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EarthLink Establishes Their Own "Site Finder"

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the who-needs-standards-anyway dept.

241

Guppy06 writes "Last week, instead of a regular DNS error, EarthLink's DNS servers started to return a redirect to earthlink-help.net, a site that bears a close resemblance to VeriSign's much-maligned Site Finder, to their subscribers. According to their official blog at Earthling, "By presenting users with contextual help based upon the non-existent domain the user entered, we believe we are improving the EarthLink user experience with a system that will not interfere with other network processes." Most of the responses in said blog posting aren't positive."

cancel ×

241 comments

Profit is the Motive (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032602)

I visited the earthlink help page and noticed that it contained four things.
  1. A box showing suggested search terms
  2. A box in which I could search (through Yahoo!) for my page.
  3. Two banner ads.
When I enter in a term, say 'guitar' [earthlink-help.net] , I get a page with yet more ads and sponsored links but still directed through earthlink help to Yahoo!

I wasn't born yesterday, I understand the concepts of paid search, sponsored links & banner ads. They generate revenue and insult me. They waste real estate on websites and obscure my information that I would prefer to harvest un assaulted by sales pitches.

I'm betting I'm not the first to say this, but this is insane.

If they wanted to be 'helpful' they would provide you with some sort of new service. In this solution, they are simply deciding which search engine you will use and cashing in off of it also. If we want to search for another answer, I think we know where to go. If you doubt our abilities to select a preferred search engine, at least give us some choices. Do you know what happens in Firefox when I pull down the search engine on the upper right? I can select from a number of sites.

"By presenting users with contextual help based upon the non-existent domain the user entered, we believe we are improving the EarthLink user experience with a system that will not interfere with other network processes."
You're not improving anything, you're laughing all the way to the bank.

Re:Profit is the Motive (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032629)

They generate revenue and insult me. They waste real estate on websites and obscure my information that I would prefer to harvest un assaulted by sales pitches.

So, do you hate Google, or just Earthlink?

Re:Profit is the Motive (4, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032951)

Google doesn't fuck with the RFCs to make its profit.

Re:Profit is the Motive (5, Funny)

whoppers (307299) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032731)

Agreed on all points, but it doesn't matter. Picture the average earthlink user in your head and then realize half are dumber than the person you're picturing. Maybe 5% of earthlink users will realize and give a damn, the other 95% are just happy they have something new to click that may take them somewhere that may be useful. An error page is a dead end for them that makes them think they've screwed up.

A best friend used to work in marketing for earthlink and told me about the users they brought in to test websites, systems, etc... I was absolutely horrified and now weep for the future.

Re:Profit is the Motive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032955)

I use to work for MindSpring (hbg), which was gobbled up by Earthlink. I have never seen such a decent, profitable, company go down the toilet so quickly. I wouldn't use Earthlink now if my life depeneded on it. I don't trust their [hired out] technical support, don't trust their management or their products. What they're doing to their customers now really shouldn't suprise me. They'll try to make money anyway they can.

Hell, now "MindSPring" means a VOIP client. Must suck for all the MindSpring customers that use to mindspring.com email addresses.

-Signed,
One very pissed off ex-employee/customer
ms502508

Re:Profit is the Motive (1)

fongaboo (813253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032884)

At least this is implimented only on one LOOKUP server on one ISP.. A far cry from a wildcard in the AUTH server of the most popular TLD in the world.. I assume Earthlink users can just manually punch in an alternate lookup server on their workstation and be rid of this?

The difference is... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032610)

Earthlink subscribers can opt by not being Earthlink subscribers any longer. When Verisign did it, it affected everyone because they've been granted a monopoly on certain domain extensions.

Voting with one's dollars is not always effective (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032626)

Earthlink subscribers can opt by not being Earthlink subscribers any longer.

If EarthLink is the only dial-up ISP with modems in a given local calling area, as AOL was for a lot of the United States for a long time, then most residential users are not going to want to pay per minute for long distance just to get on the Internet. Even for more affluent parts of the country, what happens when the phone company has partnered with EarthLink, and the cable company is even less competent?

Re:Voting with one's dollars is not always effecti (3, Insightful)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032664)

Simple. Continue to use Earthlink, but don't use their DNS. Just run your own dns server locally. Or, point to another open dns server.

Re:Voting with one's dollars is not always effecti (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032776)

Only terrorists would run their own DNS server.

Re:Voting with one's dollars is not always effecti (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032696)

Earthlink also provides services for Brighthouse in Florida. And there IS a choice of 3 companies there. I believe RoadRunner and AOL are the other 2. They could lose a TON of customers, if the customers cared.

Earthlink has pissed me off before and I am seriously considering switching to roadrunner. The only thing that has stopped me is that every time I make even a small change to my account, Brighthouse (who isn't so bright) screws up the entire account and I'm out of service for 2 weeks. And I can't afford that right now.

Earthlink has pissed you off before... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032828)

I decided from the outset I'd never deal with Earthlink, which is a branch of the Church of $cientology (with its horrendous track record of Internet censorship lawsuits). I don't know of any place in the country where Earthlink is the only choice

Re:Voting with one's dollars is not always effecti (2, Informative)

Cygfrydd (957180) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032982)

A strong recommendation for someone who works in advanced broadband svcs @ BH Tampa Bay: insist on speaking to a Level IV rep to make account changes. Regional customer service is notorious for wrecking accounts when making changes involving internet service. We Level IV's are the ones who are called on to fix said accounts. In CS's defense, we have to deal with an unneccessarily complex billing system that isn't as straightforward as it should be.

Re:The difference is... (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032942)

Earthlink subscribers can opt by not being Earthlink subscribers any longer.

It appears you can "opt out" simply by using Firefox. If I put a nonsense domain into IE, it takes me to the Earthlink "help" page, complete with ads and "suggestions" for ringtones and used cars. If I put the same nonsense domain into FF, all I get is the standard FF "Server not found" page. YMMV.

Re:The difference is... (1)

p3w-451 (989647) | more than 7 years ago | (#16033004)

Since there is no difference in how Firefox and IE resolves a domain's IP and user agents aren't sent in a DNS request, how would the browser choice even affect whether Earthlink's "Site Finder"-like feature even shows up?

1 Cancellation (3, Interesting)

DrunkenTerror (561616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032625)

I've kept an Earthlink dial-up account in case I took my notebook on a road trip. I haven't used it in a while though, and have been meaning to cancel it. I think I'll go ahead and take care of that now, and I'll make a point of telling the rep about this.

Re:1 Cancellation (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032741)

Be prepared for an extended phone call of them trying to get you not only not cancel but also upgrade your service package. I had to tell them three times that I was not interested in the sales pitch and I was cancelling the service. Fortunately, I had no problem with my checking account when the automatic debit was cancelled for the following month.

Re:1 Cancellation (1)

RKBA (622932) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032792)

Your bank cancelled an automatic debit??? My bank said they could only do that in case of fraud. That's why I never give out my bank account number anymore. Who is your bank?

Re:1 Cancellation (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032890)

If you cancel a service, then an automatic debit *is* fruad. But in either case, what you are looking for is a "stop-payment". Every bank should have it.

Re:1 Cancellation (1)

WebCrapper (667046) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032976)

It was mandatory when I worked for them to offer up to 3 months credit to keep customers. Wouldn't be suprised if they're still doing this. Almost glad I got fired after they took over mindspring.

Re:1 Cancellation (1)

SnappyCrunch (583594) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032962)

Netzero offers a free [netzero.net] service for people willing to be connected to dialup less than 10 hours a month. I find it very useful for checking my email when I'm on the road.

icann should ban this (3, Interesting)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032630)

There has to be some way that this sort of crap can be banned, it breaks the internet, because the error code is now a "valid" page!

Re:icann should ban this (2, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032679)

Nah, in this case it doesn't break the internet, it only breaks Earthlink's net, and only then software that expects it to work "correctly" which is probably only used by 5% of their customers. If you're going to do this, you might as well do it at the ISP level, since then people can switch to the other ISP (assuming that both cable and dsl don't start doing this), and the ISPs don't have it forced on them by some higher level.

The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (3, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032632)

Here on /. the general zeitgeist follows what is commonly called the "Unix way". Things should be kept small and only do one thing, but do it well. Developers can gain power by tying these simpler components together.

The other way of thinking can be termed the "Microsoft way" or even better "Apple way". This viewpoint believes that integrating things into easy-to-use applications leads to greater productivity gains as well as a more pleasant user experience. Instead of giving a ton of pieces to the user and expect them to make sense of it all, this viewpoint presents a fully-formed solution to the user.

The Unix Way zealots will tell you that undermining this dirt road area of the internet by returning useful results instead of an error message is bad. The Microsoft/Apple Way zealots will argue that something useful is always better than an inscrutable error message.

The side you fall on is really a viewpoint issue, and not a technical one. There is no technical reason why Earthlink's move couldn't be worked around, if that is really a good solution. There's also no technical reason why Earthlink needs to go ahead with something like this when search engines are already built into most modern browsers.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032652)

It all depends on the task at hand, if the task is sorting or querying a 2 terebyte database, give me the unix way, if it is to send a picture of the kids to grandma, give me the apple way.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032667)

So what about the current issue?

You're Joe User. You want to learn more about NASCAR and The Intimidator (peace be upon him). You type in 'www.NASCATR.com' into the URL bar. But there's nothing there.

Do you want:

A) 404! Site not found.
B) Unable to find site, but here is a list of sites you may be looking for (www.nascar.com, www.nazca.com, etc)
C) Automatic redirection to www.nascar.com

?

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032673)

Maybe the default DMS error page needs to be updated with a list of links to search engines: that would solve both problems at once: If the default page had all the usual 404 junk up top, then had a little thing saying "not what you are looking for? try one of these Internet Search Engines" followed by a list.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032738)

Well, the 404 page itself is generated by the client browser when it receives a 404 error response from the server. The client is then able to do whatever it wants, and that typically is to throw up the Page Not Found screen (this is why Firefox's 404 page is different from IE's).

If there were a way to augment the 404 packet with search results, that would give the browser additional information which could then be displayed as you were saying. It would also put an end to all the whining about breaking standards because the error code would still be what is returned (just as a valid page returns a successful error code in its packet). Since Earthlink also distributes their own browser (based on IE, I believe), this automatic error handling may even be built in so that their users will get this ability without having to go through the hoops of getting other browsers to fall in line.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032870)

You're mixing up two different types of error: a 404 and a non-existent domain name. A 404 is what happens when you make a request to a functioning web server for a non-existent page. In case of a 404, the error page is, in fact, generated by the server.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032765)

Easy answer: A is the best, B is second best, C is the worst solution. The browser should take you where YOU tell it go go. It shouldn't second-guess you and try to take you where it THINKS you want it to go, even if you told it something else. The user should be in control, not the browser. If I want to go to www.nascatr.com, that's my own damn business. All the browser needs to do is take me there or throw an error if it can't.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032819)

That may be an easy answer for you, but is it also the right choice for Joe User?

If you really want to go to nascatr.com and it doesn't exist, then how much control should you rightfully have? You are already unable to give a valid address, do you think you should also be expected to be able to decipher what a 404 error means?

The user ought to be in control, and if they type in a valid address, then they should absolutely be taken to that address (this brings up issues with web filters, but I digress). If they type an invalid address, then what's wrong with giving them extra information?

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (2, Insightful)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032841)

"That may be an easy answer for you, but is it also the right choice for Joe User?"

Why would Joe User want a tool where you tell it to do one thing, and it does another instead?

"You are already unable to give a valid address, do you think you should also be expected to be able to decipher what a 404 error means?"

I'm not so much hung on on the error being EXACTLY a 404. For all I care, it can be a simple and easy "This page does not exist". That's all.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (3, Insightful)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032674)

This is not about the unix way or the apple way. This is about the Computer Science way: returning an error when an error occurs. Dealing with the error is an user agent, not an ISP responsibility. Earthlink should have made this opt-in (they can spare a coupe IPs for a couple more DNS servers, can't they). I run PPC linux and mac on linux over it occasionally, so I know what you probably meant, it still does not apply here.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032686)

I'm sure you meant 'software engineering' and not 'computer science'.

But why isn't that the ISP's role? Aren't they supposed to be "serving the internet"? Don't they provide a value-add by anticipating the user's needs rather than simply leaving the user with an inscrutable error code?

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032700)

Earthlink didn't do something useful or helpful. There is quite a bit of user-friendly software that depends on getting an error code from DNS if you make a typo. Think URL completion in web browsers for instance. Think spam blocking. Earthlink broke these in order to spam you with advertisements.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032703)

Dear BadAnalogyGuy,

When I fill my car with gas, does the gas station have a right to redirect my accelerator so that it displays adverts accross my windshield?

Regards,

AC

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032720)

NO: that's exactly the PP's point. You provide a better service by returning the relevant error. My ISP started doing this some time ago and I was enraged at their idiotic page, not because they put ads on it, but because I need a frigging error when an error occurs. I am *not* provided a better service by a helpful know-it-all page that fails miserably at its purpose. I am also not given a better service by all those apps that want to think for me instead of letting my do my thing.
I am also installing my own DNS server as soon as I've finished other stuff that's in the queue right now.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032789)

Can you explain exactly how you are harmed by Earthlink's method? How does it hurt your computing experience? Why do you need an error page when an error occurs?

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (2, Insightful)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032842)

Um yeah you're right, come to think of it, my ISP should probably just go all the way and silently reroute my connections to the destination they think fits me better... It's not like the end user knows what he's doing.
*megatokyo CTRL+ENTER*
*out pops www.wanna buy a house at house.com? you fit the demographic perfectly. you probably wanted to buy a house, right? you didn't really want to read your favourite webcomic*

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032848)

Sure, for example, automated programs. Screen scraping, automatic downloading of backups, transferring data that's not HTML at all (such as DAV used for SVN repositories), that sort of things. Those tasks expect the operation to fail. HTTP is used for a lot more than showing the pages to the end user.

Another example is email. If you misspell the domain name, and it doesn't exist, the mail immediately will fail to deliver and bounce. If the server is there but doesn't respond to requests, your mail server assume the other server is down, and will be periodically trying to deliver the mail. Your mail server might send you a message that your mail is being delayed, but this won't happen for a while (easily several hours), and it doesn't tell you anything useful.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032734)

"inscrutable error code" ? What are you using? A browser from 5 years ago?

My firefox presents me a helpfull explanation page and more importantly leaves the URL there for me to correct. Redirecting me would annoy me in the same way the old browser 404 page did by removing what I typed and making me type it in again from scratch.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032774)

Here's an example:

I am configuring my email client. I typo when I enter the mail server's domain name. When my client tries to connect to the server, it receives an NXDOMAIN error, and tells me 'the host you are looking for does not exist.'

Now, I try the same thing on EarthLink. This time, the error I get from my client is that the mail server does not respond to connections on the IMAP port. Now what do I do? I call up the server administrator (assuming it's not my server) and tell him to fix it. He tells me it works fine for him. It takes me twice as long to find the problem.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032861)

That's a good example.

Now, I suggested another implementation above which uses the same error code packet but adds extra information about possible DNS matches in the packet itself. Clients that are aware of that code can use it for additional information, and clients like your mail app would be able to disregard the additional information as unnecessary.

Since you're mistyping the URL anyway, what's the problem with a few dozen extra bytes?

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032963)

I'm sure you meant 'software engineering' and not 'computer science'.
((software engineering) AND NOT (computer science)) = null

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032702)

The side you fall on is really a viewpoint issue, and not a technical one.
No, actually, it really is a technical one.

  - If your connection to the site takes too long, you'll get the page
    - Which means if any non-web client takes too long to reach the server, you'll get the earthlink server
      - This by itself is a big problem for VPN applications, which is the core of earthlink's business class service-- and it affects users who use earthlink home users on their laptops to "dial into the office."

Here on /. the general zeitgeist follows what is commonly called the "Unix way".
The other way of thinking can be termed the "Microsoft way" or even better "Apple way".
Sheesh, you really area "BadAnalogyGuy."

Let me counter your argument in your terms though. There's "Unix guy", who takes the time to understands the ramifications on everyone, and then there's "Apple guy", who can't read the fine print but believes whatever the king tells him.

except the results are not useful (2, Insightful)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032760)

"The Unix Way zealots will tell you that undermining this dirt road area of the internet by returning useful results"

Except that these results are not "useful", and are even less useful than a simple honest error message. When I type in a wrong URL, I don't want to be punished by attempts to redirect me to a useless second-rate search service. I just want enter the correct URL and go about my business. Such redirections to useless sites are like putting deep mudpits in the dirt road.

"There's also no technical reason why Earthlink needs to go ahead with something like this when search engines are already built into most modern browsers."

That's another lousy idea. When you want to search, you go to a search engine site. What could be easier than that? Search engines, like email clients, have no business being built into browsers.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032820)

"the "Unix way". Things should be kept small and only do one thing, but do it well."

OK, but I warn you know, when you use that excuse on girls they're going to focus on the "do it well" part ....

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032846)

But you see, by keeping the size and functionality to a minimum, it also allows the developer to focus on improving the speed.

Wait...

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032845)

Oh boy, that is so wrong. This isn't about "the Unix way". It's about doing a job, whether it is a small "Unix-way" job or a complex "Apple way" job, according to the job description. The people who think in terms of applications rely on components. Nobody, absolutely nobody, builds complex systems from scratch. A DNS resolver has a relatively complete specification to fulfil and many applications rely on a correct implementation. You can't provide an integrated user experience if the parts act in unexpected ways. The complex system we're trying to hold together is comprised of more than a webbrowser. The user experience will suffer when email clients run into problems because DNS is borked.

Re:The "Unix Way" vs "Everyone Else" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032856)

The Microsoft way is to start with a little shop, then they build a few additions to the little shop, add 5 stories, 2 balconies, then expand the balconies to support a couple more shops, then add 5 more stories, turn the entire first floor into a concrete foundation, then add 5 or 6 more stories, a couple of more balconies; this goes on and on, and each project is rushed, and done with the cheapest materials that they can do with. They build onto it whatever they want and adapt what they have to it until the thing begins to collapse under it's own weight or becomes so burdensom to maintain it is no longer feasable to have. It happened with windows 3.x and with 9x especially; windows 95 was the most stable version out of them all, 98 crashed more and ME...ME is nicknamed mistake edition for a reason. It'll happen with NT eventually; NT4 was actually more stable than 2K; XP crashes a lot more thabn 2k ever did, and the next version of windows will likely be as unstable as 95 was (although hopefully it'll be as stable as 2k, as featurefull as XP, with a lot of linux-like features, fairly secure and no integrated out of the box DRM/microsoft crap).

The Unix way is obviously the better. If you're building a skyscraper, and you lay a foundation column 1/64th of a inch in the wrong spot, by the time you get to the top of the skyscraper, that turns into a 3 or 4 foot hole in the wall. A machine is the sum of it's parts, and the bigger that machine is, the worse a mistake made at the root of the machine will become as it is built bigger. Sure, unix also incorporates the adapt-and-build microsoft way when you're rebuilding it for something else, such as taking a antivirus application and adding a scanner to scan P2P applications with it. But, the unix way says rebuild the machine; don't take the P2P scanner code and add extensions into it for scanning popular P2P applcations in realtime because eventually, you'll implode.

And at the end of it all, once the microsoft way implodes utterly, they revert to the unix way. Then, someone adds a major featureset and a timeline to some project and says they want it done, now.

As far as what earthlink is doing; the feature has broken things. Namely, DNS is a standard; there's a paper somewhere written by IANA as to how to write, impliment, and configure DNS server software and they are not fallowing it. As of right now, it cannot be called DNS anymore, because it is not even fallowing the DNS specification. I can hardly call this a feature; if anything it's more of a hack on the level of something you'd do to get a game engine to do something it was never meant to do than a feature.

So what? (2, Interesting)

poptones (653660) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032638)

How is this worse than all those "search engine" sites squatting on unused and misspelled dowmains? At least earthlink is trying to provide some meaningful info to their customers.

There are plenty of freely accessible public DNS servers; let those old school "do it our way cuz that's the way it's always been done" zealots learn to drive their own machines and stop telling everyone else how to run their lives and businesses.

Re:So what? (1)

portmapper (991533) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032701)

> How is this worse than all those "search engine" sites squatting on unused and misspelled
> dowmains?

Those "search engines" are not "squatting" ALL unused and mispelled domains. And do keep in mind
that the squatters are actually owning the domains they are "squatting".

> At least earthlink is trying to provide some meaningful info to their customers.

Meaningful? Abuse of position, you mean.

exactly... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032800)

"Those "search engines" are not "squatting" ALL unused and mispelled domains. And do keep in mind that the squatters are actually owning the domains they are "squatting"."

Exactly. You know why there are pages found at names like www.altavist.com and www.googe.com? Because someone properly registered the URL the old fashioned way (same as altavista.com and google.com) and put web page material on it. It is not a "problem" that the browser is doing its job and taking you to www.altavist.com and www.googe.com. It's a very bad idea to treat "the browser doing its job" as a problem to be "solved" by an ISP hijacking the browser.

Abuse? I got your abuse... (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032873)

I didn't say "ALL" I said "all those" - you need to go back to school if you cannot grasp the difference.

And many of those "squatters" (actually parkers) DO NOT own those domains, nor do they ever plan to - they take advantage of the system, registering the domains and then rolling them over just before time runs out to get their money back - then RE registering them, then rolling over the ones that got a hit or two.... ad infinitum. They create a giant pain in the ass for the LEGIT web businesses that would like to actually do something with those domains, meanwhile they rake in a quarter or two a month on a few tens of thousands of domains they have no intention of ever paying for.

There's your abuse... and earthlink's NOT the guilty party here.

Re:So what? (3, Insightful)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032705)

Earthlink aren't providing meaningful information to customers - they're just trying to make money.

Of course, that's what businesses are for, so as you say, if they want to do it, they should be entirely entitled to do so. However:

a) It's not fair on those who have paid for an existing service to have the nature of this service changed on them without warning - many people feel they are now getting a poorer service.

b) They should at the very least have provided an opt-out system for those who prefer untainted DNS that works in the way the internet standards require it to work. Then people with firewall, anti-spam or other systems that this change breaks wouldn't be so up in arms.

If my ISP did this, I'd leave them. Luckily my ISP is more sane.

Jolyon

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032709)

Zealots? You idiot. Insisting that ISP's be good net citizens and conform to long established internet standards (which have, btw, allowed the internet to become what it is today) is not zealotry. A businesses which force changes on he customers that no one was requesting and without giving them opt-out choices smacks of corporate arrogance. It's just sleazy way to leech more money out of your customers without giving anything of value in return.

Re:So what? (1)

Yooden_Vranx (758878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032759)

The difference is that the domain squatters don't break the DNS specification. The "search engine" site is still a valid site even though it's useless. Everyone, the free world over, who queried a DNS server for the squatter site would get the same answer, and the method for getting that answer doesn't violate the specification or assumptions that a user's software is built on.

Earthlink's new "feature" is different- it violates the assumptions and specifications that app writers depend on to work. Read the blog to see some of the real problems users have had. Some are somewhat easy though needlessly annoying to work around, such as no longer being able to use the address bar to go to search. But, others are much more critical, this change has broken several users' VPN connections to work intranets. To work correctly, the VPN user assumes that any external DNSs will error when queried with an intranet DNS, while the one on the VPN will respond correctly. Given only one response, the correct site will be loaded. Now, it's a race between the DNSs to see who wins, sometimes breaking the ability to access a site through the VPN. In short, it breaks the way the internet is specified to work, and thus breaks third party apps.

Yes, people could change to third party DNS servers, but should they have to? Although some users want an "experience", users fundamentally pay Earthlink for _access to the internet_, which they have now broken. Many people on the blog observe that they are loyal Earthlink customers (many since Mindspring days) because Earthlink has always provided a sound no-frills access for those who want it, never requiring any "experience-enhancing software" or anything of the sort. (And, I used to be one of them- I went to EL when I got fed up with an ISP that provided unreliable service, and left only because I jumped to Cox for HSI. I won't be going back if they continue this.)

It's worse (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032786)

"How is this worse than all those "search engine" sites squatting on unused and misspelled dowmains? At least earthlink is trying to provide some meaningful info to their customers."

It's worse. If you put in an URL to a page that does not exist, all the browser should really do is to tell you that the URL does not exist. The "squatting" you mention is not comparable, and not a problem. If I type "www.yahoqo.com", the browser is just doing its job when it takes me to the squatter page at www.yahoqo.com. After all, it is what I told it to do in the first place.

Stupidity seems to be contagious (1)

CharonX (522492) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032646)

Has Earthlink learnt NOTHING from VeriSign's debacle?
Blatantly ignoring established policy (if a DNS-request does not resolve the response must be "DNS-request does not resolve" not "here it is"). Let's not forget all the privacy issues with hundreds of thousands of e-mails, normally being undeliverable because the sender made a typo in the adress, now end up in their inbox.
Hmmm... if I were to DDOS www.this-site-does-not-exist-but-earthlink-resolve s-it-anway.something would I act criminally? I mean, the site does not exist, and Earthlink just poaches its DNS adress...

Re:Stupidity seems to be contagious (1)

shrtcircuit (936357) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032694)

Hmmm... if I were to DDOS www.this-site-does-not-exist-but-earthlink-resolve s-it-anway.something would I act criminally? I mean, the site does not exist, and Earthlink just poaches its DNS adress...

Yes you would be acting criminally. You'd have to use Earthlink's DNS servers to even get their page to pull up, and then you'd be launching an attack against their server. Just because a domain name doesn't exist doesn't mean there is not a physical piece of hardware you won't be affecting.

But I see your point.

Re:Stupidity seems to be contagious (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032809)

No he wouldn't if the DNS was working properly, asking Earthlink to resolve that name into an address should ALWAYS return an error if that DNS record does not exist in its database.

Returning a valid result breaks lots of things and it is NOT the DNS servers job to try to discern potential use.

Re:Stupidity seems to be contagious (1)

SavvyPlayer (774432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032710)

...if I were to DDOS www.this-site-does-not-exist-but-earthlink-resolve s-it-anway.something would I act criminally?
If you were to DDOS www.this-site-does-not-exist-but-earthlink-resolve s-it-anway.something, you would be an Earthlink subscriber violating your TOS. Your account would simply be cancelled by Earthlink.

Re:Stupidity seems to be contagious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032838)

if I were to DDOS www.this-site-does-not-exist-but-earthlink-resolve s-it-anway.something would I act criminally?

You've obviously contracted the stupid yourself. There's no legal way you as an individual have access to the bandwidth required to launch a DDOS against this service.


host www.earthlinkhelp.net
www.earthlinkhelp.net is an alias for dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net.
dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net has address 66.218.65.227
dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net has address 66.218.65.224
dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net has address 66.218.65.228
dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net has address 66.218.65.225
dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net has address 66.218.65.229
dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net has address 66.218.65.226
www.earthlinkhelp.net is an alias for dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net.
www.earthlinkhelp.net is an alias for dmatch.geo.yahoo.akadns.net.


I wonder if Yahoo are trying to sell this as a product to ISPs?

Who are these people? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032654)


By presenting users with contextual help based upon the non-existent domain the user entered, we believe we are improving the EarthLink user experience with a system that will not interfere with other network processes.

Anybody who authorized this on a technical level should be packing groceries, not presiding over an ISP's infrastructure.

The address you entered could not be found. (5, Funny)

Avillia (871800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032663)

Please try the related content suggestions and paid advertisements below, or try another search.
You entered "http://www.slashdot.org/".

Advertisements for cow steroids, cars, and free computers followed.

Re:The address you entered could not be found. (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032695)

Don't kid yourself. The advertisments for http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] would be for RealDolls, anime porn, and live sex chat sites.

Re:The address you entered could not be found. (1)

MoogMan (442253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032929)

I got something more relevant...

Apartments, Dating Services, Travel Guides [earthlink-help.net] - Maybe they're telling us to get out of your mum's basement, get a girlfriend and get out of the house!

Stay In the Box (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032691)

The place for offering "help" in the user interface is in the client software. Perhaps the DNS error needs a metadata field for offering messages, perhaps hyperlinked, for exception handling. But those must be presented by the user agent, like the browser, not tricking the browser into "passthru" to server misdirection. That violates the DNS specs. And makes that essential global system vulnerable to unpredicted failures when dependant systems get nonstandard results.

These ISPs attract marketing people with dreams of empire and ignorance of Internet. Execs put them in power over the engineers, and just rip across the careful system designs that make the Net work. Then they cry when their stuff doesn't work, and blame the engineers.

But they compete with each other on how well their stuff works. As long as we can switch ISPs among a pool with critical mass size, they'll exploit each others' weaknesses to grab customers. These "DNS hijacks" are going to be with us forever, avoidable only while we have a choice between independent, competing ISPs.

Re:Stay In the Box (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032899)

Check their blog for competence involved:
Update:(8/31) I incorrectly stated that the system only handles HTTP traffic. I spoke to our engineering team and they explained that the *goal* is to affect only web traffic, and that's achieved through Barefruit's web redirectors. [ = Magical packet gnomes] As we work on rolling the service out, we're continuously monitoring and tuning the configurations to minimize its impact on non-web traffic. [ = blah-blah-spin-spin-blah...]
Good grief, I hope that Adam Smith's invisible hand gives them such a bitch-slapping!

Positive Blogs? (1)

smccto (667454) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032706)

RE: "Most of the responses in said blog posting aren't positive" Hm. Sounds like \.

The default Microsoft one is lousy too. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032740)

The default MSIE result is lousy too. What I would LOVE to see happen is that, if I get an URL that does not exist, UI control returns to the address window, so I can type another one (most likely just by correcting a wrong spelling). That is what I always do anyway. I never use the useless MSN Search that comes up by default.

Re:The default Microsoft one is lousy too. (1)

cheese-cube (910830) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032938)

Or instead you could just use another browser.

Re:The default Microsoft one is lousy too. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032972)

I try, but so many pages can't display in the others that the "garbage factor" sends me back to the one that is most full of security holes. One or two of them have annoying "save password? popups that can't be gotten rid of with a simple "never give me these damn popups again for any site!" option because that option just isn't there. Perhaps it is time me to try them again. I know things improve.

Opendns (1)

dmbtech (790450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032742)

I don't know if your wondering, but opendns (http://opendns.com/) does this as well. Its another way on income. This is one of their explanations: http://www.opendns.com/faq/#is_it_like_site_finder [opendns.com] . Its not as bad when an isp does this compared to the whole world, and on the root dns servers like verisign did, which could of slowed down the entire .com/.net space. If users of earthlink have a problem with that, they can simply switch dns servers or start there own dns server easilly.

Downmod me to hell, but... (0, Troll)

falsified (638041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032753)

If I'm lazy and screw up a web address, and a search page comes up offering the correct address, then good for it. Of course it generates revenue for the firm that produces the search page. Why the hell shouldn't it? There's a moneymaking opportunity there. As long as the web page isn't cluttered with images and Flash and shit, it's no skin off my back, and it's more useful than "server not found". It's not as if this is some browser hijack program - this is a customer's ISP offering an ISP-related service.

From the article: "The system is specifically configured to handle only NXDOMAIN HTTP traffic as it is being returned to the user's browser and to not impact email and other non-web-browsing traffic."

less useful (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032777)

" it's no skin off my back, and it's more useful than "server not found"."

"Server not found" is actually more useful. Who is in charge here, you or the browser? If I want to go to "www.nascatr.com", instead of "www.nascar.com", that's my choice. The browser should not try to override my choice or second-guess me. The most it should do is make recommendations in the error page, and make it easy for me to correct my mistake.

Re:less useful (1)

falsified (638041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032854)

True in a way, but there are two things that seem off to me. First, the search page isn't taking away a choice for you. You pointed your web browser to an address that didn't resolve, and you succeeded in doing so - but what changes is that your ISP recognizes this and gives you something in addition to some message about how you didn't get to the right site. Second of all, I don't see the difference between your browser making recommendations (and how do you think your browser will come up with these recommendations? Some sort of web-based search, I'd imagine?) and your ISP sending recommendations through your browser. It'll still be an HTML-based list of suggestions produced through a web query.

P.S. (1)

falsified (638041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032885)

I should have had a disclaimer - it's really easy to make one of these suggestion pages get really bad, really fast, like a browser hijack search page. Maybe I'm just being naive but since Earthlink already has your money and will be making more money off the sponsored clicks, I suspect the number of ads will be at least within reason on these pages. The one thing that is decent about IE's suggestion page is that there's maybe two or three images, last time I checked (I have Firefox here, and IE at work).

Re:Downmod me to hell, but... (1)

_GNU_ (81313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032793)

NXDOMAIN HTTP etc.. lalala..

Would help if this guy actually knew anything about the http protocol, not to mention the dns protocol..

since when?... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032816)

"The system is specifically configured to handle only NXDOMAIN HTTP traffic as it is being returned to the user's browser and to not impact email and other non-web-browsing traffic."

Since when is it supposed to be OK for an ISP to hijack and damage the information coming back to a browser? If this is OK, then ISP's should be able to destroy email and non-browsing data as well. Let the browser display what is being sent to it, thank you. I have no problem with Internet tools such as browsers doing what I tell them to do, even if I make mistakes and tell them the "wrong" thing. Accuracy = ease.

Re:since when?... (1)

falsified (638041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032868)

Nothing is getting sent to the web browser that is of use to an end user anyway. "Server not found" or some timeout message doesn't tell me a goddamned thing. Is it down? Does the page exist or not? Did I misspell something? Is there something wrong with my connection or the DNS server I/my ISP uses?
This is different from what VeriSign did because VeriSign had a monopoly in the market (if you can call it a market) and also VeriSign had a financial incentive in preventing registration of addresses similar to misspellings of common websites, thereby impacting potentially legitimate growth of websites. This is just an ISP trying to make some money off of a service that Internet Explorer already does in a half-assed, information-gathering type of way.

Let the browser display what is sent to it. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032907)

"Nothing is getting sent to the web browser that is of use to an end user anyway. "Server not found" or some timeout message doesn't tell me a goddamned thing"

You have to a real idiot to think that "Server not found" or a timeout message does NOT mean that the page isn't there. I know that you aren't.

Re:Let the browser display what is sent to it. (1)

falsified (638041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032945)

Well, it could be and it could not be. Obviously for whatever reason, the present request I'm making isn't producting the expected results. However, "server not found" doesn't get me started on a solution - does the page I'm looking for still exist? If so, where is it and what is its condition? Perhaps the ensuing results page will offer caches of the page, if the server's down, et cetera. All in all, I see this as probably becoming a minor pain in the ass for people who don't like pages showing up where a dialog box used to be, and a minor benefit for people who don't feel like running a google search when really they can't remember how to spell "Magellan's" or something.

Re:Let the browser display what is sent to it. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032960)

Why not let the browser handle it then, if it is so important? It's pretty bad to have an ISP damage information "en route" to the browser. See the other discussion about breaking standards.

Re:Downmod me to hell, but... (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032958)

Read a little further down where the guy admits that the technical people corrected him on that "NXDOMAIN HTTP" garbage.

this doesn't just affect HTTP (4, Informative)

keithmoore (106078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032971)

The biggest problem with this is not the ads (though they are annoying). This DNS hack doesn't just affect HTTP, it affects every application that does DNS queries. The claim that the system is configured to only handle NXDOMAIN HTTP traffic is a bald lie. There is no way for the DNS server to determine whether a query is being done for HTTP or for some other protocol.

When an application queries DNS for A records (IPv4 addresses) for a particular domain, one of three things should happen:
1. if there are A records for that domain, they should be returned
2. if there are no A records for that domain but there are other records, "no information" should be returned
3. if there are no records of any type for that domain, "no such domain" (NXDOMAIN) should be returned

What Earthlink's servers appear to be doing is the following:

1. if there are real A records for that domain, they are returned
2. if there are no A records for that domain, return A records for several hosts that don't belong to that domain.
      if the application tries to talk HTTP to port 80 on any of those hosts and supplies the Host: query request
      (standard in HTTP 1.1) the HTTP server will do a search for the domain that appears in the Host: request
      and return HTML that suggests other domains that appear to be similar to the one given in the Host: request.
      however if the application tries to talk to other ports on that machine it will get "connection refused" or
      it will time out.

(the behavior is actually a bit more complicated than that. the behavior seems to be dependent on the IP address from
which the queries were made - so if you make the query to their servers from a host that isn't on Earthlink DSL
you will apparently get normal results. the behavior also seems to be dependent on the domain being queried.)

There are several things wrong with this behavior:

1. It's not reporting the error correctly. Applications that do DNS queries quite reasonably expect NXDOMAIN
      to be returned if the domain does not exist, and "no information" to be returned if there are no records of
      the type they're looking for - not a list of apparently valid IP addresses pointing to hosts that have nothing
      to do with that domain. Many applications behave differently depending on the error condition. "connection
      refused" and "connection timed out" are often treated as temporary errors - the application assumes that the
      remote server is rebooting or isn't reachable and tries again later. "no such domain" is more often treated
      as a permanent error, or one that requires immediate user attention. So this Earthlink change can cause
      applications other than web browsers to behave improperly, or to give misleading error messages.

      For example: if an email server is trying to send mail to someone at a particular domain, it will first do
      a query for MX records to determine if there are any mail servers assigned to that domain. If the MX query returns
      no answers, it may then issue a separate query for A records. If this happens the Earthlink DNS server will return
      bogus A records and the email server will try to send the mail to Earthlink's servers rather than bouncing the mail
      like it should. When Earthlink's servers refuse the connection, the email server will treat the condition as a
      temporary error and retry at intervals for several days. As a result, mail for nonexistent domains (say, bounced
      spam) can clog up the email server's queues and slow things down.

2. It is hiding other records associated with that domain. Say an application will talk either IPv4 or IPv6, but
      prefers to talk IPv4 (which is reasonable because these days IPv4 is often faster than IPv6). So the application
      does queries for IPv4 addresses ("A records"), and if it finds none, does queries for IPv6 addresses ("AAAA records").
      But if there are no A records for that domain Earthlink's servers appear to return the bogus A records pointing
      to their own servers. The application will try to contact those records and fail. It might never try doing the
      query for the AAAA records.

3. It adds additional delay. Even if the application doing the DNS query treats "connection timed out" or "connection
      refused" essentially the same as "no such domain", "connection timed out" takes a lot longer, and "connection
      refused" takes slightly longer - especially if the application tries to contact each of the bogus servers
      before giving up. So while this change might improve service for users of web browsers, it drastically reduces the level
      of service for other applications.

4. Even if the application uses port 80, that doesn't mean it's using HTTP. Even if the application is using HTTP on port 80,
      that doesn't mean it's expecting ordinary web pages. For better or worse many applications use port 80 to get through
      firewalls, and many applications use HTTP to obtain files other than human-readable web pages. Earthlink's DNS hack will
      confuse applications that use port 80 and/or HTTP by responding in ways not appropriate to that application.

5. It misrepresents the content of the parent zone. Every domain name is contained within some parent domain. A zone
      is just a list of records associated with a parent domain. For instance, foo.example.com is contained within the
      example.com zone. The list of records under example.com is owned by whoever currently owns the example.com domain.
      For Earthlink's servers to claim that foo.example.com has A records when it doesn't have A records is to lie about
      the contents of the example.com zone.

Why the hell shouldn't it? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032977)

Well, for one thing, if you're using a modern web browser your web browser is already doing this for you, and you may even be able to pick and choose which search engine to use.

For another, DNS results are cached by browsers and operating systems, so if someone's DNS servers are temporarily down then anyone who gets sent to earthlink-help.net will continue to see the site as "down" for longer than necessary.

For another, many applications need to know if a domain is not found. If they start getting valid results for unknown domains they'll break.

The system is specifically configured to handle only NXDOMAIN HTTP traffic...

There is no way for the DNS server to know that whether request that follows the domain lookup will be an HTTP request, so this is not actually technically possible.

Let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032785)

I type in "slashdto.org" and instead of getting a "can't find server" error, I get redirected to earth-link's special search page? From a pure usability point of view that is rubbish!

I rarely type in domain names that I am not already sure the correctness of (when I don't know the domain name for something I... surprise... use Google...). So, when I type a domain name wrong, it means I simply made a typo. Normally, I'm looking at an error report in my browser window, and I've still got "slashdto.org" typed in to the address bar. I simply fix the typo and smack enter, and away I go.

If instead, I got redirected to earth-link's page, I have to retype the whole URL again, and furthermore I might not know what I did wrong the first time, since the address in my address bar is now "earthlink-help.net". USELESS!

Though also academic for me since I don't user Earth Link, but still.

My site's been hijacked! (1)

_GNU_ (81313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032803)

Just realised that because my DNS server is temporarily offline due to a broken switch, anyone on earthlink trying to access one of my sites will make earthlink money from banner advertising.

Horrible.

Forwarding search requests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032865)

I don't understand why the big ISP's haven't formed deals with the large search engines to forward mis-typed urls directly to the engines. Its win win win, ISP's get click through revenue, engines get more traffic, and customers get a value added service they can actually use.

Too logical i guess...

big brother is watching you (1)

gsn (989808) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032874)

I'm not on earthlink and don't have this problem but if it redirects to earthlink-help.net you can just add that entry to your hosts file no? Sure, sure if you run your own server but for most users...

This is terrible because most of the time the DNS error is just a simple typo, and most users don't need to see 50 links to websites that are entirely irrelevant to what I want. I think we need legislation that forces ISPs to just provide an internet connection and do nothing else. Quickly takes care of the net neutrality problem too.

I wonder if this is even legal because they are now monitoring search terms, and that could rather quickly turn to logging.

Just another co-opted standard... (1)

SavvyPlayer (774432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032879)

See also: HTTP + port 80 being used for everything from chat to file sharing to video streaming to RPC. Add to that HTTP status 200 + HTML being increasingly used to represent every possible response status.

Solution: Use a different DNS server in settings (3, Interesting)

MoNickels (1700) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032905)

I noticed the Earthlink change this week and immediately put a non-Earthlink DNS server at the top of my DNS servers list. My browser now returns the proper "can't find server" message and not Earthlink's advertising. (If you do this, please consider the ethical implications of using another provider's DNS server if you do not subscribe to that provider.)

Earthlink you say? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16032925)

"xenu.net"
"Can't find xxxx.net - Would you like a Free Personality Test?"

Money grab (1)

Snotman (767894) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032936)

This is a money grab plain and simple. I prefer to get a 404 response when I fat finger a URL and then use my brain to figure out that I might have fat fingered the domain. I don't want to ever be redirected to a commercial search engine not of my choice. For one, is the search engine going to remain agnostic and return a naked list without censorship or insertion of their own interest? Or is it going to push a preferred list of commercial site owners that paid a premium to have their site show up on a list for people that fat finger? The other money grab here is that now competitors have a way to associate themselves with a site that already did the hard work of creating the interest for the user to type in the URL. This seems to be powerful for what would be ordinarily a site that does not exist for the user; isn't it powerful to create something out of nothing? When I want to find competitors on a subject or for a site, I directly go to a search engine. This seems like opportunism. For instance, if I type in www.McDonards.com and I am redirected to a search engine that interprets my mistake that I want to look up fast food or hamburgers, a search engine can now affiliate with McDonalds other hanmburger restaurants and fast food. It is quite possible these competitors did not invest in marketting like McDonalds to create the impulse for a user to visit their website. However, with Earthlink's redirect to their search engine, a competitor can pay a small fee, nothing probably compared to what McDonalds pays in advertising, and they are instantly associated with McDonalds message even if it is a tiny amount. It is certainly more than what the previously nothing-site had in the user's mind before the redirect. This is hijacking. Also, you have an adsense type thing where advertisers can pay even more premium to jump on the coat tails of someone elses marketting.

Do you really expect Earthlink to be honest about its motives? When does the customer ever come first in a for profit company? This service costs money and customers aren't paying more, so this is Earthlink's business development and it will probably net Earthlink more money at the expense of spamming their customers with paid ads and advertising of sites that wouldn't have normally occurred in the course of things. 404 does not advertise, it tells you that you made a mistake.

Re:Money grab (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16033002)

For the record, the error that comes up if you try to access a nonexistent host/domain isnt a '404', as it doesnt come from a webserver, it comes internally from your browser. A 404 would only come up if you got a valid host, but the rest of the URL was nonexistent.

For instance compare http://slashdot.org/some/invalid/path [slashdot.org]
with http://an.invalid.domain/whatever [an.invalid.domain]

The former is unaffected by the mentioned modifications to the DNS that earthlink is doing - you still get /.'s 404 page. For the latter, your *browser* would normally tell you that the domain doesnt exist. With what earthlink (and previously, Verisign) set up, is that the DNS pretends the domain *does* exist, and returns an IP under the control of earthlink (Verisign) which serves up whatever it wants (eg, advertising), and there is no way for your browser to easily tell that the site doesnt really exist. The only real solution is to not use their DNS/resolvers, which fortunately, for anyone with a clue, isnt that hard. I havent used my ISP's DNS services (at least not since I was no longer the engineer in charge of them, anyway)

Solution that'll keep both sides happy... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032953)

Set up two DNS addresses: one with the service, one without. In the setup instructions, state that to turn off the site finder service, point your DNS manually to www.xxx.yyy.zzz instead of using DHCP to configure it.

-b.

If they want to do this, and not get flamed... (1)

Mike Peel (885855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032967)

If they want to do something like this, and avoid getting flamed for it, then they really need to do something like the following:
  • A simple message: e.g. "This domain has not yet been registered", or "The domain was not found"
  • Suggestions for sites that the user was actually looking for (e.g. www.slashodt.org --> "were you looking for slashdot.org?"
  • _no_ banner ads, or other adverts - otherwise they would just be bulk domain squatters.
  • Maybe things like search boxes (with a choice of search engines), but they shouldn't profit from them.
... although even then, they'd probably be pushing it.

What's the problem? (0)

eples (239989) | more than 7 years ago | (#16032968)

I don't understand the uproar. Isn't this just an ISP-wide 404 page?

When you dial a non-existant telephone number you get an ear piercing tone, you have to hang up, and start all over again.

Maybe it's all just a matter of personal preference?

Re:What's the problem? (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16033003)

When you dial a non-existant telephone number you get an ear piercing tone, you have to hang up, and start all over again.

Or we get a recording "doo-dah-dee. We're sorry - the number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try again."

We don't get "This recording is sponsored by Gromyko's Widget Works of Belle PPlain, Wisconsin, North American Wireless, and Joe's Pizza. You have dialed 555-1234. If you meant 554-1234, Smith, John, press 1, if you meant 556-1234, Mierzwiak, James, press 2, or if you meant 555-2233, Yung, M., press 3?"

Not to give the phone company ideas or anything :/

-b.

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