If you have ever tried to access the majority of the wonderful BBC Iplayer content outside the UK then you will have certainly been disappointed. The reason is that the BBC use a system called geotargeting to restrict the content of it’s web site, outside the UK, it simply doesn’t work.
It’s a well used concept, basically every computer connected to the Internet has an IP address. This address is basically your presence on the internet and it can be traced to the exact computer that you are using. Many media sites, the BBC included use the location of the IP address to allow or restrict content.
For instance if you connect to the internet in the UK you will be assigned an IP address from your ISP. This IP address will be listed to be used in the UK hence you are identified as a UK surfer. If you connect to the internet from somewhere like the USA or France (in fact anywhere except UK) – everytime you try and access the BBC Iplayer then you will be blocked.
It’s not that clever it’s simply a big database listing which country an IP address is assigned to. In fact sometimes this can be wrong, I know for a fact that some IP address ranges in France are actually listed as being in the UK. The result is that these IP addresses can access BBC Iplayer even when connecting from France, simply because the IP database is out of date.
This targeting of content is also used by many other web sites. Google will automatically direct you to the language variant of your connection, the same with places like Amazon which will suggest the correct country depending on your location.
There are lots of US media sites like Hulu, Pandora and ABC which block users who are not from the US. One aspect that always annoys me is the way I can’t visit my favourite online casino when I’m in the US as they block US surfers based on their IP address due to the online gambling laws in the States.
In other senses their are more sinister uses of geotargeting, censorship to online users is rife on the internet and many people are blocked from lots of legitimate sites purely due to the location of their computer.
When I travel across Europe the sites my computer is allowed to access changes dramatically in some senses. When I visit Turkey lots of websites now get blocked including until recently WordPress blogs (although someone told me that has now changed again)
But remember this form of censorship is actually quite unsophisticated, it’s just a simple lookup in many cases. The solution is that you just have to change your IP address so that it looks like you are coming from a different country. It’s relatively simple to do but will either require some research or investing in a commercial solution.