If you’re reading this online, then whatever device you are using has been allocated a unique address. Of course, it’s not a postal address but a digital address, something that’s makes internet connectivity possible. Without it your requests would disappear into the electronic ether, never to be seen again. This address is actually determined by the protocol which underlies the internet, TCP/IP and is commonly called an IP(Internet Protocol) address.
These addresses are numeric in format and will look something like this – 192.168.1.1. If they’re used to access the internet they’ll be unique and must be allocated from a central database. If you don’t connect your devices to the internet, you can use any numbers you like as long as you keep the correct format. We commonly refer to these as public IP address and private IP address spaces, simply based on whether they are internet facing.
In years gone by, the IP address was fairly inconsequential – of course you needed one, but it was just something you needed to communicate online. However as the internet has developed, this address has become more and more important with regards access, privacy and functionality. It might just look like a random number but your IP address is actually part of your digital profile, one that’s unique to you alone. All sorts of people look at your IP address and use it in a variety of ways.
Let’s see what your IP address can be used to determine about you:
- Location – your address can be used to determine you location. Indeed if you have the right access it can be used to determine your exact location, your real physical address. At the very minimum it can be used to determine the town and country you’re in.
- Internet Provider – which company you us as your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
- What Sort of Access – whether you’re accessing the internet from your home, a business, an educational establishment or even a coffee shop.
In fact using just an IP address, you can build a fairly accurate profile of someone. Of course when you combine it with other sources like computer, browser type, metadata, web history and social media information the profile created can be incredibly detailed and accurate. However all that’s for another post, here we’re interested in one specific piece of information – whether you’re accessing from a commercial or residential IP address?
It might seem irrelevant, however, this classification of IP information is very important to many websites. Basically all IP addresses are classified into two broad categories – residential and commercial (although there are some sub divisions like educational, governmental etc). For any commercial based web entity, their primary focus is on residential addresses – because they are potential customers and home users. Indeed many websites have started to block access from all non-residential addresses as it’s not in their commercial interest.
For example the media giant Netflix, has had lots of problems with people accessing different versions of Netflix than the specific location they are in. So a user in Canada would use the US version of Netflix because it had thousands more movies and shows than their own version. To do this people would hide their real IP address using a proxy or VPN based in the USA, Netflix would only see the IP address of the server and allow access. Literally millions of people did this all over the world, to redirect their account to the version of Netflix they preferred. Netflix found it very difficult to stop this, until in 2017 they blocked access from all commercial IP addresses. As all the VPN servers and proxies had commercial IP addresses this blocked them all overnight.
Basically Residential IP Address = Home User = Customer
This is why the classification of your IP address is so important, if it’s a residential one you have pretty much an open door. However you’ll still be subject to the myriad number of country restrictions that are becoming more and more common online. Travelling for a week and want to access your bank account, you’ll usually be blocked access from a different country. Want to keep up with that box set on HBO or the BBC? Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait till you get home as both restrict their site to the domestic market. The list of sites which allow access based on location is huge and literally millions of people get blocked everyday because of where they live.
It used to be fairly easy to bypass the country based geoblocks, there are many VPN services who have servers distributed across the world. All you needed to do was subscribe and you could click the country you needed, and never get blocked again. Nowadays it’s getting harder as these sites are adding that extra layer – your IP address must be a residential one too. The vast majority of VPN IP addresses are not residential as they sit in fast, commercial data centers.
So a proxy or VPN is not enough any more, you need one that makes you look like an ordinary home user too i.e. one that has a residential IP address. This is not straight forward though, simply because it’s actually quite difficult to find a residential IP address provider as they’re difficult to get. Commercial addresses are simple, they are just dished out with any web hosting, rented or virtual server space. The residential addresses are only allocated by ISPs to home based customers.
Who Needs a Residential IP Address
Well actually they’re very much in demand for a variety of reasons but primarily because they’re way less likely to be blocked than a commercial IP address. We’ve already mentioned Netflix which is now inaccessible form any commercial address and it’s likely many more media companies will follow. There’s also loads of other uses for residential IP addresses too.
Any automated software which does research, publishes adverts, links or indeed any sort of shopping bot won’t work with commercial addresses. Take something like a Ticket Bot, a software program which makes multiple requests in order to secure hard to get concert tickets – each connection will need to made with a different residential IP address for it to work. In reality any of these automated tools, and there’s a lot of them, will need a large bank of these ‘home addresses’ to work automatically.
The fact is that although it’s relatively easy to change your address using proxies and VPNs. Unless your new address is a residential one then it’s very likely to be blocked by some or all sites. Automated shopping or research tools are a non-starter with commercial addresses too – they’ll rarely work at all. You can but residential IPs from a few suppliers, but there’s only a couple than actually own their own hardware and provide residential proxies for sale too.
Here’s the best supplier of residential IP addresses and proxies, all with a 48 hour trial where you can test first.