBS for several years. It was only used by abusive posters to block their identity.

      I agree, Unipeak was used to post a threatening comment on my webpage about litigation [cgstock.com] I'm involved in, apparently by the other party in the lawsuit:

      date:2006-07-01
      ip:207.234.209.125 Unipeak, anonymous proxy used by Andrew Vilenchik
      name:Anonymous
      comment:Chris, be aware I\'ve heard Andrew has relations with Russian mafia. I would be very careful.
      Winning the case may not mean $$ for you

  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:34PM (#19921611)
    With the other posts here about the FBI spyware, the possibility of government back doors in the various AV products, etc, maybe they decided to fold and close the doors instead of open mandated holes? Pure guessing but if the NSA/FBI/whoever went to them and said open this up for us, aplace like Anonymizer, founded on privacy, might not be able to be as morally flexible as the AV vendors who are looking for "viruses" and "spyware".
    • Logic? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by msimm (580077)
      Fold and close the door? The summary says they are requiring the use of a client. From the sound of it, a proxy that funnels your traffic. Frankly I don't see how this would protect their customers. What it does do is exclude non-Windows users (their previous version provided a web-based service that only required a browser with SSL support).

      If the NSA/FBI/etc wants to broker/enforce a court order/etc this does nothing to slow that down.
  • I for one (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I for one welcome our new windows-only Anonymizer overlords.
  • by delirium of disorder (701392) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:56PM (#19921817) Homepage Journal
    Anyone relying on a one hop proxy to be anonymous is fooling themselves. You need an anonymity network that doesn't rely on trusting any host and that cannot be blocked without finding out who every host is. What if everyone who used anonymity services also provided such service? Think of how much better the whole system would work if it were p2p! Please install your tor server [eff.org] today.
    • If a private individual runs an anonymizing service, is he protected as a "common carrier", on the off chance that someone figures out that illegal traffic was aided and abetted by such service?

      IANAL, I'm just asking...

      • by gfilion (80497)

        If a private individual runs an anonymizing service, is he protected as a "common carrier", on the off chance that someone figures out that illegal traffic was aided and abetted by such service?

        If I'm not mistaken, when using Tor the content is encrypted in a way that a relay has no idea of content it is transmitting. In the unlikely situation that someone could prove that the illegal content passed through its relay, the admin could just say that it had not idea of what the content was (which is true).

        There are usually 4 relays in a chain, the last is the one that makes the connection to the public server using an plain text connection (in the case of HTTP traffic, tor supports about every TC

    • by mlts (1038732)
      One hop proxies are good enough for browsing, when I'm on a questionable wireless link. However, I dislike the fact that Anonymizer requires special software to use. There are a couple of other proxy services which allow for stunnel, VPN, ppp over ssh, or other protocols.

      Special software that is closed source is just too fishy for me.
    • by Threni (635302)
      > Please install your tor server today.

      If I'm running a TOR server and you connect to a dodgy site through me, don't I get the blame? Am I just relying on the intelligence of the judge/jury to get me off because I'm not responsible for what other TOR users are doing?
  • One potential advantage is that I can't get TOR to work with the ISA proxy where I work. Proper configuration is scanty, and help resources have been non-existant. Perhaps this will work more easily in such a setup.
  • by kd3bj (733314) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:10PM (#19921931) Homepage
    There are many different proxies available at JTAN [jtan.com].
  • I've been anonymized (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ToiletDuk (6366) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:29PM (#19922045)
    As someone who actually paid money for the full Anonymizer service, I'm quite disappointed with the web interface going away and I have missed it dearly. The anonproxy.exe POS that they use crashes pretty much daily for me, something the web proxy never did. I'm upset that I've paid money for a service that lost a significant amount of its value after I purchased it.
  • by Lance Cottrell (1130525) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:43PM (#19922137)
    I am the president and founder of Anonymizer.com. Our web based private surfing service was discontinued for one reason. We could not use that technology to deliver the level and quality of service we feel our customers deserve. To effectively deliver a web-based service, one must either disable all active content (which will break most major websites these days) or try to detect and rewrite all links or redirect commands that may be embedded in web pages. It is impossible to do this completely. Any missed links will lead the user to connect directly to the target site and be left exposed.

    We have not stopped providing privacy services. They are all now client based. It is the only way to ensure the security of our users. While the basic service is currently windows only (which is sad since I am a Mac person myself) our TNS product is completely functional from Mac or Linux (or Windows).

    We are in no way downsizing our services. There were so few active users of our Private Surfing service, compared to our other services; it made no sense to try to keep a broken product limping along.

    As far as security goes, since I see a few posts about that, it is simply a matter of personal choice. We deliver the best performance available. In almost 12 years of service no user has ever had his surfing activities compromised in any way. If we had some kind of law enforcement back door, it would hardly be a secret at this point. Alternatives require you to trust some exit point of unknown trustworthiness that may be actively modifying or monitoring content. There are advantages and disadvantages to all security models. In the real world and for most users, I think Anonymizer provides the best solution. Make up your own mind for your own circumstances.

    • by Catcher80 (639611) *
      thanks for the explanation man :)

      I guess inquiring minds want to know, WILL there be a Mac version of the basic service be provided someday in the near future?
      • I don't know if I would say "near future", but it is something we are seriously considering. The current client and protocols are reaching a level of maturity that it may make sense to start building compatible versions for other platforms.
    • by Lesrahpem (687242)
      I really wish more companies had CEO's and presidents as logical and upfront as you seem to be. I ran a small time anonymizer for a long time and I ran into people complaining about the same sorts of things your company has run into. With so many pages including AJAX and other stuff like that it isn't really feasible to run a web based anonymizer except for special cases.
    • by ClaraBow (212734) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:03PM (#19922703)

      Our TNS product is completely functional from Mac or Linux (or Windows).

      I don't complete understand this statement, because I went to your website and it specifically says that your TNS product is supported in windows only. Could you please explain? Thanks.
  • Their traffic has been dropping for a while: http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details? url=anonymizer.com [alexa.com]
  • Better Alternatives (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yahma (1004476)
    Anonymizer had too many restrictions on which sites you could browse.
    We've had better web proxy alternatives with fewer restrictions for years... BlastProxy [blastproxy.com] and ProxyStorm [www.proxystorm] are two web based anonymous proxies that I often use.
    Other networks, such as Tor [eff.org] allow users, who are willing to install additional software components, browse anonymously. Although, nothing really beats the convienence of the web proxies!
  • And of course it's closed-source, which means it has few advantages over several other alternatives.

    Did I really just read on /. that closed source has advantages over open source? Or is my irony meter just broken this morning.....
  • "With ... no outcry from the privacy community, Anonymizer Inc. discontinued its web-based Private Surfing service"

    No outcry?! A private company makes decisions well within its rights, and there's no outcry!? Wow, I almost feel young again.*

    * If you're not "old", please ignore this seemingly incoherent post.**

    ** By "old", I mean, like, mid 30's and up.

  • "And of course it's closed-source, which means it has few advantages over several other alternatives."

    Oh, is that what closed-source means?

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