Netflix, Netflix, Netflix. Netflix-Original, "Let's check Netflix!", "Netflix and chill?", "Do you have Netflix?"
Short of living on the moon for the last decade, it is almost impossible to not have heard of movie and TV series streaming giant Netflix - which has recently taken over from the traditional TV networks - most of the home viewing market.
The company started with modest beginnings, as a DVD rental company and slowly began to move towards online streaming as its main focus. It experienced an enormous amount of growth and is now currently the 10th most successful company on the planet, falling just behind eBay (but 2 spots above Uber...)
Netflix requires its users to pay a monthly subscription in order to use the service, which has an incredibly large selection of TV shows and movies, both old and new available to watch.
However, here's the crunch...
Netflix is different based on where you are in the world trying to watch. Meaning that (for example) Harry Potter and the-this-that-and-the-other-thing might be able to be viewed in another country, but not yours...
The short answer for this comes down to the worlds "intellectual property" laws and licensing regimes relating to "copyright". Movie and TV producers have made a big effort to protect their legacy regime and cinematic babies from the change in content delivery. Since Netflix wants to protect its position as the top content delivery platform, queue the lawyers. Production companies have used the global licensing regime - which differs by country - ever since intellectual property was invented in the US by Walt Disney.
The result of this is certain content is licensed in one country to a different distribution company than the same content in another. So while Netflix might want to get their hands on all the British comedy out there, it's very complex for them to obtain these distribution rights for this content in every country. As expected though however, Netflix has secured the most rights in the USA, so the USA version of the service dwarfs every. Single. Other. Country.
In fact, Netflix's geolocation systems affect the entire experience, even changing thumbnails depending on the location of the user and the way they do this is mainly by looking at your personal internet (IP) address.
Just out of interest, I decided to have a look at the amount of content on the South African version of Netflix. We have 201 TV series and 466 movies for us to watch, which only comprises about 20% of the US library.
So, in order to protect their position, Netflix need their customers in each country to only access the content that they are allowed or licensed to deliver in that country. This brought about the need for software to determine where the actual customer is from. This software is supposed to block the customers that try to pretend that they are from the USA and actually come from SA (which only has 20% of the titles). These customers use a "VPN" service or "unblocker". Sometimes this software created by Netflix returns false positives (ie they think you are using an unblocker even though you are not) which leads the system to go full throttle and put the brakes on a poor family's movie night.
However, at Vanilla, we've had a couple troubling issues with Netflix recently. This issue happened to many of our customers. Netflix continually gave them this message as the software assumed that all our customers were trying to access different versions of the service without the correct rights:
WHOOPS, SOMETHING WENT WRONG...
You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again. For more help, visit netflix.com/proxy
Over the last month we've been hard at work to try to get Netflix to fix this problem and get everyone back to their beloved shows and movies. One of the big issues was that Netflix doesn't have any local people that we could get in contact with, making communication challenging. We finally managed to get through to the main people responsible to fix, and over the past four weeks we are confident now that it's resolved. This process took a bit of time, as we can be thought of as a "niche ISP", specialising in gigabit connections to our clients. The issues look to be solved. If any of our customers experience issues again we know how to address them (send us your Netflix username!!)
As South Africans, we are in a somewhat unique position where our copyright act is friendly to "leeching torrents" (movies, series, games can be freely downloaded). Keeping in mind that we are explicitly prevented from distribution, which includes seeding content (i.e. uploading the content is illegal) so always remember to remove the torrent once complete! Interestingly, using a VPN or unblocker to get at that very attractive US version of Netflix (or the only way to get Hulu) is highly questionable because you are compelled to adhere to the suppliers T&Cs that do not allow it.
Vanilla cannot support VPN/unblocker access to Netflix, and if one customer does this it can affect many other customers. We hope that you will try stay clear of this technology.
Please do stay in touch with all our latest announcements and status of the network at our facebook page: http://facebook.com/vanillainternet