How DataUnlocker works

A very high-level explanation of why DataUnlocker works can be depicted as this:

How DataUnlocker recovers blocked requests

Ad blockers and other content blocking software block requests to URLs which match particular patterns, or target a specific domain.

When setting up DataUnlocker, it will ask you to create a new unique "URL prefix", which is either a DNS record or a path prefix at your own domain, which is not present in any of the content filtering lists. DataUnlocker will then encode URLs and proxy any blocked requests using this unique "URL prefix", which can also be changed at any time if it ever appears in any of filtering lists.

Because proxying requests to some third-party services may have unwanted side effects, DataUnlocker proxies only blocked traffic to not to break any existing functionality of your web application or third-party services it is using. To achieve this, DataUnlocker's script monkey-patches certain browser APIs, enabling an invisible proxy layer in case the request fails or is not loaded properly (by being replaced by, for instance, stubbed locally served resources).

The following diagram demonstrates a sequence of actions for successful and blocked requests, when DataUnlocker script is installed. Please note that by default DataUnlocker tries to proxy all failed requests regardless of their status, including requests returning 4xx or 5xx HTTP statuses in the response. To change this behavior, see configuring what to proxy.

A sequence diagram of blocked and allowed request and how DataUnlocker unblocks blocked requests

Behind the scenes, DataUnlocker performs a lot of additional "magic" to make it work, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Encoding and decoding client request and response data to bypass filtering lists.
  • Detecting content blocker intrusion and fixing its impact.
  • Recovering stubbed resources (resources that were loaded from ad blocker instead of the original server).
  • Transforming the client's request so that the target third-party server understands that was proxied properly.
  • Monitoring web applications and content filtering lists to ensure your web apps stay unblocked.
  • Any additional work required to keep its web applications unblocked, such as hot-swapping DataUnlocker servers' IP addresses if they end up in any of the blacklists.
  • Many additional features to configure the proxy for your needs and monitor DataUnlocker's impact.

In the unlikely event of content blockers becoming smarter to detect DataUnlocker's job, DataUnlocker will notify its customers with the given impact and possible update steps for their configuration. Blocking DataUnlocker is not feasible from the content blockers' perspective, as they may end up either breaking a lot of websites without a good reason or blacklisting a good chunk of internet, because DataUnlocker can easily change its IP addresses.

The only thing DataUnlocker cannot guarantee is dataunlocker.com domain not ending up in some of the blacklists. This, however, will not impact DataUnlocker's customers in any way (because they all have a unique setup bound to their own domain names). As for DataUnlocker's website, we expect our customers to be ready for adding an exception for dataunlocker.com in their ad blocker, just like they already do it to, for example, access Google Analytics.

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