What is a Web Proxy?

Web proxies are used to change the public IP address quickly and efficiently while surfing the Internet. Web proxies are very portable as you don’t need to install specialized hardware or extra software or modify computer networking settings.

What is a web proxy and why use one?

web proxy is a type of proxy server implementation that forwards HTTP requests.

A web proxy is used in the same way as a search engine, but instead of entering a search query into a form, a website address is entered instead. While a search engine will return search results, a web proxy will return web pages. Websites that are visited by using a web proxy will see the IP address of the proxy, rather than your own computer’s IP address. When talking about a proxy, we are discussing a server acting on behalf of any other computer.

The primary uses of a web proxy are to hide your real IP address while browsing certain websites (anonymous web surfing) and to access blocked content.

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How to use a web proxy

Web proxies usually use similar processes. You have to open your favorite web browser (web proxies typically work on all web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Safari). Next, go to the home page of the web proxy and type the URL of the website you want to visit in the search box of the proxy. If the URL is valid, the web proxy will fetch the webpage and display it.

How to use a web proxy

Once you have done it, you can browse the website as you would without the proxy. Browsing might be slightly slower than usual as the proxy needs to cache the website files as it fetches them.

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How does it work?

A web proxy retrieves data from another web site on behalf of the original requester. If we look at, for example, three computers that are connected to the internet as follows:

  • A is the client computer on the internet, i.e., your computer.
  • B is the computer on which the proxy website is hosted (web proxy server), e.g., sample.proxy.org.
  • C is the computer that hosts the site you want to visit, e.g., www.WantToVisit.com

When browsing the Internet without using a web proxy, a direct connection would be made from A to C.

How web proxy works

There are, however, cases where it is better for B to connect to C on behalf of A. In these cases, the connection would be from A to B to C. An example of this would be when a company blocks access to Facebook during working hours. If an employee, however, connects to a web proxy, they will be able to connect to Facebook from there.

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Where to find web proxies?

You should first check our proxy tools page. You will find there several free web proxies that we tested ourselves. Additionally, you may get access to web proxies by searching Google on “web proxy,” “public proxy,” or “free web proxy.”

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Are web proxies safe and secure?

Important! You should not use a web proxy to access private information like your email, online banking accounts, social network information, etc. (anything that involves submitting passwords, usernames, email addresses, credit card information).

As previously explained, web proxies intercept and forward Internet traffic. Thus, it is possible (even for web proxies that support HTTPS) that some man-in-the-middle attack may compromise your private data. Make sure you pay attention to SSL certificate errors. If such an error occurs, it may be a sign that the proxy connection is compromised.

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Advantages of using web proxies

  • You don’t have to install any application on your computer or device.
  • Easy to use: simply type in the URL of the website you want to visit and press Go/Submit.
  • There are plenty of proxies to choose from.
  • Ideal solution for unblocking websites (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) from school, work or internet cafes.
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Disadvantages of using web proxies

  • The IP addresses of web proxies are often blacklisted on firewalls. As a web proxy is a shared proxy, all proxy users are sharing the same IP address.
  • Streaming applications may not be supported.
  • The proxy may (in some instances) intercept your browsing activities.
  • They are monetized using ads. Thus, browsing the Internet using web proxies may be quite annoying due to ad popups, pop-unders, banners.
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Web proxy scripts – How to set up your own web proxy

Many proxy scripts can be used to set up your web proxy.  Several are presented below. The first step is to get access to a VPS (Virtual Private Server). Next, set up a web server and, finally, install a web proxy script.

PHP-Proxy

PHP-Proxy (not the same project as PHProxy) is one of the few web proxy scripts that is still updated and maintained. It is designed to be fast, easy to customize and be able to provide support sites like YouTube and Facebook.

Glype

Glype, written in PHP, is very popular among young webmasters. This proxy is easy to configure, and it is easy to find online tutorials to tune its performance. Glype’s licensing scheme stipulates that it is free to use, but a backlink is needed unless you are prepared to pay for the removal. The proxy has not been updated since January 2009. Baron, the person that runs proxy.org, announced the acquisition of the project in May 2010. However, it is not clear whether any changes will be introduced.

CGIProxy

CGIProxy is very popular among veteran webmasters and is one of the proxy scripts that has been around for the longest. It was written in Perl, making the source code of the script visible when installed. However, CGIProxy is not open source. It is yet licensed to be free for non-commercial usage. If you want to start a web proxy business using this proxy, it’s advisable to negotiate licensing terms, before spending any money on customizing it.

CGIProxy’s setup is relatively simple, providing your web server and systems support Perl. Performance tuning for Perl script is a big challenge for webmasters. Tuning CGIProxy correctly will increase the performance significantly (10 to 100x) faster, and will also result in fewer resources being used. Unless you have adequate knowledge of Perl and the web server (i.e., Apache), it is probably better to outsource the tuning to experienced experts.

Surrogafier

Surrogafier is not used widely and has not been updated since 2007. Although the source code is not encrypted, this script is not licensed under GPL.

PHProxy

PHProxy is licensed under GPL and is an open source project. The author, Abdullah Arif, did, however, discontinue the project and gave up all rights and responsibilities in September 2007. PHProxy closely mimics most functions and the layout of CGIProxy in PHP, and the latest release (0.52b2) is very stable. Although some people have claimed that they are continuing the project, there have not been any forks or mature updates since 2007.

Zelune

Zelune was always a very promising proxy script based on PHP, but since it changed owners many times, it has gradually lost its popularity for some reason. The licensing terms are also not explicitly specified.

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Proxy server vs. web proxy

A proxy server can be defined as any server that acts as a proxy for another computer or group of computers. A proxy can be seen as an agent that receives transactions from client computers and then sends them on to another server to be processed after examining them. In computer systems, a proxy is typically a service or process. The proxy often modifies a transaction before sending it on, and could also choose which of several servers should be used based on the transaction characteristics.

A web proxy is simply a specialized proxy that only handles web (HTTP/HTTPS) transactions, and not SMTP (email), FTP (file transfer) and DNS (nameserver requests) transactions.

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Conclusion

Web proxies are very handy if you want to hide your IP address, or want to access content that is blocked for whatever reason. The main advantage of a Web proxy over a proxy server is that for a Web proxy, you don’t have to configure a specific server or download any software. The main drawback of a Web proxy is that it only works for HTTP transactions and will not work for email, file transfer, or nameserver requests.