For many years, the rather unfortunate practice of restricting access based on your location has been growing in the online world. In fact any decent web site will now heavily control what you can or can’t see depending on your location. The driver is of course profit, licenses are often granted on a per country basis allowing organisations to maximise their profits by charging different amounts in different places. Those of us who hoped that the internet would become one big global market are set for disappointment.
It was probably to be expected companies have done this for years, charging top dollar in the richer countries whilst lowering their prices in less affluent areas. In fact this forms the very basic laws of economics, check out price discrimination for more reading about this topic. Fortunately though, the technology to apply these restrictions is not very sophisticated at the moment. Basically the website looks up your IP address when you connects and then looks up it’s location, this is used to determine what you can see. For example Hulu holds the US rights to lots of programmes and you can access the whole catalogue if you connect via a US IP address. Connect from anywhere else and you’ll get little more than adverts and a few clips to enjoy.
This was fairly easy to bypass though, just a little research or investment – you could buy proxy servers from a supplier and use it to hide your real address. Slowly this became harder though with companies like Hulu blocking all but the well set up and configured proxies or VPN servers. But there was another problem, changing your connection and using proxies worked great on a computer but nowadays many of us are surfing the web through a host of other devices like games consoles, phones and media streamers like the Roku.
In theory this should work ok too, but suspiciously many hardware manufacturers are putting less access to basic network connectivity on these devices. It’s very hard to get a PS3 or Xbox to use a proxy or shared VPN (although it is possible), and some hardware like the Roku or ADSL routers simply don’t supply access to these sort of configuration options. Which is partly responsible for the next generation of anti-geoblock technology – namely Smart DNS.
This goes a step further than using proxies, or possibly a step backwards in that only part of the connection is redirected (the bit that checks your location), when you start to stream video for example it goes straight from the web server to your PC. This means that obviously the security element of the connection is pretty much non existent. However the video streaming is much quicker as the majority of the traffic doesn’t need to be router through a third party which happens when using a proxy or VPN server.