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Charter Implements Sitefinder-esque Annoyance
Making a buck off of mistyped URLs...
by Karl Bode 11:17AM Wednesday Feb 21 2007
Our resident Charter forum users alert us that Charter has implemented a DNS redirection service, something that's usually implemented by ISPs eager to make a buck off of mistyped URLs. The move, however, annoys many users on principle, because it breaks useful tools that rely on pure DNS.

"Charter's DNS service now returns an IP address to a machine servicing only port 80 for any DNS lookup which fails; not only for unknown TLD's, but also unknown hosts within delegated domains," notes one user. Bad domain queries now send users to this site, replete with plenty of advertisements.

"The underlying problem is the corruption of a core Internet Protocol/RFC which states unknown hosts MUST return SERVFAIL," explains the user. "Charter may also claim they have an "opt-out" feature; but this feature only alters the behavior of your web browser experience and doesn't effect their DNS service implementation. Sadly, 'opting out' of the default search return merely makes the intermediate web server redirect you to search.msn.com."

The original annoyance began, of course, with Verisign's now scrapped Sitefinder initiative. Their plan to implement wildcard domain records caused no limit of problems, ranging from malfunctioning printers to troubles with anti-spam technology. Ultimately, Verisign yanked the service after legal pressure from ICANN and Internet-wide outrage.

ISP implementation of DNS redirects don't get quite the same attention, although Charter isn't the only ISP to offer this "feature." When DSL provider DSLExtreme was purchased by Ikanos last year, the new owners thought DNS redirection would be a good way to make a few extra dollars. Ultimately, users in our forums pulled together to complain, forcing DSLExtreme to scrap the project last April.

In late 2006, Earthlink implemented their own DNS redirection service (see example). After our users complained, Earthlink responded, linking to discussion in our forum amongst "ISP geeks," but sticking to their guns. Ultimately, they offered users some "pure" alternative DNS options, though not before many annoyed customers jumped ship.

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