Surely it cannot be true! Is Netflix blocking VPNs and proxies? Are we doomed to be locked into our own crap region of Netflix or even worse are people outside the Netflix coverage locked out completely. Well the simple answer is yes, at the moment Netflix is investing a huge amount of time and resources in blocking not just proxies – they’re also blocking VPN services too!
It’s come as a bit of a shock for many, most people go through the following stages with most region locked content.
- Annoyance – tried to watch a show, video or broadcast online somewhere like YouTube, BBC or Netflix and got blocked.
- Research – learn about region locking and finding out that it’s simply based on the location of your IP address
- Solution – realising that if you hide your IP address by using a VPN or proxy will bypass all these blocks and let you watch whatever the hell you want!
Once you reach the last stage all those annoying blocks and filters simply disappear. You can watch anything from anywhere, irrespective of your location – for example I have sat in a Spanish bar watching the News on the BBC (UK IP address), then switched to an American IP to watch the US version of Netflix then watch some football on RTE (the Irish Broadcaster). Without a suitable VPN service none of these would be possible, for me it makes a massive difference to my viewing options.
Now over the years, many of these online broadcasters have made various attempts to thwart these efforts. In fact it would probably be safe to say the use of very simple proxy servers are now pretty much gone as far as bypassing region locking goes. There has been no such thing as a Netflix proxy that worked for many years, in fact the only major broadcaster who didn’t block proxies were the BBC but even they started doing this last year. The problem is that the use of a proxy can be detected very easily by all these sites which now makes them fairly useless.
No worries, for we still had VPN services, the virtual private network connections are encrypted and almost impossible to detect. Unfortunately these too started to suffer casualties and many broadcasters have waged a sort of half-hearted war on VPN servers too – individually blocking the addresses of popular ones which became too mainstream. It was never that bad though and usually you could just switch to another IP address and it would work fine.
Netflix have changed all this, they’ve really gone to war with VPN services and have actually managed to block 99% of them from working. You’ll hear many tales of woe from people who have VPN accounts set up simply to watch the US version of Netflix which no longer work. Netflix blocked VPN services every where, well very nearly all.
So how are Netflix blocking proxies and VPNs?
They have succeeded where many have failed by adopting a different tactic. Instead of trying to detect the VPN connections or individually identifying specific IP addresses, Netflix have focused on the origin of the VPN addresses. You see most IP addresses are grouped into two distinct groups –
- Commercial IP Addresses – assigned from data centers for websites and commercial servers.
- Residential IP addresses – assigned by ISPs to their customers from their internet accounts.
All the VPN and proxies came from the first category, so the VPNs all had commercial IP addresses. Netflix simply detected which group the connection was from and blocked all the commercial IP addresses whilst allowing the second category through. If you connected with a commercial IP address from a proxy or VPN to Netflix this is what you’d get this –
Suddenly almost overnight Netflix blocked VPNs, proxies and Smart DNS solutions from everywhere – they still couldn’t detect the presence of the technology – but they knew if the IP address was commercial. However there’s a solution in this video entitled Netflix Block VPN services.
Fortunately there is some hope, a couple of the most advanced VPN systems had already identified this cause and have made plans to rectify. Identity Cloaker is one of these and have introduced code to detect when the VPN is used to connect to Netflix, when it does it is relayed through a residential IP address which is allowed through. It works perfectly and should do for the foreseeable future, although the downside is that residential IP addresses like this are much more expensive so there may be some pressure on subscriptions.
Identity Cloaker is now one of the only VPN/Proxy services which is not blocked by Netflix. Try the trial here.