Shadowsocks vs VPN – Who is the Winner?

China is known for having two great walls, the Great Wall of China and then the Great Firewall of China. With the latter being the reason why so many Chinese not being able to access sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and many other international favorites. VPNs are designed to try and get around these firewalls and geo-restrictions placed on content around the world and many can do so. Shadowsocks is another piece of software that has had some success in doing this too. But while Shadowsocks and VPNs might seem similar, they are different. This article will take you through the differences between Shadowsocks and VPNs and where each is better than the other.

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What is Shadowsocks?

Is Socks a VPN? No, it might seem like one but it is an open-source SOCKS5 internet protocol network of proxy servers. Users can use Shadowsocks on Mac, Linux and Windows-powered devices and it was first released back in 2012.

The creator of this protocol was an anonymous Chinese programmer who was intent on getting through the Great Firewall of China. He went under the pseudonym of ‘clowwindy’ but had to step away from the project in 2015 when he revealed that he had been approached and warned by the police.

Since then the Socks VPN/proxy project has been developed by various other contributors.

Shadowsocks works by disguising or masking its traffic to make it look like HTTPS traffic which makes it virtually impossible to detect and block. This is different from the approach by VPNs which is to heavily encrypt their traffic and then reroute via their own special set up servers.

Users can decide which traffic to camouflage too, so if you only wanted to use it to access particular geo-restricted content, you can tell it to do so. All of the remaining traffic will be sent and received in the standard fashion.

The Difference Between Socks and VPNs

One thing that you can say is similar about both Shadowsocks and VPNs is the fact that they both achieve the same result. They will both enable you to get around government censorship, VPN blocks and geo-restrictions that are placed on any online content.

Shadowsocks does things differently to VPNs however, it is essentially a network of proxy servers. A proxy server is faster than VPN servers basically because they do not encrypt any data that is sent. You will be assigned a new IP address that will give you some anonymity but that lack of encryption means that your data is not secure. Anyone connected to the same website as you will be able to snoop or steal any data that you are sending or receiving.

SOCKS5 is a step up on traditional proxy servers however as they make this much harder for people to do. SOCKS5 servers are authorization only so while the data is still not encrypted, those trying to access it will find it more difficult to get into the servers to do so.

With that, all being said, Shadowsocks on Mac, Windows or whatever, is not considered anywhere near as safe and secure as VPNs. Shadowsocks is much faster though and will certainly have its uses for many of you.

SOCKS or VPN?

Now that you know a little more about the strengths and weaknesses of both Shadowsocks and VPNs, you are left in a better position to choose between the two. In our opinion though, VPNs are still the best option if you are looking for ways around certain online restrictions.

Shadowsoscks for Mac and Windows is great at what it does and the technology really is progressing but at the same time, it is not a good choice if you value privacy and anonymity over speed.

The main reason for using VPNs in the first place is to get around restrictions and enjoy a safe and private online activity. If you are downloading torrents for example, while these will be quicker through Shadowsocks, there is more chance of being caught than when using a VPN service.

While there are some VPNs out there that are far from being as good as some of the top names, the technology in itself is better in our opinion. All you have to do is make sure that you choose a VPN that is reputable and known for its high quality and impressive success rate.

VPNs we Recommend

There are some great VPNs out there right now and between them, they are really improving the overall quality of VPNs in general. Some will not be as good as others and free VPNs should normally be avoided but there will be a VPN out there that will suit everyone.

We have some that we have no trouble recommending due to their excellent features, fast speeds and the vast amount of servers that they allow you to connect to.

All Round 1 ExpressVPN
9.8
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ExpressVPN is a complete VPN solution that meets diverse needs. It is suitable for all those who need an easy-to-use VPN to watch streaming TV and download torrents on all their devices without limits. You'll get what you pay for!
Privacy and security
10
Features
10
Speed and Performance
10
Value for money
9
Ease of use
10
PROS:
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CONS:
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  • No NAT firewall
  • No IP binding
Best Value 2 NordVPN
9.6
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NordVPN Review: Excellent
NordVPN is a young VPN with a lot of potential. It is suitable for all those who need an easy-to-use and secure VPN: To fight censorship, to watch streaming TV and to download torrents and Peer to Peer. Subscribe for 1 or 2 years to get the best price.
Privacy and security
9
Features
8
Speed and Performance
8
Value for money
10
Ease of use
10
PROS:
  • High speed connection
  • NAT Firewall
  • Native app for iPhone and Android
  • 6 simultaneous devices
  • User friendly
  • No log policy and torrent friendly
CONS:
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  • Manual setup only for PPTP/L2TP
User-friendly 3 Private Internet Access Review
9.4
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Private Internet Access review: Good
PIA is a reliable and affordable VPN solution. It is suitable for all those who need an easy-to-use VPN to surf anonymously, watch streaming TV and download torrents on all their devices without limits. And the
Value for money
9
Ease of use
8
Accessibility
9
Supported devices
8
Covered countries
7
VPN for IOS
9
VPN for Android
9
PROS:
  • High speed connection
  • Native app for iPhone and Android
  • P2P and BitTorrent allowed, with no logs
  • SOCKS 5 proxy included
CONS:
  • Few covered countries
  • Interface could be better
4 CyberGhost VPN
9.2
More details + Money-back guarantee available, but with conditions
CyberGhost Review: Good
CyberGhost is a reliable VPN solution, focused on your privacy. It is suitable for all those who need an easy-to-use VPN to surf and torrent anonymously and watch streaming TV without limits. Multi login package is a bit expensive.
Privacy and security
10
Features
9
Speed and Performance
10
Value for money
9
Ease of use
10
PROS:
  • High speed
  • Native apps for iPhone and Android
  • P2P and BitTorrent allowed, with no logs
  • User friendly
CONS:
  • No IPv6 leak protection
  • No built-in firewall (NAT firewall)
  • No IP binding
5 Surfshark VPN
9
More details + Money-back guarantee available, but with conditions
Value for money
9
Ease of use
10
Accessibility
8
Supported devices
10
Covered countries
9
PROS:
  • High-speed
  • User-friendly
  • No logs
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Compatible with US Netflix
  • Affordable
CONS:
  • Newcomer
  • No IP leak protection settings

Any of those three will be a good choice for you if you are looking for a VPN but there are plenty of others out there that you might want to consider as well.

Thomas

I love to spend my time on the internet - preferably day and night. And I love my job – I’m a computer and security expert. As an author of this website, I can give free rein to my passion: Writing about essential topics like data security and encrypted connections. I also like to get my hands on the newest products and software, to try them and to share my feedback with our readers.

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