Before I begin with today’s extension – a fantastic Google Chrome extension called Proxy Switchy – I’ll provide a bit of background on what exactly a proxy server is. Proxy servers are basic gateways between an individual computer (or computers), and the Internet. The way it typically works is that one of the servers “behind” the proxy server makes a request for something on the Web; this can be a website or service or anything, really. The proxy server then figures if the person making the request has enough privileges to make the request, and if the person does (by having an account, for instance), the request is passed on and the subsequent response passed back to the originator.
That’s a basic, and one of the more common uses. Why would someone need a proxy? Well, if you live in the UK, you can’t access Hulu videos or movies. If you live in the US, most of what the BBC streams online isn’t available to you. Purchasing an account with a UK server allows US customers to access BBC content, as well as purchase many online items that would otherwise not be available. Now, most proxy servers aren’t fast enough to make streaming video a pleasant experience, but it is one of the possibilities.
Modern web browsers all have basic proxy support, at the very least. The problem is that in order to access it, you need to jump through a few hoops. Let’s take Google Chrome as a good example. In order to add a proxy, you need to click the little wrench icon, then bring up Preferences. From there, click on the Under The Hood tab and choose the Change proxy settings button. Now you can click the Manual Proxy Configuration radio button and enter in the proxy server and your account info, if required. The problem, besides this being a lengthy process, is that when you want to go back to regular browsing (constantly using a UK proxy server makes every website think you’re located in the UK, which means you wouldn’t be able to use Hulu, for instance), you have to return to the proxy settings and go back to the Direct Internet Connection option. And if you have multiple proxy servers you use, you’ll need to enter them over and over.
Enter Proxy Switchy, the aforementioned extension for Google Chrome. Using Proxy Switchy is simple, and is a huge time saver. Once installed, you’ll notice a new globe icon in the toolbar. Clicking this (left-click) brings up a menu, showing all the proxy servers you have entered. To choose one, simply click it, and immediately you’ll use that proxy server. Want to go back to a direct connection? Click that option. The huge advantage, obviously, is the speed at which you can switch from one to the other, as well a being able to choose from multiple options, and to have everything saved.
Proxy Switchy does more as well. You can set up rules, which may tell Proxy Switchy to use Proxy A when visiting a particular website, and Proxy B when visiting another. Or, if you do use a UK proxy, you could set up Proxy Switchy to use it whenever you use a website with the co.uk ending. Some other applications can also change your computer or browser’s proxy settings, so Proxy Switchy has an option to monitor those settings and to always revert them back.
Finally, Proxy Switchy has a couple of import and export options. If you want to use your proxy switching rules with other browsers, they can be exported as a PAC file, or as a Switchy Rule List, for sharing with friends who also use Proxy Switchy. You can also make a backup, then use it to restore all your settings.
Proxy Switchy is a great extension. I don’t have a big need to use proxy servers, although I have used them a couple times. And Proxy Switchy makes it simple to go back and forth between regular settings and your proxy servers, for when you need its features. The interface is simple and easy to understand, rules are logical (and can be imported from a Web-based list), and I’ll repeat it again: it’s easy to use. If you use Google Chrome and are in need of a good proxy switcher, then give Proxy Switchy a try.