There are many people and businesses online who are finding themselves increasingly constrained by having only a single network address. It’s not the technical limit that’s the issue, it’s the fact that increasingly IP addresses are used to filter, block or reroute online users. For example if you’re a business who advertises online in different countries, it’s only natural that you’d want to check your campaigns occasionally. Yet the problem is that what you see on your screen is not always going to be the same as your target audience.
Let’s for example look at one of the most popular sites on the internet – the BBC. This is what you see if you visit from outside the UK.
It looks similar to the main BBC site, but in fact it’s very different in many ways. This is BBC.com the site you will be redirected to if your IP is detected as being outside the UK. It’s designed for an international audience so has more a focus on global rather than UK news. It’s also missing most of the best bits of the BBC site, live streaming the TV channels and access to the BBC iPlayer archive.
Unfortunately this is a common occurrence and what you can see or access varies greatly depending on your physical location. Obviously this is a real nuisance if you’re in the UK and you want to check how your US Google adverts are looking. However it get’s worse than that and there’s many more restrictions, some sites you can’t even access if you’re not in the right location.
Furthermore research is difficult as your results are all skewed to your exact physical location. If you do anything international online you have to be very aware of these geographical considerations. Even relatively small companies will operate internationally over the internet so this isn’t an issue that just affects the big companies either.
Not Just Geographical Filtering
If this wasn’t bad enough, the internet is beginning to be segmented in other ways too. Although you can in some senses see a logical justification for filtering based on location, after all the search engines have always done it to ensure you get results which are localised. However the other growth area is in filtering based on the classification of your IP address.
IP addresses can also be split into two other groups (actually it’s more than this but these are the important ones) – commercial and residential addresses. Broadly speaking the residential ones are supplied to individuals and smaller businesses through their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Whereas the commercial addresses are assigned to corporate networks and datacentres. However from a web sites perspective the distinction is even more important – basically ordinary web users and commercial connections. Plus to extend the comparison, one group is full of ‘ordinary users’ and the other is full of commercial connections, bots, automated software, people using proxies and similar.
Not surprisingly most web sites have much more time for the first category and many have started filtering on this basis. For example a couple of years ago, Netflix got totally fed up with people using VPNs to switch which version they got access to. What was happening was people were logging in through a US VPN in order to get the much bigger and better US version. However this broke the film and movie industries rather archaic licensing rules and so they instigated a blanket ban on access to all commercial addresses.
Basically you couldn’t access Netflix from anything other than a residential IP address. If you accessed via a VPN or from a corporate network or anything remotely originating from a datacentre you’d get blocked. It was a huge change that of course you probably only noticed if you tried to watch Netflix from work or used a VPN to get more movies!
Growth of the Residential IP Provider Services
It’s not stopped there though, many websites are doing the same. Even if they’re not actively blocking yet they’re monitoring access from these commercial addresses. You’ll have problems on many sites using commercial addresses, including social networks and many e-commerce sites especially if used aggressively.
Many businesses have been forced to use residential IP proxies in order to conduct their research or access blocked resources. Many entrepreneurs who buy and sell online have found they need to use residential addresses to buy items especially if they’re scarce. Also internet marketers who run multiple Instagram or Facebook accounts have found that you’re much likely to get blacklisted from commercial IP addresses.
The demand is growing for these residential IP addresses as more and more websites start to favor them. Many marketers have been forced to invest in proxies which are pre-loaded with these IP addresses in contrast with the normal commercial addresses which were used previously.
They can be expensive but are invaluable in many situations particularly when accessing popular sites. The prices have come down slightly as providers have come up with technical solutions like rotating addresses automatically, but they’re still much more than commercial addresses. The problem is that unless you’re an ISP it’s actually difficult to get hold of them. So if you’ve started looking you may be surprised at some of the prices if you want to buy residential ips. they also have a tendency to be given different names too like ATC proxies which can also add to the confusion.
There are actually a few tactics to gain access to these addresses, although none of them are that easy. Probably the most straight forward and extensive is the one operated by a company called Luminati. They have literally millions of IP addresses available because they have a very unique way to gathering them. If you need real volume it’s probably the nearest you’re get to a network of unlimited residential proxies. The company offer a VPN service which users can access for free in exchange for allowing some of their bandwidth to be used as ‘a residential desktop proxy’. This means that connections are actually routed through an ordinary residential home users connection so are virtually indistinguishable from any other home based user. What’s more because the endpoint of the connection is not limited to some datacentre, there’s much more geographical variation involved. This is important if you want an IP address registered to a very specific location for example for posting in Craigslist.
It’s probably the most anonymous and hardest to detect residential IP address, although it’s not one of the cheapest options.
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