Hypothesis Proxy Service

The Hypothesis proxy service, also known as “via”, enables the use of Hypothesis in circumstances or environments where that would otherwise be impossible or impractical. Some examples of this are:

  • You want to share an annotated page or hosted document with someone who has never heard of Hypothesis.
  • You want to annotate a page or document in a browser that does not or cannot use the extension or bookmarklet. (e.g. public computers, computers for which you do not have admin privileges, etc.)
  • You want to invite people to annotate a page or hosted document with you. Whether they use the Chrome extension, bookmarklet, or are annotating from a public computer, they’ll be able to sign in and annotate.
  • Where Hypothesis needs to run wholly within another application, such as our LMS app within Canvas or Moodle.

How do I use the Hypothesis proxy service?

Happily, you don’t need to do anything special to use via! Simply share or copy a link to a document or annotation from within the Hypothesis app.

When this link is opened in a browser, Hypothesis will detect whether the browser extension or bookmarklet is installed. If neither is available Hypothesis will automatically serve the document through via. It’s that simple.

You can also use Paste a Link from the menu bar on our website, or visit https://via.hypothes.is directly to see the proxy server in action.

How does the Hypothesis proxy service work?

First, it is important to note that via does not actually host any of the content being annotated, but acts as a proxy between your computer and the site that provides the content you wish to annotate.

This means that if you wanted to annotate a web page, the follow steps would occur:

  1. Your browser requests that via fetch the page needed
  2. Via retrieves the page from the remote site
  3. Alongside the original page content, we also add the code that makes Hypothesis work
  4. Finally, everything is sent back to your computer to be displayed in your browser, ready to annotate!

The via proxy runs as transparently as possible. We do not hide, anonymize, or alter any data from your browser or computer to the remote server, or vice-versa, except as is technically necessary to allow the service to work.

What doesn’t the proxy service do?

Because via is requesting content on your behalf, it is only able to access pages and sites that are publicly available. Any content or articles that require a subscription to view, are behind a paywall, require login credentials, or otherwise restrict access, will not work using Hypothesis’ proxy service.

It is important to note that via is a closed proxy that only works on a limited number of websites and domains which we have preapproved in order to ensure that it cannot be abused for malware or phishing attacks. You can read our post about why we made this decision.

If you find that one of the pages you want to annotate is not currently allowed by via, then you can contact us to suggest its inclusion.

Also, per our Terms of Service, any use of via is strictly limited to facilitating the use of the Hypothesis application. Any other use, whether intentional or not, is expressly forbidden. See our Abuse Policy for further info.

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