Did you know the world was rather short of IP addresses? Really it’s true, the rising numbers of devices online that need an IP address is using them all up. there’s a lot of estimates suggesting that there are less than 15% of the available addresses left online and that’s falling fast. We’ll sorely need the introduction of IPV6 to solve the problem. We are all defined to some extent by our IP address, what we can see, what we can do and even to what extent out governments monitor us online.
Your IP address depends on what country your ISP is in. If you are connecting from Hamburg, then you’ll have a German IP address and so on. This is important as a lot of what we can do online is actually governed by this fact. Let’s take something like the BBC Iplayer for instance, a wonderful media site run by the BBC but unfortunately only available to those surfing from a UK IP address. Hulu is another example of such a site so if don’t have a US IP address forget trying to access it.
Every main media site decides on the content you see based on your IP address. It’s also used to do somethign called Price Discrimination, the practice of splitting the price you charge different people in order maximise profits. For instance you’ll someone like Napster charging different prices to it’s customer depending on where they are. This is all calculated based on your IP address. the process is known as geotargeting.
Proxies are servers that sit between you and the web site you are visiting, to obscure your real IP address. So when you go to a website, it just sees the proxy server address and not your own. Usually this is used for privacy issues but it does have an added benefit if you want to watch content online that is blocked to your current IP address. That is why I use a UK proxy when I’m outside Britain so I can watch things like the BBC and ITV. For example a German citizen who worked and lived in America would need to use a German proxy to access media sites in his homeland.
The market for these proxies are growing, some people search around for free ones but it is a time consuming job and ultimately a frustrating one. 99% of the free servers are so overloaded that they fall over very quickly and it’s normally impossible to stream any video content over these servers. They are out there, but its extremely time consuming and the search never ends.
If you look for a provider make sure you aren’t charged by country, the best proxy providers charge a single fee for access to a range of servers. This can be very useful if you want to get access to all the content the internet has to offer.