This website (parentsplace.ca) is hosted on a server with many other websites. That’s normal internet structure. Only really big websites occupy a server alone. As a result, all of the sites on this server share the same IP address. An IP address is pretty much like a phone number to your house – it’s unique to the house. Well if a web server is a house and then the IP is the number to that house. All the people inside the house can be reached with that one number. To get to them individually the server calls up their accounts, like names.
Why is this useful information?
Well, you see, Rogers Cable (ISP) has in the past blocked access to this website (parentsplace.ca) but it did NOT block access to the other sites.
How does that work?
It’s simple really. When you look at a website your computer first sends a request to your ISP asking for the IP to the server where the desired website is located. Your ISP checks a database that it maintains, looking for that IP address. If your ISP cannot find it in their database they ask another database. These are DNS: Domain Name Servers, because a .com or .ca is called a domain name.
When your ISP finds the right IP, that IP is sent to your computer and the connection is made. The next step is to request the exact name of the website you want to visit. If you are on the right server the process is complete and you see the desired site.
In order for Rogers to block one site it only needs to fail at one step. When the request for the IP address for parentsplace.ca is sent, Rogers checks it’s database (DNS) for a match. Rogers can edit their DNS to have no match, to say it doesn’t exist or to give the wrong match. When this happens there is nothing you can do if your ISP is Rogers. They have complete control over whether or not you get to your desired site.
Have you ever typed in an address and instead of getting a site, or an error page, you get a Rogers page telling you that it was not found, and on that page there was advertising? That’s Rogers taking advantage of your typos. Rogers can hi-jack anything you type in at any time they wish, and show you ads related to what you typed in. Great advertising potential for them, specially if they’re marketing their own products and services. When they blocked parentsplace.ca I saw that very same Rogers page, promoting their parenting magazines instead of sending the user to the intended site. This is why Net Neutrality in important.
Back to that IP address. Well, because I know the IP to my own server, and I also know the account name on that server for this site, I was able to type in the IP and username instead of parentsplace.ca. It worked perfectly, thus proving that there is nothing wrong with the server or the website. I also entered the domain name for the other accounts, and they worked too. Entering the IP address in software that can perform a PING also worked.
For those who already understand this you are waiting for me to say that I tested it from other ISPs in other geographic regions. Yes, I did that too. I had friends test from New York, Los Angeles, Western and Eastern Ontario. Anyone on Rogers, during this period, did not see the site, while others on other ISPs had no problem.
Rogers should check it’s database, get the IP and sends me to the site with no problem. The question to answer is “why” does this happen to only one domain name of several? Why do I have to reload the site that I working on so many times? If it is not intentional black-listing and internet censorship – what is it?