Why Would Anyone Need To Use A Public Proxy Server?
During this article we will refer to Internet addresses as an IP, or IPs. An IP is the underlying unique identifier that sets your computer apart from all the other computers connected to the Internet. It usually looks something like 192.168.1.1, basically four distinct numbers separated by three periods, or dots. Now with the newer IPv6 protocol you might find text amongst the numbers and more than three dots, but this shouldn't make any difference in this discussion. We just include it to be thorough. At its most basic a proxy is a bit of software connected to the Internet that sits and listens on a given IP and port. The port could be any whole number between 0 to 65535 (barring any predefined ports like HTML and e-mail).
When you connect to a Proxy Server you can connect in a variety of ways, but for this discussion we will focus on Web Browsing (HTTP).
When you access a web site from your browser (Internet Explorer, or Chrome, etc..), you leave a trail that some unscrupulous people, organisations, and even governments can use to follow your Internet usage in an attempt to profile you. Basically trying to learn enough about you that they can profitably sell that information to the highest bidder, usually to legitimate businesses, but not always. Regardless, no matter who they sell it to, they control that information, who sees it and gets to use it, not you. Currently you can expect a certain level of protection using any commercial anti-virus program like MacAfee, or Norton's Internet Security, but they can't hide your IP for you. Keeping your web use private is a good way of protecting yourself and you can do that easily with a Proxy Server. Best of all it's free!
The way the Proxy Server protects you is by not just hiding your IP, but at least as importantly, by hiding your outgoing Port number as well! For instance, when you connect to this web site you are coming in on Port . If this was a Proxy Server it would forward your request using its own IP, instead of yours, then it would pick a port at random and use it for the request. So, anybody watching sees you enter on port X, but you will arrive at your real destination on port Y. And Y can be any number between 0 and 65535. Making it nearly impossible to track you past the Proxy Server. Likely you are not the only person using the Proxy Server at that moment making it even more unlikely for someone to track you past the Proxy Server. A person connected to a Proxy Server requires too much effort to track past the Proxy Server and forces the monitors to look for less protected prey. Also traffic between you and your Proxy Server is normally encrypted, so any onlookers have no idea if you are watching a video, or downloading the latest book, or just shopping. Either way you can go about your business without strangers looking over your shoulder and tracking every move you make. That may sound paranoid, but it is just business as usual on the Internet. Sort of the price you pay for all the freedom the Internet gives everyone, but that creates opportunities for abuse which you can mitigate by using a Proxy Server.