ISPs hijack failed searches
2007-11-17 by TonyT
As you know, you can search directly from the address bar in modern Web browsers. This functionality is built into the browser and is configurable via menus, preferences (options) or toolbar buttons. Some browsers let you select your search engine of choice to use for adress bar searching.
Many ISPs are now attempting to rake in a few extra dollars by using DNS redirects to "hijack" your address bar searches and feed the browser a dynamically created results page filled with sponsored advertisements that "match" what you are searching for.
What is DNS?
DNS = Domain Name Server. Think of this as the white-yellow pages for the Internet. All ISPs have their own DNS. When you type a Web site name (www.yahoo.com) into the browser address bar, the browser sends this info out to the Internet. This name is converted to an ip address that matches the name. The list of "who is who" is stored in the ISP's DNS.
If you have a home network with a router, or if you connect directly to the modem, the DNS servers your network (and Web browser) will use are setup automatically by the router or by Windows operating system.
Typing a name or word(s) without the .COM, .NET, ,ORG at the end will automatically invoke the browser's built in search function which is supposed to then display a page of results using your preferred search engine.
ISPs know how this works, and some are now configuring their DNS to handle names and word(s) without the .COM, .NET, .ORG, etc. in a special manner. They are calling these types of queries "FAILED DNS QUERIES".
That is entirely marketing hype. A failed query is a legit term used in comp networking, but these ISPs are applying the term for marketing purposes.
COX Internet is "testing" the use of DNS redirects and this breaks the browser's ability to search from the address bar. Thery are currently testing in the following zones:
Arizona, Gulf Coast, Hampton Roads, Kansas, Las Vegas, Macon, New Orleans, Northern Virginia, Orange County, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Palos Verdes, Roanoke, Sun Valley, and Tulsa area
Fortunately, they are giving subscribers the opportunity to OPT-OUT and they provide instructions for changing the DNS used by your network and computers:
If you have a network with a router and ALL computers on the network have static ip addresses, then all you need to do is change the DNS in the router. If your computers use DHCP then you need to manually set the DNS for each computer on the network.
You DO NOT even have to use your ISP's DNS. You can use DNS from other ISPs or other DNS providers. Your ISPs DNS is usually the most reliable though.