FAQ: What Is Content Geo-Blocking (and How Can I Sneak Around It?)

What Is Geo Blocking and How to Get Around It Credit: Nadia Snopek / Shutterstock
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Have you ever tried to watch a TV series or a YouTube video only to find out that it’s not available in your region? Or maybe you’ve traveled outside of the US only to find out you can’t seem to find your favorite Netflix show and Disney+ isn’t letting you log into your account.

If this has happened to you, then you’ve been a victim of “geo-blocking.” But don’t worry, you’re not the only one who’s faced this issue.

Most of us have experienced geo-blocking, at least to a certain degree. That’s mostly because, in a world where you can access anything with just a few clicks, companies needed to find a way to keep their content secure and within the boundaries they’ve agreed to (for a variety of reasons).

Although, sometimes, it seems like geo-blocking just makes no sense. So what is it, exactly?

What Is Geo-blocking?

“Geo-blocking” is basically geographically-based online restrictions where companies, websites, and even an individual person can decide which regions will have access to content, products, or services. That way, if a company is selling a product or service, for instance, an iPhone, on a US-based website, it’s expected that the company wouldn’t want people from other countries or continents to buy their products from the US website.

In the example above, geo-blocking would make sense. Why would you try to buy a product that you couldn’t actually get? However, when it comes to digital products or services, it may seem illogical and even unfair to block access to someone because of their location.

How Does Geo-Blocking Work?

Each time you visit a website (or even an app) your iPhone or computer sends your IP address. Your Internet Protocol address, better known as IP address, is a series of numbers, and sometimes letters that any computer uses to send and receive information online, including your location.

The website or app later uses that data to show you the information or content available for your country or region or block you from accessing it altogether.

Why Do Websites Geo-Block?

As we mentioned, geo-blocking makes sense to a certain extent. If you’re looking to buy a new bicycle, you don’t want to buy it from a European store if you don’t live in the US. However, there are other reasons as to why companies and websites do this.

Some websites might geo-block their products or services because they’re trying to reach a specific audience in a particular country. Or maybe their content isn’t well suited for a specific region.

For instance, a company might want to geo-block its gambling website because of a specific country’s gambling laws. Other services, like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, block their content for copyright and licensing reasons, or even to make the release of shows and movies staggered throughout the world.

A great example of geo-blocking is the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. This show was just recently released on Netflix in the US, but people outside of the US could watch the show long before this year. This was because Netflix didn’t have the rights to broadcast The Last Airbender in the US until recently, whereas other countries have had access to this show for several years. Why is this a great example, you ask? Well, it’s because I like The Last Airbender.

Anyway, there’s also the possibility that some websites are using geo-blocking to practice price discrimination. This is a term used when a provider sells the same products in different markets at different (or highly-inflated) prices. Granted, this could be the minority, but it’s still a possibility.

How to Get Past Geo-Blocking

There are workarounds to see products or content from other countries or regions, but these aren’t a definitive solution. For instance, if you wanted to check out a product on Amazon, but you’re outside of the US, you can change your location and zip code manually so that you can see all of the products available in that region.

Of course, if you wanted to buy the product, you’d need to have a physical address.

Other websites let you change the country or region manually to show content you wouldn’t see otherwise. But that doesn’t work with every website. Plus, you don’t get the full experience.

If you really want a website or service to think you’re in another country or region, the best and easiest way to do it is by using a virtual private network, or VPN for short.

A VPN hides your real IP Address and shares your information through a private network that can be located in any part of the world. This is one of the best and most secure solutions. Having a VPN also helps you encrypt your IP Address and the data you send so other people can’t see or (worse) steal your information so easily.

Top VPNs to Bypass Geo-Blocking

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. FastestVPN

Granted, a VPN isn’t always a perfect solution. Some websites like Netflix can detect when you’re using a VPN and won’t let you use its service until you turn it off. For this, you’ll need to have an excellent VPN service. Fortunately, we’ve already covered the best VPN services you can get that are worth your money.

Overall, geo-blocking a website or content can be both good and bad. Sometimes, a website showing only content you might find useful in your region is more beneficial. Not to mention that it can help you avoid websites and content that’s not suited for your region. Other times, companies take advantage of geo-blocking to restrict the user’s overall experience to profit from it.

Although there are effective solutions to work around geo-blocking, most of the time, it’d be best for all of us if the World Wide Web was truly available worldwide.

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