There are few web services hotter than Hulu these days. It’s about to surge into the number two web video position (behind only YouTube) and it just signed a deal with Disney to give it even more great content. It’s all great — if you live in the U.S.
Outside of this country, if you’ve wanted to access Hulu, you’ve either been out of luck, or had to use a proxy server workaround. For several months, there were quite a few options that would work to trick Hulu into thinking you were trying to access it from within the U.S. even when you were not. But Hulu got smarter and started doing geo-checks at the streaming level. But still, a few virtual private network (VPN) creators like Hotspot Shield would get the job done by making your IP anonymous. Not anymore.
Hulu has once again tweaked its detection methods and is now blocking anonymous proxies. If you try to access it with something like Hotspot Shield, you will get the message:
Based on your IP address, we noticed you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.
Ouch. Hulu has been making a habit of cracking down on unwanted access to its service. There is still a back and forth going on between it and the online media center startup Boxee. Boxee allowed users to access Hulu content from within its service, which the content providers behind Hulu saw as a problem because the content wasn’t be run directly through Hulu.com. Even though advertisements were still being shown during these streams, Hulu blocked Boxee, igniting a firestorm among Boxee fans. Boxee struck back by using Hulu’s RSS feeds to get some of the content back, but then Hulu blocked that too. So Boxee made a new web browser based on Mozilla, to make Hulu think it was running on something like Firefox.
The message is pretty clear: People want access to Hulu, but Hulu’s isn’t interested in letting others work around its limits. While it’s annoying for users outside of the U.S. not to have access to the great content, considering that many of the proxy servers also blocked advertisements, you can on some level see where Hulu is coming from on that. Of course, those users are now probably just going to use a service like BitTorrent to find and download the content for free anyway.
And if you happen to be using one of these VPNs for, you know, actual security reasons — no Hulu for you!