On August 22, an open source project called ShadowSockswas removed from GitHub.
According to the project’s author, the police contacted him and asked him to stop working on the tool and to remove all of the code from GitHub.
After the news, many Chinese and foreign developers, as well as ShadowSocks users, paid tribute to the author. As a result of this attention, ShadowSocks became the top trending project on GitHub.
GoAgent’s Github repo is also removed today (Aug 25, 2015). GoAgent was the most popular circumvention tool in China. It relied on Google App Engine to tunnel traffic across GFW. It was hosted on Google Code and later moved to Github. The author phuslu deleted the repo without explanation but changed his account description to be “Everything that has a beginning has an end”.
What is ShadowSocks?
According to its official site, which is still running at the time of writing, ShadowSocks
is “A secure socks5 proxy, designed to protect your Internet traffic”. It is one of the most popular circumvention tools in China and is on par with VPNs and GoAgent .
ShadowSocks is merely a protocol, just like a VPN, that secures Internet traffic. A similar example is torrenting. Torrenting pirate content is illegal, but the torrent protocol is totally legal and has many legitimate uses.The protocol is completely open-source and the author made no financial gain from the project. The author, whose user name is clowwindy, did not provide any service to let Chinese netizens bypass Internet censorship. Despite this, the police visited his home and pressured him to remove the project.
Trend of crackdown on tools
Since January, 2015, the authorities have stepped up their control over VPNs in China. This trend has continued into the summer and recently other circumvention tool developers have encountered problems.
In a recent statement, Qujing, another circumvention tool, said that the authorities told them that Internet users in China can only use legitimate means to get information. All services offered by Qujing closed down on July 28, 2015.
Unlike ShadowSocks, Qujing is a commercial service. It sells a service similar to a VPN to bypass censorship.
Other famous VPN vendors have also shut down their websites after pressure from the authorities.
Other people who are mirroring the ShadowSocks code
Others have mirrored the ShadowSocks code and those mirrors are still available. However, if the author heeds the police warning and stops work on ShadowSocks, no updates will be made to the code. However, since the code is open source, other developers may take up the cause and continue to improve ShadowSocks, especially given the attention that this incident has generated in China.