Freedom, openness, and unhindered sharing of information are the principles on which the internet was founded. As an ecosystem for sharing information, the internet allows data to reach remote corners of the world without fail. As long as there is a working internet connection, anyone can access the same information from anywhere that you can say is Staying Global.
At least that’s what the internet was established to be. Today, the internet is no longer without borders. The online world is becoming increasingly segmented. Content is now available in certain regions exclusively. And everyday people are using more and more tools to unblock proxy networks, foreign streaming networks, and public data.
The move towards segmentation of the online world isn’t surprising. Content creators and producers have long been limiting access to their content using different means. Geolocation and geo-blocking are just the latest – and most effective – in a long list of segmentation methods. The good news is: you can stay global in an increasingly segmented online world.
Content for Specific Regions
The reason behind regional content is actually very understandable. Since most content is tied to commercial rights and other limitations, its distribution on the internet must follow the same restrictions. This is why TV series that air in the United States as a free-to-air aren’t always available on Netflix or other streaming services.
Region-specific content is still distributed using normal means. You can find this type of content on video sharing platforms like YouTube, blogs and publishing platforms like Medium, and even social media sites like Instagram and LinkedIn. Even Instagram Music is yet to be available for the world due to copyright issues and other restrictions.
Copyright laws and requirements restricting the distribution of this content isn’t necessarily made for today’s internet era. In fact, much of it is made for previous generations of distribution media (i.e. free-to-air TV), which explains why many of the requirements are considered outdated and irrelevant.
Still, changing those requirements isn’t easy. There are legislative processes to go through and a long set of steps to complete before you can have regulations that are friendlier to internet users. When you take business interests into account, you know that you cannot expect these regulation changes to happen quickly.
Getting to Know Geo-Blocking
In most cases, it is up to the platform to limit access to region-specific content. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the most commonly used method to block access to this content is known as geo-blocking.
Geo-blocking is the practice of generating a Forbidden response when the server is accessed from outside the predetermined region. The origin source of access is examined as soon as a request reaches the server.
Servers can identify the source based on IP address and geolocation information. Each IP header can be traced back to a specific region, a country, a city, an even an ISP. As long as your IP address doesn’t match the ones required by the server, you will not be able to access the content you’re looking for.
Services like Netflix do geo-blocking in a cleverer way: on a service level. This is the reason why you cannot find some TV series and movies when you access Netflix from another part of the world. Those movies you’re looking for may only be available to users from certain countries.
In the case of social media content and YouTube videos, you usually get an error message that says, “The content you are trying to access isn’t available in your region,” which appears when you try to access content meant for other regions. This too is a form of geo-blocking.
On a higher level, geo-blocking can prevent you from accessing a website or a server entirely. Some servers still reply with 404 or automatically redirect users to a regional site when accessed from outside their primary regions. The latter is better for user experience since you still get some information in return.
Now that we have discussed more about geo-blocking and region-specific content, it is time to learn about how you can stay global in today’s segmented internet landscape. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that your IP address is a metric that many service providers use to track your location.
So, if an IP address is used to track geolocation, wouldn’t using different IP addresses allow you to be anywhere in the world? Exactly! A proxy server with IP addresses from different regions is what you need to access restricted content seamlessly. Once you connect to the proxy server, access to other servers will appear as if it comes from the proxy server.
You can bypass Netflix’s regional limitations, Apple TV’s movie availability, and even content that isn’t normally available on Instagram and YouTube. You configure the proxy server to switch to different IP addresses depending on your specific needs. When it is time to return to your home region, all you need to do is disconnect yourself from the proxy network.
Geo-blocking makes accessing certain content more difficult, but it is not the perfect method for limiting access to regional content. With a capable proxy server, you too can stream US TV series and other exclusive content from services like Netflix.