Determining Locality in .NET

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Determining Locality
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Search engines determine a searcher s location in many ways, as discussed in this section.
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Search Engine TLD
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Search Engine top-level domain (TLD) is the easiest solution. If users search for something on rather than, they are likely in the United Kingdom rather than the United States. (Consider also that automatically redirects to when accessed from an UK-based IP address.). While this is helpful from a broad sense, it isn t specific enough they are in the UK but are they in London or Greenwich
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IP Address
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When a computer connects to the Internet it needs to be assigned an IP address in order to make requests to outside servers. This process is actually quite complicated, but the simplified version is that the IP address ultimately comes from the ISP (Internet service provider) that the computer is trying to use to connect to the Internet. Because it is important that no two computers have the same IP address, ISPs needed to come up with a system for assigning unique IP addresses. It is a problem for two computers to have the same IP address because when a given computer requests information, it needs to specify where that information should be sent. If this address is shared by two computers, information and connection conflicts occur. The solution that ISPs came up with for distributing unique addresses was to issue ranges to certain regions and have other systems (routers) assign IP addresses within these ranges. This means that a computer that connects to its local ISP in Seattle will share a unique range of IP addresses with other computers in Seattle that request IP addresses from the same ISP.
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The search engines can store these ranges in their own databases and associate them with a physical place on earth. In this way, search engines can determine location down to the city level (sometimes it can even be closer than this).
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User-Provided Information
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Although IP addresses are better indicators of location than TLD, they are not perfect. These addresses can be spoofed and as IP ranges change, databases of IP addresses to physical locations go out of date. For example, some cellular mobile broadband devices might have a regional IP address bank to pull from, but the result is having an IP address associated with a distant city. My IP address frequently points to a city up to 200 miles away from my actual location when I use my Verizon MiFi mobile hotspot.
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Figure 11-2: Google presenting textbox for zip code
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This means that the search engines must find other information to supplement the IP address data. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask the users where they are searching from. This information can then be saved via cookie or associated with their account and used in the future. Y can see an example of Google asking the searcher for their location in ou Figure 11-2. Another source of location data that search engines use is past searches. This can be as simple as remembering if a logged-in user searches for something like Seattle bars. It can also be a little trickier like remembering if a logged-in user searches for driving directions and associating the starting location with that user s account. Those search engineers are sly devils, aren t they
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Wireless Routers and GPS
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Although the preceding tactics are great, the search engines can do better. If the searcher is accessing the Internet using a wireless network, the engines can sometimes use this information to target a person s location within a hundred feet (the range of a typical wireless router). The search engines do this by hiring people to drive around cities mapping the MAC (Media Access Control) addresses they encounter on publically accessible WiFi spots to GPS coordinates. In normal use a MAC address doesn t change. This system can be fairly accurate but requires a lot of maintenance.
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