Firefox’s new VPN finally rolls out in beta… but there are a few catches

Firefox logo at Mobile World Congress 2015 Barcelona

There has been talk for some time about Mozilla, the company behind the popular Firefox browser, launching its own VPN. Finally, the Beta version of this new VPN has arrived. But there are a few catches.

What is the Firefox Private Network?

The Firefox Private Network (presumably FPN rather than VPN) has been in testing since October for the handful of people who take part in the Firefox Test Pilot program.

Now it has been launched in full Beta mode but only for a few people. To give it a try, you will need to be based in the USA. You will also have to download the latest version of Mozilla’s free lightweight browser extension to use it.

If you can tick both of those boxes, there are a few more caveats too. The beta version of Firefox Private Network only offers browser-level protection. This means anything you do on your device which uses the internet outside of your web browser will not be protected.

If this still sounds worth giving it a try, you should also bear in mind that the beta version is only offering free access for a very limited amount of time.

Those who sign up will be given twelve free one-hour passes to use the Firefox Private Network. In other words, you will only get twelve hours access for free.

You will also need to sign up for a Firefox account to use the service. This is free but it does involve sharing quite a few personal details with Mozilla which not everyone will be happy with.

What more is Mozilla planning?

This is likely to be just the start of Mozilla’s expansion into the VPN market. In addition to this free but limited browser extension, it is also currently developing a VPN that will be able to work on all devices without the need for users to be running its Firefox browser.

This new VPN is expected to be launched on Windows PCs initially. It will expand onto other platforms including Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux devices gradually. Even a plugin for Google’s Chrome browser, a direct competitor to Firefox, is expected too.

Details of this planned VPN are still sketchy but it is expected to be priced at around US$4.99 (~£3.80) a month while it is in beta. This price is likely to change when the product is given a full launch, although it remains to be seen in which direction.

Reports suggest that the Firefox Private Network will offer a network of servers in around thirty countries initially and users will be able to connect up to five devices.

Initial impressions?

From where we are sitting, this looks like a fairly conservative offering and suggests that Mozilla is planning to sell its new VPN off the back of the existing reputation of its own brand and that of Firefox rather than though anything special being on offer from the VPN itself.

These days new VPNs tend to offer way more than five simultaneous connections. A number of VPNs that have done well this year, such as Surfshark and Goose VPN are even offering unlimited connections with every subscription.

A thirty-country server network is also a fairly modest offering too given that our top-ranking VPN, ExpressVPN, offers servers in no fewer than ninety-four different countries. A few other providers offer in excess of a hundred.

Firefox has built itself a strong reputation for online privacy in its browser and related services. For example, its Enhanced Tracking Protection recently celebrating blocking more than one trillion web tracking requests.

This is great and there is no denying that Firefox is one of the most secure and private mainstream browsers on the market. But this doesn’t automatically mean that Firefox is going to run a secure and private VPN.

Early reservations

The Firefox Private Network browser extension which is currently available in beta is powered not by Mozilla but by Cloudflare. The full VPN when it launches will be built on WireGuard, a new VPN technology which promises much but is still relatively young and untested.

In addition, all of the servers used by the Firefox VPN will be run by a Swedish company called Mullvad. They claim to keep no user logs but it is worth noting that Firefox VPN users need to trust them as well as Mozilla with their data.

Here at VPNCompare we always welcome new additions to the VPN market that can increase competition to drive up standards and keep prices low.

But we also don’t stand on ceremony with big names either. Firefox Private Network could revolutionise the sector or it could disappear without a trace. Just as adult-industry giant, PornHub’s offering, VPNHub has failed to make any significant impact.

Based on the information we have so far, we suspect it will sit somewhere in the middle of the market and trade on its name and the market-access of the browser.

Ultimately, the launch of this service appears to be more of an attempt by Mozilla to diversify its income streams than really shake up the VPN market. But we are very happy to be proved wrong on that.

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 7 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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