There are of course few sources of entertainment quite as popular as the media company – Netflix. It’s name has become synonymous with streaming video and entertainment, in fact in some demographics Netflix is becoming a verb. To Netflix, or ‘I just Netflix’d all night’ means that you simply chilled in front of the TV (or PC, laptop or phone) and relaxed. You’re never alone with a Netflix account although if you’ve ever travelled and tried to use it you’ve probably been somewhat shocked.
The reason is that although your Netflix account is meant to be a global one, what you can access is very dependent on your location. So if you’re an American travelling in say Japan and you login to your Netflix account – you’ll be greeted by the Japanese version of the media site. For some people it’s a pleasant surprise and you may find yourself with lots of new movies and TV shows, but generally for a US account holder it’s invariably a disappointment. Simply put, the American version of Netflix is way better than any other and it’s likely you’ll end up missing a lot of your favorite shows when logging in to another county’s variant.
How to Change Netflix Country
So what do you do if you’re stranded away from your preferred version of Netflix? Can you switch back to your favorite or are you stranded? Well fortunately there is a solution although it’s not quite as straight forward as it used to be.
Up until last year, you could easily just use something like a proxy or VPN server to switch to whatever version of Netflix you wanted. Literally millions of people did this and it basically meant you bounced you internet connection off a server in the country you wanted to pretend to be in. So if I sat in Japan and connected to a US based VPN server before I logged into Netflix, it would think I was in the US and I’d get the American version again.
Here’s the problem though, last year Netflix decided that it wouldn’t allow this and came up with a fairly dastardly plan to block people doing this. What they did decimated all the VPN/TV watching services over night – they blocked access to anyone who didn’t have a residential IP address. This unfortunately included 99% of all the addresses allocated to VPN servers and they all stopped working with Netflix.
A huge industry of bypassing the Netflix blocks and filters almost vanished overnight. It even blocked people who lived in countries where Netflix wasn’t deployed yet which was even worse because they lost access completely not just locked into their countries version.
Here’s the message you then got when you tried to access Netflix –
Fortunately the internet normally provides workarounds fairly quickly and now there are a few VPN services which will allow access to US Netflix again.
What they have had to do is buy up residential IP addresses to fool Netflix which will only allow these addresses through their filters. There are only a couple of companies how have managed to do this, simply because these addresses are normally only assigned by Internet service providers and can be difficult to find. So if you’re looking for a way to change Netflix country make sure you check or test this works before buying any long term subscription. Lots of companies have conveniently forgot to update their websites and many still claim they work with Netflix still but they don’t
Our friends at Identity Cloaker have upgraded their Network to include residential IP addresses but currently only support US and UK Netflix access – try out their 10 day trial to check for yourself. It’s all been working for nearly a year though so it should be fine. If you know of any others please post a comment to let others know.
Many of the internet’s biggest media sites operate a system of region locking. The BBC iPlayer for example blocks access to anyone outside the UK, similarly the US website Hulu blocks access to anyone located outside the USA. Virtually all the media web sites do this, including video sites like Youtube which controls what videos can be seen depending on your location. Fortunately there is a way around this, and millions of people across the world use VPNs to hide their physical locations.
These work by obscuring your real IP address by redirecting your connection through the VPN server. If the VPN is located in the correct country then you’ll be allowed access, so people would use a UK VPN to watch the BBC online and a US server to watch American content. Most of the web sites try to block access from these VPN servers however none have been very successful, except for one company – Netflix.
Here’s How Netflix Block VPN Programs
Most of the previous methods for blocking VPNs and proxies simply involve detecting and blacklisting the IP addresses of individual VPN servers. This works to some extent but is relatively simple for the VPN providers to bypass. When specific IP addresses are blocked they would simply replace them with alternatives, it ends up something of a cat and mouse game with the web providers. Many companies such as the BBC do this periodically so the blocks are normally fairly intermittent.
Mostly though people were unaffected, most of the decent VPN services have many servers which they rotated IP addresses when unaffected. Netflix however adopted another tactic, which proved to be more effective. What they did was instead of blocking individual IP addresses of VPN servers, they blocked a whole classification – commercial based addresses.
All IP addresses are classified into two types – residential and commercial. Residential IP addresses are allocated to domestic customers via their ISPs well companies and data centres receive commercial addresses instead. Netflix solution worked instantly by blocking access to all commercial addresses, the region locking was enforced and none of the VPN services worked.
Currently there are only a couple of VPN services which still work, these have managed to incorporate residential addresses into their network. One of the oldest companies, Identity Cloaker has built this capability into it’s software so that if anyone tries to connect to Netflix they will automatically be redirected to a server assigned with a residential IP address range. It works perfectly although these addresses are expensive and difficult to obtain so you should check if you require them as most VPN services won’t have access to them.
We’ve covered a lot about the Netflix ban on VPNs and proxies on this site and how slowly it’s being circumvented. There are now a couple of VPNs that allow you to switch between the different version of Netflix irrespective of your location. Which for expats or people who travel a lot is incredibly useful, and means you can choose Netflix region free without being forceably routed to your local version. However there has been one thing missing, up until now no-one has released a Smart DNS system which will work with the new Netflix blocks.
Smart DNS is a relatively new technology which instead of routing your entire internet connection simply routes specific parts when you try and access region locked sites by using specially configured DNS server. For instance if you are in the US and tried to access the BBC iPlayer, the Smart DNS server would route part of your connection through a UK server in order to bypass the UK only region locks. It works very well and because all you need to do is change your DNS server settings is simpler to use on different devices than a VPN.
Here’s what you do on a Windows client, simply change your DNS servers to the Smart DNS server and if you have an active subscription you’ll be able to bypass most region blocks. That’s all you need to do and you could implement in the same way on any media device, smart TV, games console or phone as long as you could specify the DNS servers.
Except unfortunately Smart DNS Netflix was another casualty of the Netflix purge on VPNs and everyone of them stopped working. If you used one of these Smart DNS servers you would receive exactly the same error message as you would with a proxy as soon as you tried streaming anything. Most of the providers have given up trying to support Netflix, however finally I have found one provider who has fixed the problem and released a Smart DNS solution that works with Netflix!
It’s from a company who I haven’t used for a while but I know has been a Smart DNS/VPN solution provider for many years. The company is called Unblock-US and after a tip off that they were the first to create a DNS based solution that allows you to bypass the Netflix blocks I checked it out this week.
The setup screen is very simple to use – here it is
You basically sign up for an account, change your DNS servers and then select the version of Netflix you require. That’s all there is to it and then you visit Netflix you’ll be redirected to the region you selected. Of course most people will choose the US version which has more content than any other. However it’s useful to have access to the other locations as well because there are certain titles only available on certain regions. Netflix Canada for example has some great documentaries which are not available on any other regions.
I tried the US, Canadian and UK versions and all streamed perfectly. There is also a setting to disable which means you will go to the Netflix locale that you’re actually located in – which is useful for people who just want to use it when they are travelling.
If you’re quick Unblock-Us even has a free trial at the moment so you can test it out a real Free Smart DNS Netflix solution. You can access the trial through the link below.
It was always quite an anomaly, for several years before Netflix was actually available in Australia – there were over a quarter of a million registered users there. If you tried to access any version of Netflix there, you’d be blocked and told that it wasn’t available there yet. So how come there were hundreds of thousands of Aussie subscribers? Well the simple fact was that all these people got fed up of waiting for Netflix and simply used one of the better VPN services usually located in the USA.
The idea was, you start your VPN service first and connect through to a US based VPN server and then you’d be able to access the US version of Netflix using your subscriber account. Of course, Netflix knew about this – suddenly hundreds of thousands of accounts were created using Aussie based bank accounts and credit cards – but they still paid for the service so nobody really minded much. The same trick was used by millions across the world – either to access Netflix from somewhere it wasn’t launched in or to access a different locale version – until the Netflix VPN ban hit the world, when they banned all VPNs from everywhere!
The Netflix VPN Ban – Why and How?
So why did Netflix take such a draconian measure after all people weren’t stealing the service, they still paid for a valid subscription simply accessed from another country? The problem lies with the ways that licensing works, all the non-Netflix movies, TV shows and documentaries are individually licensed on a per country basis. So Netflix may have the license to broadcast a particular movie in the US but not in Europe so they have to segregate their services.
Unfortunately this means that the smaller countries often have vastly inferior versions of Netflix despite the subscription being the same worldwide. The companies who own the broadcast rights got fed up with people in different countries simply using a VPN or proxy to bypass these licensing issues and put some pretty heavy pressure on Netflix to block access.
This they have done, now nearly every VPN and proxy service has been blocked from accessing the Netflix service. They instigated a global block on accessing their servers using commercial IP addresses which included 99.9% of all the VPN services – suddenly everyone had to go back to their own regional version of Netflix. Which was ok if you are in the US which has a fantastic selection but not so much if you were perhaps an ex-pat accessing from a small European country.
The Netflix ban on these services was incredibly effective and perhaps shows a model for region locking which other companies may follow. Previously people like the BBC had tried to block VPN services by individually identifying their IP addresses but it never worked for long as they simply be swapped out.
There are still some of the better VPN service which are still working, a small selection of VPN companies like Identity Cloaker have implemented servers with residential IP addresses to bypass the Netflix VPN block. You can also read about another firm which has managed to get a Smart DNS Netflix solution working too.
Most though have simply given up as these addresses are much more expensive and harder to obtain unless you are a registered ISP. So if you want to access a different version of Netflix you should ask your provider if their service still works with Netflix as the majority don’t.
It’s cunning, it’s sneaky and has caused much sadness among movie fans across the world, I’m referring to Netflix suddenly blocking virtually every single VPN and proxy service. Slowly it’s become harder and harder to find a reliable proxy service to access the wonders of USA Netflix and last month became pretty much impossible. However on the internet it’s very difficult to block everyone and when the secret is out, you’re back to square one.
How to Bypass the Netflix Block
Well first it’s important to understand the method, how does Netflix block VPNs is the question but also the solution too. In fact it’s actually not as sophisticated as you might have thought, but it’s definitely pretty effective.
Netflix had previously followed the standard route of big media company wanting to block people like you and me trying to get round their region locks so they could watch the best movies with their NETFLIX SUBSCRIPTION. This was a combination of picking out the high profile VPNs – the services who advertise on social media and PPC plus manual identification of IP addresses with multiple streams. It works to an extent but is very time consuming and the VPN/proxy services simply switch addresses when required so that it becomes a constant battle.
However instead of pursuing this tactic indefinitely, Netflix chose another option and decided to target the classification as well as the location of the IP address. They simply blocked all ‘commercial’ classified IP addresses – which meant that anyone using an address held by a commercial organisation would not be able to access Netflix wherever they happened to be.
So every standard residential IP address would be allowed through but all the addresses from commercial enterprises were blocked across the board. These included virtually every data center too so all the VPN suddenly stopped working almost overnight. The only addresses that now worked were the ones classified as residential which are mostly allocated through ISPs directly to home users.
For a VPN service to continue to work with Netflix in any capacity it needed access to these residential IP addresses. Without these addresses it is impossible to bypass the Netflix block at at all. Fortunately a couple of companies seem to have gained access to these and introduced them into their server infrastructure effectively regaining access – one of them is Identity Cloaker which has enabled UK and USA residential IP addresses for Netflix users only.