If you’ve never been presented with a message of that kind, chances are you live in the United States. For the rest of the world, its a message we see all too often on hundreds of websites telling us we can’t enjoy the site just like everyone else because of where we live.

It all started with having withdrawal symptoms from the tv show ‘The Office’ (US). I needed to satisfy my impatience as the premiere of the new season approaches. I stumbled onto NBC.com hoping to watch some behind-the-scenes footage or deleted sub-plots. To my dismay, I was presented with this ugly message:

That is a violation of the simplest rule of the internet: everything is available everywhere. It’s not the first time I’ve seen such a message, but this one definitely got a reaction out of me. Where else could someone go to see exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of their favourite show? I can’t turn to the website of my local TV provider (who airs the show), because they don’t have an extensive mini site for the show. Isn’t the whole point of the NBC website to provide fans with a little extra to cement them into becoming long term fans? It’s especially upsetting as a Canadian because of the proliferation of US culture here, why should I not be considered equal to the US fans of the show?

The location-based restriction is quite simple. There are large databases out there, some paid services as well, which track all the IP addresses in use and the region it is being used from. When you load the site, it cross-checks your IP address with the large database and discriminates accordingly. You can already guess that a workaround for this type of restriction is to pretend you’re in the “accepted” region (via proxy, tunnel, etc..) but that’s entirely asides the point. You shouldn’t have to worry about your physical location in the world while you’re surfing the WORLD WIDE web.

IP based region detection should only enhance your end-user experience, not hamper it. If I visit a weather site and my local city is the first option on the list, chances are that’s what I was looking for anyways. Thousands of sites using similar approaches, eBay and Google to name a few. Hell, who hasn’t seen an advertisement for “singles in your area” with the name of your local city listed? Those who instead choose to restrict their user base based on location simply don’t understand the Internet.

Hopefully the situation will get better with proper feedback to these sites. If we segregate the web, at what point does it start to feel like the Canada-Wide-Web. See? I could have used the same technology to put in the country you’re viewing from (in place of Canada) for even bigger impact. 😉

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