Based on the SoftEther open-source VPN freeware, which is designed to run on Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD and Solaris, the VPN Gate service relies on volunteers around the world to download the server software and set up Public VPN Relay Servers for others to use.
"A volunteer is a person who owns a computer which is keeping the broadband connection to the Internet. He is a person who agrees to provide the CPU time and bandwidth to support the VPN Gate Academic Experiment," it is explained. Anyone who can satisfy those requirements can become a volunteer, and that's why these VPN servers hosted on different ISPs around the world, on different IP address ranges.
A continually refreshed list of available servers is provided on the service's website. Users can also find them via the VPN client software that can also be downloaded from the official website.
The service allows users to bypass your government firewalls to browse oversea web sites, to camouflage their IP address to hide the source of information sent over the Internet, and to protect their use of Wi-Fi with strong encryption in order to avoid packet capture and analysis.
The website is available in Japanese, English and Chinese, and judging by the connection logs of all VPN Gate Public VPN Servers, Chinese users are currently most numerous, but not the only ones. Users from other countries that are well-known for censuring political content are also well represented, and even those from Western democracies are finding it useful.
The number of available public servers to connect to fluctuates, as I write this there are 103.
According to Computerworld, the service has attracted over 75,000 users in less than a week, and the number is sure to rise.
Nobori says that his motive for creating this service was his wish to help people around the world beat government censorship of the Internet.
"If people somewhere want to study and can't use services like Wikipedia or Google, this is a big problem. Wikipedia has political articles, but also articles about science and other topics," he says.