Microsoft launches in-built Edge VPN of sort

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft's browser, Edge, has announced that it is launching an in-built VPN service which will be known as the Edge Secure Network.

Edge Secure Network will be built on Cloudflare's tool and is expected to work in a similar way to the Opera browser's in-built VPN.

What is the Edge Secure Network?

When Edge users are connected to the Edge Secure Network, the Edge browser will encrypt part of your internet data and not log any details about what you are doing online. It will also hide details of the sites that you are using and your original IP Address from your internet service provider (ISP) in much the same way as a real VPN does.

All sounds like a pretty good VPN so far. But there are a few catches. Firstly, there is the data limit. The Edge Secure Network will have a 1GB data allowance on its free service.

This means that if you have any data-intensive online habits, like downloading or streaming, or if you just use the internet a lot, you will probably have to pay to increase this limit.

As the Edge Secure Network is only available as a preview feature, for the time being at least, 1GB a month is all you get. Presumably at some point, Microsoft will announce its price points for further data usage.

When a VPN is not a VPN

Curiously, Microsoft has decided not to refer to the Edge Secure Network as a VPN. In its documentation, it talks about a secure network but skirts around the phrase Virtual Private Network.

It's a curious one because ‘VPN' has become a pretty familiar lexicon to many internet users these days and those that don't recognise it don't have to look too hard to find out as there are VPN sites (such as our own) everywhere.

Reading up on what the Edge Secure Network does, it is pretty clear that it is trying to be a VPN, so it beats us why they don't just use the phrase and be done with it.

However, there are some major differences which I cover later.

How to use the Edge Secure Network

If you want to give the Edge Secure Network a try, it's pretty straightforward to use.

On the Microsoft Edge toolbar, click on the Context menu and you'll see an option for Secure Network. Once you have enabled it, you can monitor its usage in the toolbar on the browser window.

When you have enabled the Edge Secure Network, your data will be rerouted through Cloudflare's network. Microsoft says this will stop ISPs from being able to harvest your internet data in much the same way that a VPN does.

However, you only have Microsoft's word for this. At this stage, we have not been able to examine the Edge Secure Network properly. But there are legitimate questions to be raised about why a business like Microsoft, whose profits rely so heavily on user data these days, would launch a tool that expressly stops it from collecting this data.

We are sure more details will become apparent in the coming months but for now, we have our reservations.

How the Edge Secure Network compares

There are two key areas where the Edge Secure Network does differ from the sort of premium VPN providers that we recommend.

Firstly, you get no server choice with the Edge Secure Network in its current guise. Once you enable the Edge Secure Network, it will connect you to a Cloudflare server.

This could be anywhere in the world and that means it could have a hugely negative effect on connection speeds. It also means it is impossible to use the Edge Secure Network to unblock streaming services, which we know many VPN users like to do.

Then there is the fact that it will only protect your internet browser data. The Edge Secure Network is effectively the equivalent of a VPN browser extension. It will hide your internet data from your browser but not from any other apps you might be using on your device.

In contrast, when you connect to a proper VPN, all of your internet data is secure and protected whether you are connecting through a browser or any other device.

The Edge Secure Network is just one of a number of new changes to Edge that Microsoft has announced, and our initial perception is that, frankly, their heart is not really in it.

Much like the Apple Private Relay tool that we reported on yesterday, the fact that a company of the scale of Microsoft is recognising the importance of offering VPNs is a testament to how vital these tools are and should send a clear message to all internet users about the importance of using one.

But frankly, both the Edge Secure Network and Apple Private Relay are limited offerings that in no way compete with the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

That may change of course. But for now, the advice is clear. Stick with the best VPNs to keep your data secure and private rather than opting for the convenience of a substandard in-built one.

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 5 years.

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

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