There is a battle happening right now online, between the webmaster and the ordinary user. Websites are increasingly tracking, monitoring and worst of all filtering the content you can view from your home PC. It started over a decade ago when companies where getting worried that people where buying ’from the wrong place’. For example UK citizens were starting to order goods from French or Irish branches in order to get cheaper prices. Lots of stuff was much cheaper on the French Ikea than in the British version across the water. It was worse with digital and media sites where products were delivered electronically – Napster had a whole range of different prices depending on where you were located.
This of course involves looking up your location somehow and the simplest method is just by checking your IP address. Every address is registered to a company and a location, so if you connected from a French ISP you’d be listed with a French IP address. This allows firms to work out where you are and display whatever they need. It does work to the user advantage in many cases though – typically being used to reroute the user to the appropriate language variant on their sites. But mostly it’s used to enforce license restrictions and operate a profit maximising policy by charging different prices.
But of course this is the internet, so there are always workarounds, hacks, cheats and fixes. For many years the simplest was using a proxy server however this has now got even simpler by using something called Smart DNS -. A proxy server would sit between your connection and the outside world and relay all the information to and from the web for you. It acted like a buffer, protecting your location and privacy from the outside world. A website would never see your location or IP address merely that of the proxy. This meant that if you could access a UK proxy you could then watch the BBC Iplayer in the USA for one. But Smart DNS has gone one step further and means that you don’t now have to relay all your data through a middle man.
Smart DNS works by deciding which data to protect and which to let through as normal. The Smart DNS servers will for instance route a request for a BBC Iplayer video through a UK server whilst allowing the majority of your connection to work as normal. This means that only the data needed for authentication would be routed maximising the speed of your connection.
There’s a useful video here, which also explains the process.