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Charter Implements SiteFinder-Like DNS 206

Posted by kdawson
from the fun-and-games dept.
paulbiz writes "Charter Cable's DNS servers have just started resolving all invalid hostnames and pointing them to their own error page. The About page states: 'This service automatically eliminates many of the error pages you may encounter as you surf the web. No software was installed on your computer for this service to work.' It has an 'opt-out' page, but when you use it Charter simply sets a cookie that makes their page redirect errors to Microsoft Live Search instead!" One more reason to use OpenDNS, where you can actually opt out of the custom error page.
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Charter Implements SiteFinder-Like DNS

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  • Not working for me. (Score:2, Informative)

    by wileyAU (889251) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:37AM (#18022608) Homepage
    I have Charter (who I hate BTW, I had to switch from Comcast to Charter the last time I moved and am now paying more money for worse service), and am still getting the standard "Page Not Found" screen. Of course, I'm running Firefox on a Mac, so . . .
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:40AM (#18022632) Homepage
    Every customer we set up I add openDNS as the secondary DNS in their router which act's as their DNS server. Granted you can only do this with a decent router or in our case the buffalo router with DD-WRT installed. (every customer has a DD-WRT router as we will only work with our router and not anyone elses)

    Comcast is notorius for having their DNS dead and by us adding in a secondary DNS that is not ISP locked it gives them more days without problems than their neighbors.

    Any geek that is not running a dd-WRT or a OpenWRT router at home is missing out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:41AM (#18022644)
    Of course, if you're running your own BIND server on your NATted network, which forwards non-local queries to the upstream DNSs, you can use something like what ISC recommends in case of SiteFinder. In /etc/named.conf:

    zone "COM" {type delegation-only; };
    zone "NET" {type delegation-only; };

    See their site [isc.org] for more info.
  • by Odiumjunkie (926074) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:41AM (#18022652) Journal
    How does OpenDNS make money? [opendns.com]

    OpenDNS makes money by offering clearly labeled advertisements alongside organic search results when the domain entered is not valid and not a typo we can fix. OpenDNS will provide additional services on top of its enhanced DNS service, and some of them may cost money. Speedy, reliable DNS will always be free.
  • Re:Pretty Confusing (Score:2, Informative)

    by PRC Banker (970188) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:45AM (#18022674)
    Not receiving correct DNS error pages is a problem for those that wish to resolve domains.

    But to me it's more simple than that. It means misleading the consumer of the cable service. 'The website does not exist' is being changed to 'we're not being up-front that there was a type, misdirected link, etc, we're going to show you adverts instead'.

    The Site Finder-like service further reduces the web from a meritocrious system of links and content, to a mess of adverts.

    Will cable subscribers' fees be reduced because of this? Probably not.

    There's a slippery slope from a (albeit idealistic) system of content and links, to an advertising mess, to outright DNS poisoning (which, living in China, I'm already experiencing - it was a big problem for Google in 2005).

  • by jafiwam (310805) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:54AM (#18022736) Homepage Journal
    Well Charter in particular has been blocking DNS ports to anything but their DNS servers for a long time.

    So running your own resolver on a Charter line probably will basically mean no DNS.
  • My DNS settings (Score:2, Informative)

    by dosius (230542) <bridget@buric.co> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:09AM (#18022844) Journal
    nameserver 151.203.0.85
    nameserver 151.202.0.85
    nameserver 65.121.99.5
    nameserver 65.121.99.6

    And rest assured, so far, neither ISP whose nameservers I'm using seems broken at the moment. (The first two are Verizon, the last two are Coffeynet)

    -uso.
  • by Albanach (527650) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:17AM (#18022934) Homepage

    Also, Earthlink has been doing this for months, which is why I recently replaced the DNS servers that have been burned into my skull since working there in 1998.
    Earthlink provide two DNS servers that operate normally for anyone that wants to opt out. They even have a knowledgebase article [earthlink.net] telling you about it.
  • by PaisteUser (810863) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:30AM (#18023148)
    Well Charter in particular has been blocking DNS ports to anything but their DNS servers for a long time. So running your own resolver on a Charter line probably will basically mean no DNS.

    This might be the case in certain areas, but in my neck of the woods, I'm able to use DNS servers other than standard Charter DNS resolvers just fine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:34AM (#18023218)
    Earthlink still is. I complained and got no response. It hasn't caused me to leave but is a straw in the pile. My alternatives would be Road Runner (and I really dont' want to give more money to AOL-Time warner than I have to.) Or Verizon DSL. But that's changing. The FIOS fiber is on the poles outside my house, and I'm expecting the "FIOS is now available" card any time now. Initially, I was intenting to stay with Earthlink because they got the job done and generally stayed out of my way. But because they're fooling with my DNS, I'm acutally considering it. My big concerns with Verizon is they seem to be far more known for lousy service, and my Voicepluse service has been close to flawless over earthlink. I'm a bit more leary of trusting that the Phone company won't fool with SIP communications (either now or in the future). Does anyone know if Verizon has tried this DNS stunt? I't tip the scales back for me.
  • Re:ORSN is better. (Score:3, Informative)

    by giorgiofr (887762) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:48AM (#18023424)
    That's exactly what I did and what everybody who complains about ICANN should be doing too. Besides, ORSN's servers are quite fast: the *real* reason why I ditched my ISP's DNS servers was that they took forever to answer and THEN proceeded to show you ads to boot. Needless to say, I require to know whether the host I *actually want to connect to* is up, down or feeling sick, not their ad servers.
  • by philgarlic (875387) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:55AM (#18023518) Homepage
    I talked to their tech support a few days ago about this shadiness. He had no idea this was going on, and rightfully thought it was a malware/spyware problem at first, until I explained a little more clearly what was going on, and he did some poking around and found other blog and forum posts about this. He seemed somewhat surprised that Charter would engage in such a practice and that no one had been told about it.

    He was talking with level 2 support while he was on with me and said that they just kept telling him it was probably malware/spyware. Hilarious that they at least see it that way too, but sad that their company pulls this shit on them without telling anyone first. I asked him for a followup, he said he'd pass it along to level 2, I gave him my email address, and that was that. I don't exactly expect to ever hear back from them, so I'll probably have to make a stink at a city Cable Board meeting to get any response.

    In the meantime, I hope other folks out there start repeatedly and publicly asking Charter:

    - Were they ever going to make an announcement/disclosure to allow customers to opt-out, or at least tell their staff about it?
    - Will they provide options for customers who don't allow or regularly clear cookies, such as a non-redirecting DNS?
    - Why were they pointing people towards http://optin.charter.net/ [charter.net] , which doesn't exist?
    - How much information do they gather about visitors to their link farm?
    - Is there a third-party involved providing Charter the redirect (like Barefruit did for Earthlink?)
    - How much money are they making from their link farm affiliates?
    - Most importantly, do we have any guarantees that they aren't redirecting or degrading other network traffic?

    In the meantime, I've switched my DNS over to Level3 (4.2.2.2 and 4.2.2.3).
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:34AM (#18024106) Homepage Journal

    Although the recommendation to switch to OpenDNS has the same flaws from what I have read. They, too, redirect unknown domains to their "organic search" page.

    You, sir, are not using your brain.

    From the OpenDNS FAQ [opendns.com]:

    How do I turn off phishing protection or typo correction? [opendns.com]
    Create a free account to manage your network preferences.

    In fact you can turn those "features" off. You have to opt-out, which means you have to register.

  • by davidu (18) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:41PM (#18025154) Homepage Journal

    I'm not surprised ISPs are doing this. More will be doing this. What does surprise me is how ISPs try to do this silently and behind closed-door without informing their customers, or even their tech support in some cases.

    Think about it this way: Any change an ISP makes that results in 1% (or more) of their customer base calling in for technical support is a cost nightmare. Customer Service is a (*the*) major cost center for ISPs. I guess we have to imagine that they are making more money than the pain of doing the customer service is costing them.

    The other thing that surprises me (and obviously I'm biased since I run OpenDNS) is that the search results page linked above is 100% ad-driven. There are no no organic search results for my typo (as far as I can tell). Moreover, when I click on a category to "refine" my results they totally remove the typo'd domain that I had there in the first place instead just giving me generic ads for a category (which is a mediocre CPC on their side) and a crappy search experience on the user side. There is absolutely no user-benefit to what Charter has done here.

    I'm proud to say that our page [opendns.com] is getting better and better every single day. Compare [opendns.com] and contrast [charter.net]. Not only that, but we're driving more and more innovation in both user navigation and fundamental DNS operations. These things go hand in hand. Fundamentally the DNS is about navigation. It's about helping users get where they are trying to go. That's exactly what we intend to help our users do. We know that the changes we have made to how our DNS servers operate aren't for every user which is why we are so clear about how our system works and is why make sure we can manage account settings on a per IP basis (CIDR-style preferences down to /32's).

    As usual, I'm happy to answer questions where I can.

    -david ulevitch

  • by carambola5 (456983) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:42PM (#18031326) Homepage

    Charter customers (I pity you): make your voice heard!


    As a frequently-disgruntled Charter customer, I was given a golden ticket. I feel obliged to share it:

    Charter Corporate Complaint Line: 314-288-3150

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