It’s good to see that those of us who travel a lot can now keep in touch via the internet. For sure we’ve had email and messaging for many years to contact our friends and family, even on cruises you can get a decent internet connection so that you never feel that isolated. However there’s one thing that has been annoying me especially recently and that’s the practice of geotargeting content to different users.
Let me explain, when the internet was in it’s early years then a web server would deliver the same page to every visitor. So if I accessed a website from the Cayman Islands and you were in Dallas, Texas then we would both see exactly the same thing. However now that’s all changed, because many websites will show completely different pages depending on where you are connecting from. In some senses this makes sense, the search engines use this concept to deliver results that are applicable to you. It prevents you getting irrelevant results like searching for a ‘local plumber’ in New York and getting a long list of plumbers based in the suburbs of Sydney in Australia. However it also becomes a bit annoying when you get blocked access to something because of your location.
You may have come across it in YouTube – being told that a ‘video is not available in your location’ for example. More likely you’ve tried to access some site like Hulu, Pandora or the BBC web site and been told that you cannot have access to the site because of where you are. The website has checked on your location based on the IP address you have connected with and then decided on what you can or can’t see. So if you’re enjoying a cruise somewhere and want to watch the latest episode of the Simpsons on Hulu – unless your IP address is registered in the United States then you will not get access.
The channel that I most miss is that of the BBC, which is only accessible if you’re in the United Kingdom. However fortunately one of the stewards on my last trip pointed me to a website that actually shows you how to watch IPlayer abroad , it’s very clever stuff. All you need to do is to hide your real IP address and make sure the website sees one from the correct country. You can do this through special software which can connect through a VPN or proxy server. It sounds complicated but it is really just a button click and your location is obscured.
When you connect through a UK proxy for example then the web site thinks you are in the UK as that is the IP address it sees. Most of the best services like this will have servers in lots of countries meaning you can switch from a UK IP address to a US or French one very simply and easily. For those of us who travel it has been a real boon and for me it’s great to watch the UK news whilst sitting on the deck of cruise ship in the Indian Ocean, the best of all worlds!