Shadowsocks VS. VPN – What’s the Difference?

Due to Internet censorship, some popular websites are no available in China, such as Google, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and so on. This is extremely inconvenient for people who engage in foreign trade, have fun on the Internet or want to search for some study materials. Users can easily solve this problem with Shadowsocks or a VPN.

Definition of VPN

Virtual private network (VPN) is defined as the creation of a secure network over a less secure network transmission. For example, the Internet.

VPNs are used to connect two or more servers in a network. In most cases, it connects various users to the servers. Internet users can use VPNs to circumvent geo-restrictions or censorship and secure network communication.

A VPN redirect traffic by building a private network. For example, if you want to access Netflix US in India, you can connect to a US server to pretend that you are in the US. Then, Netflix will approve your access.

The development of Shadowsocks

In 2012, Shadowsocks was designed by the original developer to circumvent the GFW. Clowwindy shared the source code on GitHube. On 22 August 2015, clowwindy stopped maintaining the program and removed the source code from GitHub due to pressure from the Chinese government. After that, a developer called breakwa11 created ShadowsocksR, the forge of Shadowsocks. But breakwa11 also came under pressure to remove all code on GitHub, delete the group and stop maintaining ShadowsocksR.

The symbol for Shadowsocks is a paper plane. Shadowsocks is widely used in mainland China to get past the GFW to access blocked content. To avoid keyword filtering, the Chinese refer Shadowsocks and ShadowsocksR as something interesting. Generally, we call Shadowsocks SS and ShadowsocksR SSR for short.  

Shadowsocks vs. ShadowsocksR

First, both SS and SSR can be used to unblock websites. However, when it comes to the performance, SSR is better because SS is easier to detect and blocked by the GFW. Taking into consideration the feedback of many Chinese netizens, SSR can reduce the probability of being blocked or restricted to some extent. So, SSR is a relatively mainstream tool to bypass geo-blocks.


Second, SSR is different from SS because it supports protocol transfer, obfuscation and multiple proxies. Obfuscation means that SSR disguises your traffic as normal HTTP / SOCKS traffic to the geo-blocked websites. The proxy server will also be obfuscated as a normal web server.

Whats the difference between a VPN and SS / SSR? 

We believe that you’ve had a general understanding of a VPN, SS and SSR. Let’s dig into more details.

Your Internet traffic is easy to be detected when using a VPN because it established a dedicated and encrypted tunnel to transmit your data. Once you are detected using a VPN, the VPN you are using will be blocked as well. It is often the case that some VPNs are blocked in China. But a VPN allows users to browse anonymously on the Internet. Users can mask their IP addresses with those of the VPN servers. So, they are able to pretend to be in other locations.  

SS / SSR is designed to unblock websites for users. It obfuscates all traffic as normal traffic, which makes it hard to be detected. SS and SSR do a lot of jobs to achieve this function. But there is no established private tunnel between the client and the server. The client communicates with the actual server you are going to access via the proxy server. All data should be transferred through the proxy server.


The purposes of using a VPN or Shadowsocks are different. VPNs definitely care more about your privacy and security online. To unblock websites and surf the Internet safely, we recommend you use Tor + VPN or Tor + SS / SSR.

Last but not least, it is important to choose a VPN that does not log the users’ browsing history, otherwise what you do online will be known to the VPN service provider. 

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