Even though we mostly think that the internet makes everything available to everyone, this is unfortunately not true. There is so much content out there that is simply not accessible unless you live in a specific country.
Just think back – how many times did you try to watch a YouTube video that the uploader made not available for your country? How many apps and websites did you try to use only to be faced with a message that the service is not available in your area?
In case this ever happened to you, you’ve probably stumbled upon a geoblock. If you’ve never encountered this technology before, keep on reading to learn more about it and how you can get around it in 2020.
What is Geoblocking and How Does it Work?
Regardless of whether you heard about geoblocking before or not, chances are that you did not put a lot of effort into understanding or researching it – unless you really needed the content that you were blocked from consuming.
Basically, websites and companies from all over the world use geo blocking as a method of restricting people’s access to certain content based on their geographical location. Some of these restrictions are government-enforced while some are the result of private companies wanting to keep their content localized.
Your IP address plays a crucial role in identifying your location. When you try to use a service or visit a website, the server needs access to your IP address in order to know where to send the content.
If the IP address is located in a country that is restricted from accessing the content in question, you might be completely blocked, given partial access or redirected to a version of the website that is available to users from your country. The truth is that you might not even notice that you’ve been redirected to another version of the website or service.
Why is Geoblocking Used?
You might be wondering why this is necessary and why we can’t all enjoy the same content. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why geoblocking is used, from legal to political.
We already mentioned YouTube as one of the examples of geoblocking. Video creators have the option to put geoblocks in place so that their videos cannot be watched from certain countries. Other than the creators themselves making the content unavailable due to licensing rights, YouTube can also block certain videos to comply with local laws.
Similarly, if you use Netflix, you might have noticed that its content offering is not the same for every country. Each country has its own version of the streaming service that has a unique catalog of titles. This is also due to licensing rights and copyright regulations.
Seeing as how Netflix has a lot of shows and movies that were produced by other companies, these companies have a say in where their content can be shown, usually because they already have contracts with certain local networks. What is more, even though Netflix is producing its own content, not even all of those titles are available all over the world. The U.S. version has the largest library and it’s only normal that people want access to it.
Other legal reasons why someone would geoblock their website include having the license to operate only within a certain country. For example, SkyCityCasino.com is an online casino that is available only to customers from New Zealand. Or, if the content is produced by using taxpayers’ money, it is geo blocked in order to allow access to those who have paid for it. One such example is the BBC iPlayer which can only be used with a UK IP address.
Furthermore, there are countries such as China that block access to entire websites because they have their own versions of these services. For instance, instead of YouTube, they use Youku which cannot be accessed outside of China. Finally, geo-restrictions can prevent travelers from properly planning a trip abroad or applying to a certain school because certain websites don’t allow payments for people from specific countries.
How Can you Get Around Geoblocking?
While this may seem too big of an obstacle to overcome, you should know that there are ways how you can bypass geo blocking and access the content you desire. Like we said, your IP address is how a website knows where you’re accessing it from – so, what you need to do is hide or change your IP address. Nowadays, there are many ways how this can be done.
One of the most popular is by using a virtual private network or VPN. There are many options to choose from; some are free while others you have to pay for. While the range and choice of countries at your disposal may be smaller for those free varieties, they should all hide your IP address and encrypt your connection. When looking for a VPN, though, make sure to do your research and see which ones are secured and which ones are not recommended. Also, keep in mind that there is a possibility that using a VPN might slow down your internet speed but it is usually not very noticeable.
Other than VPNs, there are other options as well, although they are not as safe and secure. For example, a Smart DNS can also bypass geo blocking and while it does not use encryption to protect you and your data, it might be faster than using a VPN. Proxies are another service that can mask your IP address but they offer little to no security and can be quite slow due to overcrowding and bandwidth limitations. Lastly, you can also look into Tor – a free service that can hide your IP address but is not too reliable or fast.
As you can see, there are many reasons why someone would geoblock their content online. On the other hand, there are also ways to bypass these restrictions and access the services and websites you would like to use. Whichever method you decide on, make sure you are safe and protect your data accordingly.