Goose VPN is a Netherlands-based privacy provider with some appealing features and products.
Goose has a sizeable VPN network of 63+ locations across 28 countries. Most are in Europe and the US, but there are also servers in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Israel and Singapore. The full list is available on the Goose site.
There's support for P2P on some of these servers. The company offers custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, a Chrome extension, and setup instructions for many other devices and platforms.
Unusually, there's no arbitrary device limit. If you happen to have six, seven, eight or more devices you need to connect simultaneously, you can do that. This doesn't mean you can have the entire family downloading at once – your account is for a single person only – but we're still happy to see this restriction ditched.
Service levels seem promising, with 24/7 support available every day of the year (including via live chat) and an aim to answer and solve all user questions within "a few hours". Goose says it doesn't outsource support, too, which gets a thumbs-up from us.
The website sometimes gets a little over-enthusiastic in its marketing. For instance, every time we refreshed the front page, it claimed to have last sold a one-year plan just a few seconds ago. Presumably the hope is that new users will be impressed by Goose's popularity, but we were suspicious.
Selling just one annual plan a minute would get the company 1,440 new users every day, which seems, well, unlikely, and as these times changed randomly on every refresh, anyway, we suspect they don't reflect real sales.
- Want to try Goose VPN? Check out the website here
Pricing seems fair. A one-year Unlimited Goose plan gets you unlimited traffic for £4.99 ($6.25) a month, paid annually. You can get the same product with monthly billing, although there's a big price hike to £12.99 ($16.25) a month. Meanwhile bargain hunters can get a limited 50GB a month plan for only £2.99 ($3.75). That could be a good deal if you'll only use the service occasionally, although we'd prefer a purely pay-as-you-go system where your data never expires.
The company has a seriously stingy 30-day refund policy, where you're only guaranteed to get your money back if you've used less than 100MB bandwidth. Fortunately, the program also offers a ‘free first month’ on every plan. This may not be completely free in every situation, as you can be charged £0.45 ($0.55) to validate a PayPal account, but it does mean you can run serious tests over a long period for almost no upfront cost at all.
Goose boasts of its ‘no log policy’ at the top of the website, but if you've ever gone VPN shopping you'll know every provider does the same, even when it's not entirely true. That's why it's always a good idea to drill down into the small print and discover what's really going on.
The policy clearly explains that Goose doesn't "cache, collect or store logs of users’ internet activities". Even better, it goes on to cover session data, explaining that the service doesn't store your originating IP address, or any information about the servers you use within a session. Many VPN providers are vague about that issue, if they mention it at all.
The only data which seems to be logged is the bandwidth use per account. That's no surprise for a company which offers a limited bandwidth product, and that detail on its own can't compromise your privacy.
The policy points out that Goose owns and manages its own network, giving it much greater control over operations. A paragraph explains how servers are configured, for instance:
"Servers’ operating systems are disabled except for those enabled modules necessary for transfer of traffic. All Goose VPN servers are secured with Linux hardening, firewalls, anti-spam software, anti-virus and anti-DDOS attack software to prevent third parties from maliciously attacking the Goose VPN server network."
This is the kind of detail we like to see, at least in theory, although this example does leave us with some questions. Why would a dedicated VPN server with a mostly disabled operating system need anti-spam software, for instance? We don't think it would. And that leaves us wondering if the policy has been written to impress us with its apparent thoroughness, rather than being a completely accurate description of what the company is really doing.
Moving on to the Goose terms of service page revealed an unusual fair use policy. Instead of vague warnings about ‘excessive usage’, Goose sort of spells out the limit: when "a user utilises more than 1% of the entire Goose network’s bandwidth". That sounds fair to us, but even if you break the limit, you'll be warned before the company takes any action. And, reassuringly, the policy states that this has never happened.
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Signing up for Goose VPN is a reasonably simple procedure. Provide your name, email address and a password, then select a package and choose a payment method (cards and PayPal are supported).
The first 30 days come almost for free, with just (as previously mentioned) a £0.45 payment to validate your PayPal account. We don't really know why this is necessary – very few other providers do anything similar – but even if Goose reframed the deal as "30 days for £0.45", that's still a reasonable offer. Sign up for the £2.99 ($3.75) limited account, for example, and this gives you 50GB data transfer for a maximum upfront payment of £0.45, more than enough for extensive testing.
A ‘welcome’ email arrives after signup with links to client downloads, FAQ pages, and contact details for Goose support just in case you run into difficulties.
We headed off to the Downloads page and found an unusually wide range of options and information. Along with the regular Windows, Mac, Android and iOS clients, there were instructions to set up routers, Synology NAS devices, Chrome OS systems, Linux, even Raspberry Pi 3 (Kodi). And if that's still not enough, experts will find all the details they need – Goose OpenVPN CA certificate, server details, OVPN files – to set up devices manually.
It's interesting to check out the store page for each mobile app, whether you'll be using them or not. Goose VPN scored very well with a 5-star rating on iTunes, 4.3 on Google Play, and both apps had been updated less than a month before our review.
We grabbed a copy of the Windows client. The installer offered us a choice of languages, unusually – English, German or Netherlands – but otherwise installed without any issues.
The Goose VPN client opens with a login page, which unusually gives options to sign in with Facebook or Google. That's hardly the best choice for privacy as it may allow Goose to access more information about you, but some people could find it more convenient. (We opted for the old-fashioned but safer method of entering our regular username and password.)
The client interface looks cluttered, at least initially. There are details on your current IP address, the default server, a map, showing its location, along with a Connect button, and a meter showing how much bandwidth you have left, if you're using a limited account. There are also website links to upgrade your account, check for updates, and make money by getting your friends to sign up.
Server selection appears much like other clients. Tapping the default location opens a list, highlighting which servers work best for specific applications (P2P, video streaming), and displaying a simple indicator of server load.
There are some issues. The Connect button doesn't by default connect you to the nearest location, for instance – you must choose a server manually. There is a location-based connection feature hidden away in Settings, but that only applies if you set up the client to connect automatically on launch, which isn’t nearly as convenient as most services.
The Favorites system is a little basic, too. You can set a single server as a Favorite which connects when the client loads, but there's no way to create a group of Favorites for easier recall later.
The client system tray icon doesn't give you any right-click connection-related options. You can't right-click to see your current server, close a connection or connect to something else, for instance. These actions are only available from the main interface.
The Settings dialog is also short on features. There's no kill switch, specialist DNS leak protection or anything else even faintly advanced. The only significant option is the ability to set your protocol – PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2 and OpenVPN are available – and even that defaults to a worrying ‘Automatic’ option which "applies the best protocol available for your device and the selected server." Best for what? Speed, security, something else? And does this mean not all servers support every protocol?
At any rate, it was time for some real-world testing*. We chose a local UK server, clicked the On button, and watched as the client connected.
One immediate concern is that our connection didn't default to OpenVPN. The client's automatic selection had used IKEv2 instead. That's not a significant security issue, but experienced users might want to choose their preferred protocol in Settings to ensure it's always used.
We noticed another oddity a few minutes later, when a pop-up window appeared asking if were enjoying Goose VPN, and a second asked us to provide feedback. Both windows could be closed with a click, but our guess is that most users won't expect or want to be faced with marketing pop-ups on their own system, even just once or twice.
During our last review of the service, we had great problems connecting to some Goose locations. There were no similar hassles this time around, and we were able to freely access any server whenever we liked.
Download speeds were capable, too, with UK to UK connections giving us a very acceptable 46-54Mbps on a 75Mbps line. Moving to nearby European countries – France, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Spain – gave us some reasonable average speeds, including around 40Mbps to France and 38Mbps in Germany. But a few locations were very inconsistent, with for example Netherlands performance ranging from 6Mbps to 38Mbps, depending on the server used.
Very long-distance connections saw even greater variations, ranging from a sluggish 4Mbps download speeds when connecting from the UK to Australia, to an excellent 30Mbps when reaching out to India.
Website unblocking proved effective, with Goose enabling access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer. There's no way to tell how long this might last – Netflix, in particular, is always moving to block VPNs – but Goose worked perfectly during our review.
A new Chrome extension simplifies access to your geoblocked websites, too. Tap an address bar icon, choose a location, hit the Connect button and your new IP is ready in seconds. This only applies within Chrome, of course, so you need to be sure you remember that and don't launch some other internet app. But if you only need to visit a website or two, it works very well.
The client had one or two annoyances which appeared over time. By default it displays a warning every 15 minutes when it's minimized but not connected. That sounds like a reasonable idea, but it's poorly implemented. Instead of using a desktop notification, the client pops up a window which grabs the focus. If you're typing and not looking at the screen, you might lose several keystrokes, then have to click back on your application and type them again. You can turn this off, fortunately, but it shouldn't be necessary.
We completed our tests by running a few privacy checks via dnsleaktest.com and other sites. During the last review, some of these test sites reported a DNS leak, but there were no problems this time. DNS, WebRTC and other tests were all passed successfully, with Goose keeping our identity properly shielded in every situation.
A likeable service, with good support and a clear ‘no logging’ policy. It's short on features and the Windows client needs a redesign, but Goose VPN does a lot right. It could be worth a try for less demanding users.
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*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.
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