Anonymous web browsing involves using a proxy server or other techniques to prevent information about the actual computer being used, and its user, from being transmitted to a website or server. When connecting to a website, a large amount of information about the computer, software and location of a computer is normally transmitted. This information can be used to track the browsing habits of a person or to enforce restrictions on sites that are visited; this most often happens when connecting through a controlled network such as in an office environment. By connecting to a website through a proxy server, the information about the actual computer being used is completely hidden from the target website being visited.
A proxy server, which is vital to most anonymous web-browsing systems, is a computer that is connected to the Internet while running some type of server software. The proxy server is able to accept requests from other computers on the Internet, retrieve some information, and then send it back to the computer that made the request. This information could be a website, a file or any other information that is accessible online.
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The primary form of anonymous web browsing involves connecting to a proxy server and requesting web pages through that server. The proxy is going to fetch the information and then transmit it back to the user, so information about the computer connecting to the proxy is not revealed, in most cases. The website that was visited knows only that the proxy server visited the site, not the computer that made the original request.
Proxy servers are available online in two forms. The first are accessible through a standard web interface. This usually involves visiting a specific website that allows the user to enter an address into a text field. When the address is submitted, the website shows the desired website in a frame, preserving the anonymity of the requester.
Another version of a proxy server that can be used for anonymous web browsing is called an open proxy server. This is a server that can be connected to directly via web-browsing software. Most web browsers and operating systems support proxy servers mainly because they are extensively used by businesses to restrict websites that employees can access. An open proxy server is more convenient and faster than a web-based interface, but it also is far less secure, because an open system is accessible by anyone.
In the broad world of anonymous web browsing, there really is no way to be truly and untraceably anonymous. The proxy server will know the Internet address of computers accessing it, and they could be configured to record that information. There also are certain programs, such as those used for streaming media, which are actually able to reveal an Internet address despite there being a proxy server in between.