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Built-in VPN functionality may be a reason to start using Opera

Even though Opera has staggered behind its competitors in terms of market share since its introduction, that hasn’t stopped the web browser from implementing new, exclusive features in an effort to change that. Among these is the company’s latest decision to add a free VPN into the mix.

For those who don’t know, a VPN, or virtual private network, gives users a more private web browsing experience, keeping sites away from your IP address, giving you more security on public Wi-Fi networks, and oftentimes enabling you to bypass firewalls enacted by schools or employers.

Effectively, this makes Opera the first major browser to include such a component. On top of being cost-free, the new service is unconfined by the data limitations that normally haunt prospective VPN users.

It’s also surprisingly easy to use. In a developer preview of the VPN-equipped browser sent to us by Opera yesterday, we were able to enable the feature on a Mac by clicking Preferences at the top, heading down to “Privacy & Security,” and selecting “Enable VPN.” The process is the same on Windows, except substituting Preferences for Settings.

With the VPN enabled, a new button will be added to Opera’s address bar, showing how much data you’ve used this month, along with a graphic presenting data usage by the day.

More interestingly, though, is the option to change your virtual location. Doing this lets you tell your browser that you’re in another country, which in most cases allows you to access location-restricted content. Maybe a YouTube video is blocked in your country or you want to watch a Netflix series that’s only available in Canada — well with the VPN enabled, you can trick your browser into thinking that’s where you are. It’s a nifty feature, but unfortunately, it’s also hindered by its limited options of only the United States, Germany, and Canada.

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