The tutor continues coverage of web proxy terms.
With yesterday’s post I began exploring the world of web proxies. In general, they are hardware or software entities that receive and pass on the requests and responses of internet communication.
A transparent proxy can be either forward or reverse (see yesterday’s post). “Transparent,” here, is the opposite of “apparent”: the internet surfer can’t see that a given request goes through the transparent proxy. Rather, they just seek the information, then get the response, as if they are communicating directly with the server.
In fact, the requests and responses might be passing through two transparent proxies – one at the gateway (forward) that connects them to the internet, and one in front of the server (reverse) that holds the resource requested.
I’d argue that, from the user’s point of view, the reverse proxy is typically transparent. After all, what’s it to you, if your request, on the server side, is funneled through a proxy to the server that can best answer? You likely expect such a premise, without knowing it’s called a “proxy”.
On the client (forward) side, the difference between “transparent” and “non-transparent” can be more meaningful:
Non-transparent proxying is probably what people mainly used twenty years ago. It involved configuring the computer (perhaps via its internet browser) to a certain connection, possibly via phone number (if dial-up was being used), internet address of the proxy, and even its port number. Someone needed to open the “set up connection” pane (or terminal), then enter those details. A tech from the internet service provider might come to the residence to do it, or else you might do it yourself, from written instructions or guidance over the phone.
Transparent proxying is likely the context most users are familiar with today. The user arrives, computer under arm, at an internet gateway (possibly a coffee shop, university, hotel, etc). They plug in with their ethernet cable, or just connect wirelessly to the host network. Then, they need to enter a code (likely posted on the wall for client reference) and/or accept a license agreement. Doing so, they are able to surf the internet. Since their computer has needed no specific configuration to use that internet gateway, it’s a case of transparent proxying.
Non-transparent proxying can still be used: Internet Explorer 11, for example, in Tools→Internet Options→Connections, has a place to configure connection to a proxy server. Using a specifically configured proxy can lead to increased functionality. Moreover, the configuration details (address, port, and possibly other rules programmed into that proxy) will likely be unknown to hackers. Therefore, non-transparent proxying can provide increased security.
Transparent proxying, on the other hand, has the advantage of convenience.
Perhaps, philosophically, the difference between “transparent proxy” vs “non-transparent proxy” can depend on your point of view. For instance, let’s say you’re a visitor at your friend’s house. You didn’t set up your friend’s internet service; you have no idea about it. You go on the internet to find tomorrow’s weather forecast. From a proxy point of view, is the context “transparent”, or “non-transparent”? To you, it must be transparent, since you’re not aware which one it is:)
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.