How Toxicity and Ethical Positivity has Shaped the VPN Industry

When I first started VPN reviews 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that one day the CEO of a private VPN company would leak my private DMs onto Twitter to prove a point about how much they value privacy and security.

Ironic right? It just goes to show you that some VPN companies only value privacy when it fits their goals.

Because of that, and other recent events, I wanted to give my thoughts on the current state of the VPN industry and VPN Review industry. There are A LOT of good VPN projects out there–ethical, honest, humane, principled, whatever you want to call it–that are making a positive impact on the industry, and some toxic ones that I believe are going against their own moral principles.

Here’s my breakdown.

What led us to this point?

In 2021, the VPN industry has become more competitive and toxic than ever before. It’s become more competitive because there are more than 100 VPNs fighting for the same customer, and each VPN has different ways and ideas on how to achieve success. At the end of the day, it’s every VPN’s goal to make money–because VPNs are businesses. But each business has a different CEO, and each CEO has a different way of achieving that ultimate goal and what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve it.

Because the real stakes are what the VPNs do and what the CEOs who own these companies do. Communities, and attitudes, and beliefs, always come from the top down, and this influences everything. It is here that I want to draw three distinctions that I’ve observed from VPN companies–that being positive companies, toxic companies, and “sell-out” VPN companies.

Positive Impacts on the VPN Industry

Positive VPN companies are companies that I’ve found are the best ones to recommend to my viewers. These companies have strict moral objectives as well as monetary ones. These companies fundamentally value privacy, security, and transparency but they also want to make money.

These companies don’t waste time being hostile to VPN reviewers, or other companies, because it doesn’t align with their mission objective. They also let VPN reviewers and the VPN community at large, make their own opinions. Lastly, they put just as much emphasis on security as they do on privacy, transparency, and free speech. These companies aren’t willing to put more dollars into marketing if it means firing a developer, and these companies realize that even one mistake can damage their company’s reputation beyond repair.

Here are some companies I’d put in this category and most would agree:

TorGuard VPN

TorGuard’s twitter and social media focuses on privacy activism

If you look up TorGuard on Twitter, most likely you will see pages and pages of blog posts concerning privacy-related issues. And if you send in a support ticket, most likely you will find that in 5 minutes a highly informed customer service representative will be helping you solve your problem. TorGuard doesn’t have time to talk shit about VPN reviewers or complain about other VPNs in the industry.

TorGuard has always been my #1 choice on the channel because of the way they treat their customers. Their customers aren’t some army to wield public opinion, or money bags to be exploited with cancellation fees, but instead, real people who need privacy–and I think TorGuard knows that. That’s why the company has managed 8+ years of a perfect reputation.

WeVPN

WeVPN interacting with the community in an ethical way

WeVPN is a newcomer, but they have also managed to become part of what I would consider a “positive” VPN. WeVPN is made from VPN veterans and a lot of the people who work there use to work at other VPNs.

Most of them quit and started WeVPN because they wanted a product to reflect a product they believed in with fair pricing, good privacy, and amazing streaming capabilities.

WeVPN stays out of Twitter drama, doesn’t engage in any put-downs, and generally, the people that work there are more focused on making an excellent product than harming competitors. So far, it’s achieved that in spades making it a top VPN here on the channel.

Mullvad VPN

Mullvad interacts with customers IRL, and adds a fun twist to it with their branded costume

Mullvad VPN is one of the most respected VPNs in the industry. You can find people praising it everywhere on Reddit, and it is even a top pick on websites like Wirecutter that don’t have affiliations. It’s managed to achieve a sizeable community with hardly any traditional marketing. You will never find Mullvad talking shit on Twitter, or encouraging their users to harass VPN reviewers. As far as I know, Mullvad hasn’t ever said one bad thing about my channel, and I’ve never rated them #1.

That said, it’s invested big in partnerships with other companies like Firefox.  It’s never had any huge security scandals, and it’s stuck true to its moral objectives. The website has no timers, no trackers, you know who owns the company, and even the price is completely clear to the consumer. I’ve said a lot of good things about them in my latest review.

Other VPNs I see as positively impacting the industry:

oVPN

David is a great CEO that truly cares about privacy. They won a court battle and refused to give up logs.

PrivateVPN

Martin is an amazing CEO that really wants to make his customers happy. He enforces amazing customer support and takes pride in providing a truly private VPN.

CactusVPN

The team here really wants to make great improvements, values privacy, and values honest feedback from affiliates.

iVPN

iVPN has made a lot of great changes to their service and website, becoming very transparent and honest to their customers. While I don’t agree with some of their product choices, or reasons for ending their affiliate program, I generally believe they are a positive impact to the industry.

VPNs That Go Against their own Interests?

Strangely enough, there aren’t many companies like this. But just like in politics, a minority from the majority can still be very vocal. 

Toxic VPNs are VPNs that value money or notoriety more than transparency, privacy, and security. These VPNs can be self-defeating in a strange way. These companies at the end of the day do whatever it takes to win the bottom line.

They will usually harass other VPN companies to “steal” customers, and harass other VPN reviewers in an attempt to sew distrust in the VPN review space. You’ll find these VPNs arguing with other VPNs on Twitter, making blog posts talking shit, and generally just trying to stand out and cause as much drama as possible to get attention.

But I believe this way is fundamentally flawed, and NOT the way to be a good VPN company.

Windscribe

Windscribe made a meme contest where the  contest winner’s video shits on ExpressVPN and Kape the entire time.

Windscribe is the textbook example for what I would call a “toxic VPN”. It’s the DEFINING VPN for this sort of VPN. Why is that? Well, take a look here and compare it with what I’ve shown you already. You’ll notice a complete 180 in how Windscribe uses social media to put down other companies and reviewers in order to promote itself.

For whatever reason, Windscribe just wants to be a toxic force in the industry–and I’m not sure why. You’ll find hundreds of examples of them talking shit about other VPNs, talking shit about VPN reviewers, and interjecting their brand into whatever conversation they can find.

Windscribe insulting VPN review sites with “cool” meme
Windscribe preying on ExpressVPN customers after ExpressVPN sold to Kape
Perfect Privacy responds to false accusations made from Windscribe in an attempt to deflect from their poor security
Yegor posting private DMs to make me look bad
Yegor leaking private emails from VPN Pro

Do they want money? Do they want fame?

Your guess is as good as mine.

When I think of a VPN company, the main objectives should be what Mullvad, WeVPN, and TorGuard do.

These companies stick to their moral objectives, make as good of a product as they can for their customers, then do the work.

Mullvad, Torguard, and WeVPN don’t waste time on Twitter or in discord talking shit because they have better stuff to do. When a company like Windscribe decides to do otherwise, it makes me worry about their mission objective and the success of their company. How can I trust Windscribe to look out for its userbase when I don’t believe in its path as a company? What benefit do their actions on social media do to improve the company?

At the end of the day, is Windscribe winning the VPN war? Well, I don’t have access to the data of their total # of accounts, and I’m not interested in comparing metrics between them and other companies like Mullvad, TorGuard, or WeVPN. Because success isn’t measured by money or by whoever is the most popular when it comes to the VPN space.

When it comes to VPNs, in my opinion, success is how much someone can measure that company’s impact on the space. Has Windscribe made a positive effect? Well, in my opinion, all they’ve managed to do is piss off almost every VPN reviewer, make enemies of almost every VPN company, and alienate a lot of potential customers who would rather have a VPN company that sticks to the code, not to the tweets.

For me, I’d rather my chosen VPN company have a cute badger mole where customers can meet with the team, or the users can learn about privacy activism, or the community can give feedback about what type of product they want.

Conclusion

The VPN industry is a rapidly changing place, but for me, it’s not hard to identify which companies are sticking to their moral objectives and succeeding, and which companies are doing whatever they can do to “win the game”. And that’s why I recommend you to use a VPN that is a positive force in the industry.

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