For years people have been using proxies and VPNs not only for security but to bypass the increasing number of filters and blocks that exist online. In the internet’s early days, these didn’t really exist – if you put up a web page you allowed everyone to access it. Obviously there were some exceptions but on the whole most sites were accessible to all, irrespective of your location. Those days have long gone now, with Government’s increasingly operating their own filters and censorship ranging from the ridiculous total block of North Korea to the lighter touch of Western democracies.
In fact, most filtering is now done by the websites themselves usually in the cause of profit maximisation. Most of the world’s biggest media sites for example will analyse your physical location before deciding what you can access, the internet is pretty much multi-tiered. Which is why being able to bypass these artificial restrictions is so important to many people – and why Netflix blocking proxies and VPNs is upsetting so many people.
You see, for years people have been paying for a Netflix subscription in countries where it’s technically not available. There were an estimated quarter of a million Netflix subscribers in Australia years before it was even launched there, people just fired up an American based VPN and access the US site instead. They all paid, they all had valid subscriptions except without a VPN they’d have had to fly to the US to use them. Now Netflix has launched in many more countries, except there’s still a problem – the quality and quantity of movies available varies widely. For example none of the regional versions of Netflix are anywhere near as good as the US one despite the costs being pretty much identical. So the VPN was still used to access the preferred version of Netflix not the one foisted upon you due to your location.
Unfortunately in the last few weeks this has changed and the vast majority of VPNs and proxies no longer work with Netflix – they are blocked almost completely. Netflix have adopted a different approach to most media companies who try and individually block VPNs, they have blocked all commercial IP addresses – just watch this quick video.
As you can see to bypass Netflix’s blocks you must not only use a VPN service but it must also originate from residential classified IP addresses – the one’s that are normally assigned from your ISP. These are unfortunately much more difficult to acquire than commercial addresses which is why most VPNs topped working as they were all based in commercial datacentres. Everyone using a VPN or a proxy would receive a warning message instead of being able to access the Netflix site.
It is quite an aggressive move though and many more people use commercial IP addresses without intending to bypass any blocks. Lots of corporate laptops for example use a VPN as standard simply because of the added security, anyone trying to watch Netflix from their work PC will also be blocked. IN fact Netflix is in some ways stopping the use of what is actually a sensible and secure way of accessing the internet. Using a VPN is pretty much essential for people who want to access secure sites while travelling for example.
How many of these companies are able to adapt to using residential IP addresses is unclear at the moment. Overall Netflix has currently succeeded in stopping access from the vast majority of services, there are a few like Identity Cloaker which have updated their infrastructure but it is a costly experience.