Have you noticed the increasing number of websites that are becoming inaccessible? Once upon a time you could click on pretty much any YouTube video but nowadays so many are country restricted i.e. you can only watch from specific countries. I was trying to watch a movie clip the other day and I got this message. It was a YouTube video from Channel 4 the British TV channel. Which is odd really as this happened from the UK and I could access all of the actual Channel 4 site and the thousands of programmes on it (including where the clip was from).
I see it more and more, sometimes with more information but very rarely. The reason is normally due to licensing issues or restrictions, the technology used to block you is called Geotargeting. The restrictions are based on your IP address – many web sites now look up your location from this. Sometimes it’s for good things perhaps to customise your experience of their site. All the search engines for example will customize your results to your actual location. So if you just search for ‘plumber’ you’ll get results of local plumbers not from the other side of the world.
The problem is that there seem to be far, far more restrictions than there are benefits to this technology. I watch a lot of shows on Channel 4 and love this one in particular – Escape to the Chateau which is broadcast on Channel 4 live and through their website for free. However as soon as you step outside the United Kingdom our old friend geo-targeting will block access to not only Channel 4 but all the other UK TV sites too.
For example try and watch something on Hulu when not in the USA and you’ll get blocked, watch the BBC Iplayer outside the UK and the same thing happens. More and more sites are doing this – literally thousands of different websites will only allow you to watch certain things on their sites depending on your location. Sometimes the lookup gets things wrong, this is because the database which lists all the IP addresses and their locations doesn’t always get updated. I’ve often managed to watch UK shows from a French hotel because my IP address is incorrectly listed as British. However this is all a bit haphazard and you certainly can’t rely on this happening.
To ensure you can watch what you like you need to start using VPNs or proxies to obscure your location. These middle man servers present their own IP address to the web servers when you connect. Therefore if you select an elite proxy or VPN in the appropriate country you should be fine to access the sites.
The service I use has lots of servers in different countries in order to make this more accessible. For example the above site is watchable from Switzerland despite being blocked in the UK. Connect via a Swiss server and you can watch the above video with out a problem. If you want to watch the BBC or Channel 4 then you need a UK server, for Hulu or NBC then select a US one and so on.
There can be some restrictions and issues with using this technology primarily because the media sites try and block their use. Some sites are better than others at achieving this, the BBC was quite relaxed until recently when it started blocking a lot of VPNs. There are plenty that work though and you should always check before investing in a long term subscription to see if it works properly with the stations you need.
When you get the right VPN though, you’ll wonder how you lived without them. They open up literally thousands of great sites from all over the world. Most of the best VPNs come with subscriptions that cover lots of countries so don’t restrict your viewing. I recently used a VPN to watch the Test Match cricket on Indian TV then switched to watch Match of the Day on BBC later all from a US based computer.