from the Whac-a-mole dept
Last week, we noted that the press spent much of the week hysterically claiming Netflix was waging a massive new war on VPNs and proxies to crack down on out-of-region viewing. Of course if you bothered to actually read Netflix’s blog post on the subject, you’d note that Netflix wasn’t actually implementing anything new. It was simply taking the same, modest attempts to block VPNs it has been using for several years into the 130 countries it just expanded into. These are, it should be noted, the same systems that Netflix’s Neil Hunt just got done telling CES that they don’t actually work:
“It?s likely to always be a cat-and-mouse game. [We] continue to rely on blacklists of VPN exit points maintained by companies that make it their job. Once [VPN providers] are on the blacklist, it?s trivial for them to move to a new IP address and evade.”
So yeah, Netflix knows a war on VPNs and proxies is futile, it’s just trying to placate broadcasters in new partner countries. Those broadcasters are (quite correctly) nervous about Netflix coming to town and utterly demolishing the kind of power and influence they’ve enjoyed for a generation or more. As we saw in Australia, many of these companies aren’t really familiar with what competition looks like and don’t really understand how technology works, so they’ve been pressuring Netflix and governments to wage war on VPNs — as if this is going to somehow save them from the looming Internet video revolution.
And, right on cue, VPN providers are noting that what Netflix is doing may be annoying, but it’s relatively trivial to bypass, since they can simply switch IP ranges and avoid Netflix blacklists:
“TorGuard is monitoring the situation closely and we have recently implemented new measures that can bypass any proposed IP blockade on our network. VPN users who encounter Netflix access problems are encouraged to contact us for a working solution,? he adds.
SlickVPN takes a similar stance and says that the static IP-addresses they offer are less likely to be blocked.
?We work tirelessly to ensure our customers have access to the entire internet. If we find that our IP addresses start to become blocked we?ll migrate to new IPs as needed. We also offer the option of static IPs which eliminates the problem entirely,? SlickVPN?s Greg Lyda says.
So in short, Netflix isn’t really engaging in a massive new war on VPNs. It would be more accurate to say it’s making a token effort to thwart VPNs it knows won’t work, to appease necessary broadcast partners who don’t really understand the technology they’re whining about. None of this is to say that what Netflix is doing is good for the Internet or for its users, but it’s a temporary hiccup on the path toward Netflix’s eventual goal: uniform, consistent content licensing that looks the same in every country, instead of the bizarre, fractured content availability many of the new Netflix launch countries experience today.