In 2016, Netflix simultaneously launched in 130 countries, bringing their total presence in the global marketplace to 190. While the announcement was met with excitement, it came with a catch.
What resulted was a slew of countries with access to the site’s streaming services but very limited access to popular titles.
To get arounds this, Netflix users turned to virtual private networks, or VPNs. This technology allows users to “spoof” their location by routing their traffic through a VPN server in another country and effectively masking their real physical location. For example, if you’re located in South Africa but connect through a VPN server in England, Netflix will see the traffic as coming from England — and give you access to that country’s more extensive content library.
Following outcry from content owners, Netflix banned the use of all VPNs. While the ban has been somewhat successful, there are still a number of VPN providers who are able to access the streaming site. This is imperative for users in countries with limited content libraries. For example, according to Finder, as of 2017, the U.S. had over 5,600 titles while Bulgaria has 794. Without VPNs, users access to titles is extremely restricted.