Blocked and filtered, monitored and restricted – this is the reality of the internet today. Ever clicked on a particularly funny looking video to be greeted by the message – ’we’re sorry that video is not available in your area’. When did the internet change like this, it was once open to all, it didn’t matter if you were in a cyber cafe in Karachi, an Airport in Harare or sitting in a Starbucks in London – we all saw the same online, we were all equal. But that’s not the case any more – commercial interests, government filters and restrictive licensing meant that whatever you see online is highly dependent on where you live.
Mostly it’s GeoTargeting that’s to blame, a website will check which country your IP address is from before deciding on what you can see. If you don’t believe me check out any media site in a country apart from yours – Non US residents try and watch something on ABC or Hulu, if you’re in the US go and try to watch something on the BBC Iplayer website. Put simply it won’t work simply because the internet is now layered in Tiers and not all open to all. It’s not confined to English language media either, it’s the same with media and TV companies all over Europe, just look at this video about watching RAI Player from outside Italy.
As always though there are workarounds, mainly in the various technologies that can be used to bypass these blocks. You can use a BBC VPN or a proxy to access Hulu and Pandora and it doesn’t really matter where you are. In fact for internet surfers in most developed countries, a subscription to one of these services is becoming a necessity. Many services offer access to servers across the world meaning whenever you get blocked you can simply select the appropriate server and you’re back in business. But of course this has meant that slowly the internet is becoming accessible to some and inaccessible to others. If you can afford one of these subscriptions you’ll be fine but others will have to live with the handicaps. It’s not really how the internet used to be and I suspect it’s not how most of us wanted it to be!