Charter Debuts SiteFinder-like Service
Charter has apparently implemented a feature that is similar to that which both VeriSign and EarthLink have instituted in the past to redirect unused domains to a company-produced page with advertising, its customers report.
According to users of the Web site broadbandreports.com, customers are sent to a search page that includes several advertisements across the top half of the page, with a search results page powered by Yahoo! Search.
The page is similar to one implemented by EarthLink in September of 2006, however it does not include suggestions on possible matches for the domain the user may be attempting to navigate to.
Verisign in 2003 also attempted to redirect unused domains to a site called "SiteFinder," however opposition to the program was so strong that it was forced to take the service down after ISPs threatened to block it and ICANN ordered it to stop redirecting unused domains.
Similarly, Charter's users are not happy. "While some may refer to his as "404 Hijacking", the underlying problem is the corruption of a core Internet Protocol/RFC which states unknown hosts MUST return SERVFAIL," one user wrote.
By returning SERVFAIL, the browser will know that a page does not exist. Since the response is received on the DNS server end, it means that the 404 errors never make it to the user's browser.
A user may opt out of the feature, customers report, but that merely changes the server redirect to search.msn.com.
Charter had not commented publicly on the change, and according to reports, its technical support was telling users that it was not aware of the new redirection policy.