It seems like everyone wants to watch the American version of Netflix these days. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it is known to be the one with the most–and the best–content. But no matter why you want to watch it, or how strong your desire is, if you’re not located in the US, you’re out of luck. Or at least, this is what Netflix wants you to believe. But using modern technologies, there are ways around this. And today, we’re unveiling the best Chrome extensions to unblock the American Netflix.
We’ll begin our journey with a brief history of Netflix. Then, we’ll explain why the popular streaming service uses geo-blocking and how it is implemented. Next, we’ll see how a VPN can help bypass geo-blocking and how a VPN client can be built right into Chrome as a browser extension. And before we reveal the best Chrome extensions to unblock the American Netflix, we’ll discuss why and how Netflix tries to block VPN connections.
- 1 A Brief History Of Netflix
- 2 Why Can’t I Access American Netflix From Outside the USA?
- 3 How A VPN Can Help
- 4 The Best Chrome Extensions To Unblock the American Netflix
- 5 Wrap Up
A Brief History Of Netflix
When Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph decided to start Netflix back in 1997, they were actually starting an online DVD rental business, not a streaming service. And their rental business thrived and grew constantly for several years, passing the 4 million users mark in 2005.
2007 marked the start of a revolution–although no one realized it back then–when Netflix launched its movie streaming service. It was the beginning of a new era where people could rent movies and watch their right away on their computer. Gone were the days of waiting for the DVD to be delivered.
The following years saw Netflix entering partnerships with television set, game console, and media player manufacturers. The idea was to stream online content directly to each manufacturer’s platforms by installing a Netflix client app on it.
Today, Netflix is available on virtually every smart TV, media player, major game console, Android and iOS smartphone and tablet. And it seems like it won’t ever stop growing. Although official figures are not available, it is estimated that Netflix has now close to 120 million users worldwide. Netflix is now reaching users in 190 some countries with localized versions of the service available in many markets.
Netflix As A TV Content Producer
Since 2003, Netflix has also become a TV production company. It is no longer just a streaming company. Their foray into production is called Netflix Originals, which are TV shows and movies produced or co-produced by Netflix. Netflix Originals have an excellent reputation and are usually very successful.
Netflix Originals are often exclusively available on Netflix although some are available on broadcast TV. One example is Riverdale, which is currently in its second season on the CW. Among the best and most popular shows of recent years, many are Netflix Originals. Immensely popular Netflix Originals include shows such as Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, The Crown, and Arrested Development. And if you’re into superheroes, Marvel superhero series Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Punisher, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Defenders are also part of the Netflix’s Originals family.
Why Can’t I Access American Netflix From Outside the USA?
First and foremost, Netflix is a content distributor. This means that it offers content from other producers and is bound by typical broadcasting and distribution contracts. This means that it will often secure the right to distribute a given show or movie in specific markets but not everywhere. For example, Netflix has the right to offer the popular US show The Big Bang Theory in several US markets but not in the USA. In America, the show is instead broadcast on conventional TV by NBC. Furthermore, Netflix is often bound by contractual obligations to actively prevent out-of-market users from viewing content.
Like it or not, these distribution restrictions translate into viewing restrictions for us, the public. And the available content can vary from region to region. Some show may be unavailable on your local Netflix while it is in the next country. As disappointing as it can be, there’s not much we can do about that. Or is there?
Although we might not be happy about it, due to these distribution restrictions, the available content varies from region to region. Some titles may not be available on your local version of Netflix while they are in the next country. Generally speaking, the American Netflix is considered to be the one with the most content. This is always disappointing but there’s not much we can do about it. Or is there?
Distribution restrictions are enforced by Netflix by using a well-known technique called geo-blocking. the technique ensures that users can only access their own version of Netflix. A user in the US, for example, can only access the American version of Netflix while one in Canada can only access the Canadian version and not the American one.
This geo-blocking is not only affecting non-US users, though. It can also be an issue for US residents. What if you’re a US citizen travelling abroad? Normally, you wouldn’t be able to watch Netflix. At least, not until you found a way to bypass the geographic blocking.
The ABCs Of Geo-blocking
Geo-blocking is almost always implemented by filtering–that is allowing or denying–traffic based on source IP address. An IP address is a unique numerical identifier assigned to every computer connected to the Internet. It is used to route data to and from different Internet-connected computers and devices. Every request you transmit to Netflix–or anywhere, actually–is marked with your IP address. This is what we refer to as the source IP address. It is that source IP address that will allow Netflix’s servers to know where to send the video stream you requested.
IP addresses are very similar to postal mailing addresses. And just like postal addresses, there is a direct correlation between IP addresses and physical location. Netflix can, therefore, know your location by cross-referencing your IP address and then decide to block or allow your requests based on whether or not you are located in an authorized location.
How A VPN Can Help
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, were originally used primarily to provide secure access to private networks over unsecured channels, like the Internet. Today, they are widely utilized as a mean to increase a connection’s security, privacy and anonymity. They do their magic by encrypting all data in and out of your computer using strong algorithms and sending it through a secure tunnel to a remote VPN server. When your data reaches the server, it is decrypted and sent out on the Internet. And when the server receives the reply back, it encrypts it and sents it back to you through the same tunnel.
In addition to the inherent security they provide, VPNs are also widely used to bypass access restrictions. As you may have experienced, several networks such as corporate ones, public WiFi hotspots and even some whole countries won’t let you access certain sites and/or services. It can be done to protect morality, reduce criminality, save bandwidth or control information.
Finally, and this is where it gets interesting when it comes to unblocking services such as Netflix, a VPN also allows one to bypass geographic restrictions. This is actually a side effect of using a VPN. As we explained, when your data arrives at the VPN server, it is decrypted and sent out to its destination on the Internet. But since the server must receive the reply and send it back to you, it changes the source address to its own. To the resource you’re trying to access–be it Netflix or anything else–your request will be seen as coming from the VPN server.
So, if you connect to a server in the US, you will be seen as being located in the US, no matter where you actually are.
A VPN Built Right Into Chrome
The part of the VPN that does the encryption and routing through a VPN is called a VPN client. It is often a piece of software that runs on your computer, encrypting on the fly any data that goes out or comes it.
But instead of running on your computer, the client can also run inside your Chrome web browser. Extensions are modules that you can add to Chrome to add some functionality. Many VPN providers offer a client as a Chrome extension.
And there are many advantages to running the VPN client as a Chrome extension. One of them is that, instead of encrypting all data, only data to and from your browser will be encrypted. This means, for example, that you’ll still be able to access resources on your local network such as a file server or a printer.
But Isn’t Netflix Also Blocking VPNs?
In its efforts to enforce geographic restrictions, Netflix has been known to actively seek and block incoming connections that use a VPN. How do they do it? Well, there are several ways they can but, most of the time, they rely, once more, on the source IP address. Netflix is constantly running some reverse-engineering to find and log IP addresses of VPN servers. And through the years, they’ve accumulated addresses from many of them.
In order to bypass this restriction, you need to carefully pick your VPN providers. Many of them regularly add servers or change their IP addresses. Some use virtual IP addresses that automatically change every so often. And VPN providers constantly invent new ways of obfuscating their connection, making them undetectable by the likes of Netflix.
The Best Chrome Extensions To Unblock the American Netflix
We’ve searched the Chrome Web Store for the best Chrome extensions to unblock the American Netflix. And while there are a few free services available, they usually don’t offer enough performance to permit decent streaming of video feeds. For that reason, of our top 3 extensions, two are subscription services.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPN providers. But its Chrome extension is no really self0contained within the Chrome browser. It does install into Chrome but it only allows you to control the ExpressVPN stand-alone client. You will, therefore, need to download and install the ExpressVPN client before you can use the extension.
This, of course, also means that you need to subscribe to the ExpressVPN service. It is well worth it, though, as the provider is known for its powerful servers and excellent service. ExpressVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol with 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. It also uses 4,096-bit DHE-RSA keys protected with the SHA-512 algorithm. As far as logging policy goes, they only have a partial no-logging policy but it is the provider’s only drawback. And the only data they keep are the servers users connect to and the dates they connect, thus providing a sufficient level of privacy protection.
As for the Chrome extension, it installs an icon at the top right of the Chrome windows. When you click it a small window that looks almost identical to the stand-alone client opens. This is where you can pick your server location–A US location to watch the American Netflix–and turn the VPN on or off. Clicking the menu button at the top left of the window lets you enable the Chrome Startup function that will automatically connect the VPN to the last used server whenever the browser starts up. There’s also an option to block WebRTC within Chrome for added security.
Our second contender is different from ExpressVPN. It is a true stand-alone extension that requires no other software. It does not even require to subscribe to CyberGhost’s service. It is a true free extension that works from within your browser.
The extension offers an excellent level of security and privacy. CyberGhost’s stand-alone, subscription-based VPN service is amongst the best VPN providers we’ve seen. We can most likely assume that the free service provided by this extension is equivalent to their subscription service as a way of accessing the American Netflix.
There are, of course, differences between CyberGhost’s free service and its subscription service. For instance, the free version only allows you to connect to servers in the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and Romania. It might not be as much as the paid service but it’s more than enough four our need. Another major difference is performance. Like most free services, this one will slow down your connection considerably. You’ll still be able to watch streaming videos but possibly not in HD.
And if you subscribe to CyberGhost’s paid service, this add-on will still have the same destination country limitations but will offer the same level of performance you’d get from the standalone app. The extension is very simplistic, making its use a no-brainer. After clicking the extension’s icon, it opens in a small window where you can select your country and turn the VPN on or off.
NordVPN is another top VPN provider. Its Chrome extension requires that you subscribe to the service but is a true stand-alone VPN extension that doesn’t require you to install an external client application. This makes it ideal to run on a ChromeOS computer.
Like most high-quality VPNs, NordVPN uses the OpenVPN protocal with 256-bit AES traffic encryption and 2,048-bit DH keys. The service also has DNS leak protection enabled by default, a feature some providers don’t even have. And for the best in privacy, the provider has a strict no logging policy and keeps no trace of user activity.
A NordVPN subscription Allows six simultaneous connections, one of the highest we’ve seen. This can be handy if you want to protect several devices. Finally, NordVPN has some 1191 servers spread across 61 countries. Not that it matters much when all you need are US servers, which there are have plenty.
Watching the American Netflix is something everyone outside the US wish they could do. And thanks to Virtual Private Networks, it is possible to bypass geographic restrictions the streaming service imposes. We’ve explained to you the why and the how of the geo-blocking and we’ve introduced the three best Chrome extensions to unblock the American Netflix.
Have you tried any of our recommend Chrome extensions? Which one is your favourite? Or perhaps you’re using another extension. What do you like most about it? Share your thoughts using the comments below.