The ranking of best VPNs on the site is mostly a ranking of VPNs that offer the largest referral fees .
One of the largest, most honest and transparent VPN, Mullvad, does not have an affiliate program. And guess what, it's not even reviewed on Restore Privacy!
Can't we replace "VPNs" with pretty much any service at this point though?
I haven't trusted 'review/ranking' sites in ages, because after see the same top 5 "best hosting providers ever!" lists one 3 sites, you kind of get a hint.
Since you're really skeptical, I'd love to hear your take on what I've done (and been doing) in terms of trying to create an honest system.
The gist is, I scrape Twitter data, filter out spam, affiliate links, etc, and use sentiment analysis to see which brands people actually like. My hypothesis was that reviews are fundamentally a weird human behavior. The real 'reviews' are embedded in normal conversation when you talk to people. With enough data of these signals, you can get a much better picture of what people really think. The results seem to line up basically like an NPS measurement.
https://reviewsignal.com/webhosting/compare has all my data if you want to see how the rankings actually look. Not every company has an affiliate program. Many smaller companies aren't listed because I can't get enough data.
The 5 stars are somewhere between suspicious and just not that useful because of people being overly excited and the 1 star reviews is often people just having bad luck or not understanding what the product is and for whom.
Meanwhile the 3 stars I feel are the most sober ones, often pointing out flaws (and every product/service has them), that I can then make a more informed decision whether those flaws are going to affect me at all or going to be a show stopper.
That's why I'm a bit skeptical about the use of sentiment analysis or similar, independently of how well they work. I'm not necessarily convinced that excitement is actually that good a signal. E.g. there are many movies, books, etc that are generally well received but I don't like them at all. Doesn't make the other people or me wrong, I just have different expectations and preferences.
Similarly for tech services I would prefer having a much, much easier time being able to map the systems capabilities and limitations to my use case and budget than knowing whether other people like or dislike it.
The 5 stars are basically baseline if the product is good enough for the price it's sold at. Giving anything besides a 5 star is a massive FU to the vendor, as dropping below 4 is basically a death sentence for the listing. That can be warranted for sure, but only if there was something very wrong.
The biggest issue I'd see with your approach is how hard it's going to be to separate bots talking to each other from actual people writing these messages.
Most research on the matter seems to conclude that anything between 25 and 70% are written by bots.
The high range is because it's actually quite hard to confidently assess wherever a message is written by a human.
Surprisingly not because it's hard to classify bots, but because people often write borderline incoherent messages too.
As an example how I use them. Some time ago I was looking into buying a audio hardware unit for music production (advanced hobbyist use I guess). Superficially, from the marketing copy and some reviews I have skimmed it had everything I wanted, like Midi in/out connectors.
Then I went to the 3 stars section and one of the first comments said:
"Great device, but had to return it, because it doesn't support part X of the MIDI protocol."
Whether this is written by a human or a bot is irrelevant. What matters is, if it is true and if it affects me. In this specific case it simply didn't matter to me, so ignored the comment. In case it would have, the comment would have served as a red flag to do further investigation to see if the claim is true.
I don't do an elaborate process on everything I buy, especially not low cost every day dispensable items (just buy different brands over time until I stumble upon one I like), but the more specialized the use case and the bigger the buy in and cost of reversing decision, the more I wish I had better tools to figure out whether a product/service actually matches my use case.
That is absolutely not my interpretation of such a scale. I would naturally map 5 stars to "exceeds expectations". If the best a product can do is meet expectations, how do you disambiguate from the truly excellent?
One of a multutude of issues with reviews is our differing interpretations of what a score represents
Very few would, which means that giving anything but a 5 star effectively means "I don't want you to ever sell this product again"
Maybe a bot that collects reviews and detect similar sentences can also rate those bullshit "review sites"..
As far as rating sentences of bullshit review sites. How do you think that would work and how would you train such a system? I'm worried about the non-paid training, where might one get enough sample data to show 'normal' vs 'paid'?
Is this meta-data, the stuff outside the rankings, hand-entered?
The point I was trying to make is that it is not a small provider, it is well rated by reputable privacy reviewers such as privacytools.io - who do not use affiliate link or take payment from providers - so there is no reason it should be ignored by Sven Taylor. I'm less trying to praise this particular VPN than to show that that review website is somewhat "provably" an affiliate link farm.
Secure Connection Failed
An error occurred during a connection to mullvad.net. SSL received a record that exceeded the maximum permissible length.
Error code: SSL_ERROR_RX_RECORD_TOO_LONG
Do you have an internet filter that also blocks vpn sites so you "can't" get around it?
(Due to my use-case and currency I find Mullvad pricey and would be interested in alternatives hence the question)
It's super fast with wireguard.
No affiliate links, no special discounts, no special sales prices. No coupon codes. Just privacy.
This is why I hedged my statement with "could be". While it's unlikely that this other condition is met, it is possible.
If you're logged into a VPN, that IP is much more likely to be you, since you had to authenticate to it and you're very unlikely to share the account particulars like you would your wifi password with friends/family/neighbors.
So, even though you have to authenticate, your privacy is still preserved.
So yeah, if you'd like to hand the feds evidence you're using a VPN, go right ahead, mail Mullvad cash?
If you’re worried about being actively followed by the feds and they’re tracking you drop that letter, you have much, much more to worry about than your VPN usage.
(Just a happy customer.)
You have a self-selected group of people with something to hide. What could be more ideal to gather kompromat?
But the great thing about the vpn is some people leave it on and forget about it.
So then you invest in a free porn service.
Sure, but the .0001% of users who use grindr while trying to hide their preferences, and hold a position of influence in government or a corporation make the whole effort worthwhile.
As a bonus, the op is actually profitable because the 99.9999% of people you don't care about, and don't have to spend man-hours on, are actually paying for all the man-hours that you spend on the people of interest!
The intel flywheel is up and spinning!
edit: this is all conjecture.
A community led guide for the best VPN's.
Even without anti-trust, it should be illegal to own or buy a "review site" for something you sell. That kind of thing is very counter to consumer interests and a blatant conflict of interest.
In the Kape case I think it is clearly dishonest, and the same can be said for the online order mattress space among others. Most online direct to consumer spaces (for example gaming and anti-virus) probably has some actor that is dishonestly setting up or buying review sites.
But it is not exactly clear how you would in a legal sense draw the line.
> But it is not exactly clear how you would in a legal sense draw the line.
You could probably address that problem by permitting common ownership in cases where the company could prove to a court that it's implemented effective and rigorous firewalls, such that the reviews are independent and not affected by the common ownership and do not show evidence or tampering of bias. My understanding is those kinds of firewalls are de rigueur in the newspaper industry.
Proving a non-bias for what is your own actual financial interest seems almost impossible. I'm not saying it can't be done ever, but I would not want to have to argue either side of that.
I said this in a comment below but I think it is relevant here too:
Restricting speech is in general hard, what would be much easier is to require clear and obvious disclosure. Since journalistic ethics already requires that it should only require changes for dishonest actors.
EDIT: To clarify: those firewalls are often in the journalistic institutions currently but it becomes a whole other ballgame when something needs to be proven in court. The suggestion to make them legally mandated is where I think we run into problems.
The Times would arrange for positive reviews of HarperCollins books by giving them to a reviewer who they knew would provide one.
Depending on how it would be written things like a youtuber reviewing a pixel phone or one TV show talking about a different TV show might be illegal.
Here is the first result when I google "best free youtube downloader"
Even if they do, they can probably satisfy the requirement with disclosure where no one would actually notice it.
The only kind of disclosure I'd be happy with is if at the top of the page and next to any self-endorsement they would have to show a garish warning banner with a legally mandated design that called out their conflict of interest in blunt terms. It would be easier and better to just ban the practice.
It'd be hard to argue that Kape is even close to becoming a monopoly.
“Crown Prince”; the would-be Emporer who named him is still alive.
I cant understand why put your data on these shady VPNs.
If you use your free credits you can buy more.
No need to host an exit node.
Or is that horizontal??
Or is it the entire path of an industry segment?
Yeah, just a path, a control path, to market control.