Geo-targeting is the method of detecting the physical location of a website visitor and delivering or blocking content based on that user’s country or city. It is a pretty handy technology in online advertising. When advertising on website that are popular in many countries like MySpace and Facebook, geo-targeting can deliver ads based on a user’s country. An American is not going to be interested in an ad for an Australian credit card, but an Aussie might be. Therefore, geo-targeting can save advertisers thousands of dollars by delivering ads to the people who are going to be interested in them.
However, geo-targeting for users can be pretty fucking annoying. Take, for example the website Hulu – a depository of hundreds of TV shows and movies such as Heroes, 30 Rock, Family Guy and SNL. It is a TV junkie’s nirvana. However, it is only available to people located in the US. The rest of the world get a message saying that this content is not available in your country. This is because of copyright laws. It makes sense from a legal standpoint, but from a user’s standpoint, it sucks.
Enter Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield hides your IP address whilst you are online and provides security when using Wi-Fi hotspots at cafes and hotels. Therefore, it is an extremely useful program to have on your laptop. The added benefit is that it also allows you to access US geo-targeted content on sites like Hulu. Bring on unlimited TV shows!
Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield does not allow you to access UK geo-targeted sites like BBC. Therefore, I still can’t watch the videos on the BBC Doctor Who site. If anyone knows a program that will allow you to do that, please let me know.
Geo-targeting does have its benefits but in terms of content, my view is that all content should be available to all users. Content on the Internet should not be determined based on where you happen to live. I hope the internet moves towards this model and not towards increase geo-targeted content – because we are just going to find a way around it anyway.