ZenMate, a VPN plugin for Google Chrome, today announced that it has accumulated one million registered users just six months after launching.  

The Berlin-based tech start-up aims to give internet browsers secure, encrypted access to any website, from anywhere in the world.

ZenMate co-founder Simon Specka told Techworld in Berlin last week: "We encrypt the browser connection so you can’t get hacked and we hide your IP to increase privacy."

Specka admitted that other companies, such as Hidemyass and Hotspot Shield, have been doing exactlty the same for years. 

"We're delivering the same features as our competitors but in an easier way," he said. "If we’re aiming at the mass market, they want to be protected after one click."

ZenMate and other VPNs are seen as controversial by some people as they can be used, for example, by someone outside the UK in order to watch BBC iPlayer, or by someone in the UK to access the US version of Netflix, which boasts more content.

Much of ZenMate’s early growth was in countries with restricted access to the internet, such as China and Iran, but in recent months it has seen significant uptake in both the US and Europe.

In January, the number of global sign-ups grew by more than 200,000, with a month-on-month increase in the UK of 72 percent and 71 percent in the US.

ZenMate also said it saw a dramatic rise in Ukrainian registrations during recent troubles there; an increase of 23,500 visitors during the turmoil. While in Venezuela 17,000 visits were reported during the recent unrest.

"Our Internet traffic is under threat from a variety of sources every day [including] hackers, prying Internet Service Providers, restrictive governments, ID thieves, and viruses.”

“Reaching one million users is a huge milestone for us here at ZenMate, and a clear sign that whether online banking, chatting to friends or streaming the Winter Olympics coverage, people want to surf the web securely, anonymously and encrypted, without having to worry about external threats or snoops."

ZenMate’s one million users are active in 170 countries, across six continents worldwide, including:

  • Asia: circa 620,000 registered users
  • Europe: circa 205,000 registered users
  • North America: circa 145,000 registered users
  • South America: circa 27,000 registered users
  • Africa: circa 8,000 registered users
  • Oceania: circa 5000 registered users

The vast majority (75 percent) of these signups came through the Google Chrome Store, while a quarter were generated through the ZenMate website.

Of the average of 1.5 petabytes of data handled by ZenMate every month, 18 percent is traffic from social networking and blogs, 14 percent is from video and music streaming and 13 percent is from ads and analytics.

ZenMate, which employs 15 people, plans to release mobile versions for both Android and iOS in the coming months, as well as a paid-for premium version of its existing web plugin.