How does the Internet know where we are

It’s subtle, but most of you would have noticed that many websites we visit seem to know exactly where we are, and which language and version of content to deliver to you. Type google.com while in New York and you’ll get routed to google.com. But if you were in Toronto, Mexico City or Paris, google.ca, google.com.mx and google.fr appear respectively. How does this happen?

Your IP Address

You, and every computer in the world, are given a numerical IP address, very much like a street address to identify where you are accessing the Internet from. To find out your IP address, click here. This is probably the first thing a website uses to determine your location and decide which version of their content they should deliver to you.

Your Internet Service Provider

And the second culprit is your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Whenever you ask for a website, your ISP sends a request to a server, and the server recognizes where the ISP is from (e.g. Comcast from the U.S., or Sky from the UK). It then sends back the version of the website that has been created for that region.

It’s your GPS

You might not realize that it might be your device that’s broadcasting your location. If you are accessing the internet on your smartphone or tablet, the GPS or Location Services (as Apple calls it) could be set up to inform the web browser where you are at that moment.

Cache and Cookies

Cache and cookies are the little bits of information that stays on your computer every time you visit a website. For instance, if you last visited Google got directed to ‘Google.co.uk’, your web browser will remember that, and the next time you ask for Google, the UK version of Google will automatically appear.

While some people may feel that detecting their location might be an invasion into their privacy, it must be acknowledged that there are some perks to having location specific and relevant content delivered automatically to you. What do you think?

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