VPNs vs. Streaming Platforms: The Never-Ending War by@hammalfarooq
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VPNs vs. Streaming Platforms: The Never-Ending War

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Popular streaming platforms have different libraries of movies and TV shows for different countries due to licensing agreements. However, a VPN can help get around geo-restrictions and watch a variety of content. But are streaming platforms doing anything about this? If yes, what is the attitude of VPN services in return?

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What’s the beef between VPNs and streaming services?

You see, VoDs like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or HBO Max work tirelessly to eliminate VPN-generated IP addresses. At one end, the VoDs keep on trying to reach the highest level of stubbornness as they keep on enhancing their algorithms to detect VPNs and at the other end, VPNs come up with new servers (equipped with newer technology like obfuscation and more) to bypass those cranky algorithms of streaming services.

But let’s go back a little and shed light on the basics.

Why do users feel the need to use VPNs on streaming services in the first place?

For one, streaming services, like HBO Max, only work in the United States, certain US territories, and select countries in Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean. This means that people ‘not’ living in these regions cannot watch the content offered by HBO Max just because it is “geo-restricted” or “geo-blocked”. And the same goes for other VoDs like Hulu, Paramount Plus, Disney Plus, and more.

So in order for the users to stream the content on these platforms, they somehow need to change their IP address and trick the streaming platform into thinking they’re residing in the US, UK, Italy, or anywhere actually.

And this is why users turn their heads to Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. Because what better way to change your virtual location than using a VPN?

Coming onto the second point, even if you have proper access to a streaming platform, let’s say Netflix, as it is now available in more than 190 countries, a VPN can still be beneficial for a user.

How? you might ask. You see, the content you get on Netflix, is not the same for everyone. Huh? Not the same for everyone? What do you mean by not the same for everyone?

Let’s dive deeper

Netflix is a streaming platform that has distributed its content in many libraries. And each country has its own library of movies and TV shows. For instance, if you are living in the US and can stream “The Walking Dead” on Netflix with ease, your friend from Pakistan might not be able to do that. Upon searching the title “The Walking Dead” while residing in Pakistan, they would only get results of movies or TV shows related to the same genre, but the same TV show would not appear in the results, as it doesn’t exist in that Netflix library.

However, when you use a VPN to change your IP address to let’s say; the US, you trick Netflix into thinking that this user is from the United States and you must show them the content that is available in the United States.

Still not getting it? Well, let me explain it in a fun way

Suppose you’re a customer in a bank with numerous lockers. Can you access all the lockers with the key you have? Certainly not. And the same goes for all the other customers.

But what if you could change your identity by drinking…. umm… let’s say a ‘potion?’ to become someone else and could access any locker without any restrictions? * plays the mission impossible theme song*

In our case, all the lockers are Netflix libraries with a variety of fantastic content from different countries, and the potion we just consumed, is a VPN. Thinking of pelting rocks because of the metaphor? Well, it’s a good thing we have an online world now. phew

VPN services have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. If we talk about the US alone, VPN usage increased by 63 percent in 2022, as compared to just 15.3 percent in 2019. But can all VPNs unblock streaming giants like Netflix, HBO Max, or Hulu? Absolutely not.

To fight the best, you yourself need the best. This means that you need a reliable and top-tier VPN service to go to battle these streaming services. Top names like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, PureVPN, and more are a few names that are trusted by users all around the world.

These VPNs are very serious about online security and freedom. For one, their servers are working on the RAM infrastructure (volatile memory). Meaning, as soon as the system reboots, your data is wiped out and there’s nothing to store. And if there’s nothing to store, then there’s nothing to hand out to government authorities if they demand it at any point in life.

Similarly, to win the trust of users, these VPNs go the extra mile and get themselves audited by some of the major auditing firms like PwC, Deloitte, Cure53, KPMG, and more.

They use some of the most advanced encryption mechanisms like the AES 256-bit (also used by the Military)

in addition to high-end encrypting protocols, the most famous being “OpenVPN.”

To escape the unnecessary data retention laws, these VPN companies make sure they’re registered in privacy-friendly nations. For instance, ExpressVPN and PureVPN are headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, a jurisdiction with the most flexible data retention laws.

I’m just pointing out these factors to let you know how much it takes for these companies to actually get around streaming platforms while maintaining your online security on the open web.

And streaming platforms are actually aware of these techniques; sometimes they can even detect which user is using a VPN to bypass the geo-restrictions. But will they ever ban their users? Absolutely not.

Because even if a user is bypassing the geo-restrictions with the means of a VPN, they are still purchasing a subscription plan on a monthly basis from the streaming platform. So the VoDs would instead go with minimizing the use of VPN services instead of banning a user for life on their platform.

So that was it! The unstoppable battle. The never-ending war. The eternal clash. Between two of the most paramount industries in the online world.

Tell me. Are you a streaming geek yourself? And if you are, have you ever tried anything like the above-mentioned to expand your options?

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