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Microsoft "SiteFinder" Quietly Raking It In 176

Posted by kdawson
from the all-your-typos-are-belong-to-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with the news, which isn't particularly new, that Microsoft's Internet Explorer sends typo domain names to a page of pay-per-click ads. In this endeavor Microsoft joins Charter and Earthlink in profiting from the dubious practice that Verisign pioneered but failed to make stick. The article is on a site whose audience is, among others, those who attempt to profit by typo-squatting, and its tone is just a bit petulant because individuals cannot hope to profit in this game on the scale Microsoft effortlessly achieves.
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Microsoft "SiteFinder" Quietly Raking It In

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  • by brennanw (5761) * on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:00PM (#18175106) Homepage Journal
    It's weird, but I don't mind Sitefinder. It's a lot less annoying than the people who set up sites that spawn eight and a half billion popup ads. I suppose Microsoft really can be the lesser of two evils... ... oh, God. I didn't actually say that, did I?
    • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:10PM (#18175234) Homepage
      Sitefinder is EVIL. While this is just fine.

      Sitefinder was implemented with a wildcard DNS record. This means that any typo gets resolved anyway. So suppose there's a mail server running on that machine for some reason. Now all the mail you send to the wrong domain name gets sent to that server instead of failing directly.

      In this case, two things may happen, both of them very undesirable:

      If it bounces, then that will confuse many people as they won't realize they made a typo and think they got the account name wrong, or that the person cancelled their account. It also results in your probably private mail getting sent to some random server for absolutely no good reason.

      The more evil possibility is that the server will accept your mail, which would be the exact same thing they do for websites. Then maybe it will reply with an ad, or perhaps just keep it. Anything can happen in this case really.

      This is the problem with sitefinder: DNS isn't just for websites, and it would break quite a lot of things.

      On the other hand, IE sending the user to some page with ads is perfectly fine. It's IE specific, it doesn't interfer with your mail or anything else, and it's probably a configuration option you can disable. And you certainly won't get it if you don't use MS software.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kalriath (849904)
        Mmm, I think Sitefinder only resolved/resolves A records, not MX records. Your mail would STILL bounce with NXDOMAIN, providing I'm right. In Charter's case, that is the case. Not aware of how it worked with Verisign and Earthlink.
        • by mi (197448) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:45PM (#18175628) Homepage

          Mmm, I think Sitefinder only resolved/resolves A records, not MX records. Your mail would STILL bounce with NXDOMAIN, providing I'm right.

          In the absence of an MX record e-mail gets delivered to the A record — MX records [wikipedia.org] are optional. If none is found, the request is made for the A-record, and that gets used instead.

        • by Vancorps (746090)

          A records are all that is required for mail. Most mail servers I've seen will use the A host record for the domain without a hostname assuming that the destination server would route the mail accordingly. I ran a domain that way for a short period of time and it mostly worked. There were a few issues but it works in a surprising number of cases. The MX record is only required if the destination mail server is different from that of a root server which hopefully is most cases.

          I could have been smoking crac

    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @09:14PM (#18175938) Homepage Journal

      ... oh, God. I didn't actually say that, did I?

      You did. And if you had prefaced it with "you can mod me down for this, but ..." your post would probably already be +5 Insightful. :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cheater512 (783349)
      Whats wrong with a perfectly normal DNS error?
      • by Mortanius (225192)
        My guess would be that the average user will not have the slightest idea what "Cannot find server or DNS Error" (why does IE6 capitalize Error, anyway?) means or moreover just get frustrated with "The page cannot be displayed" and assume it's a problem with the site they're trying to get to and not know what's wrong. Whereas yes, they could use Google (or your alternate search engine of choice) to try to find the correct URL, this is just taking out that extra step and trying to help the user along.

        I'm sure
  • obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:00PM (#18175108) Homepage
    Microsoft's Internet Explorer sends typo domain names to a page of pay-per-click ads

    Typ0wned!
    • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @09:17PM (#18175966)
      Typ0wned!

      Don't you mean: TyPwned

      • by danpsmith (922127)

        Typ0wned! Don't you mean: TyPwned

        Were you looking for Typ0wned?

        We did not find any results for Typ0wned.

        Other searches you may want to try:

        • TyPwned (which includes a nice page full of ads, for your benefit, of course)

        Other resources that may help you:

        • Get additional search tips by visiting Web Search Help (complete with other typo-squatting, cash making routines).
        • If you cannot find a page that you know exists, send the address to us (and don't forget to include your CC# and full mailing address).
  • Oops !! (Score:4, Funny)

    by .Chndru (720709) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:01PM (#18175114)
    It took me long to come here and post this since I was searching for slahsdot.org on IE..
  • And Google (Score:4, Informative)

    by dedazo (737510) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:02PM (#18175124) Journal
    Rakes in millions (billions?) from shady parked domain farms that run AdWords.
  • I wonder if this might be something the Firefox side of the house could use. Rake in additional cash for the Mozilla foundation and help users. Given the relationship they already seem to have with Google, I doubt this would prove too much of a problem.

    Of course, an option should be available for users who do not wish to use the service.
    • by Ralconte (599174)
      I thought Firefox was doing this. Don't they openly admit they get revenue from Google by sending searches their way? On that point, has anyone had any problems using a Google image search from the default Mozilla/Google startup page? Never worked for me, I have to go directly to the real Google page. Then again, I block Google cookies, so that could be it.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        I have the same problem.
        Also with going to groups from the Moz/Go page. I think the Moz/Go links are set to an older version of the google main page.
      • Re:Firefox? (Score:5, Informative)

        by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @09:05PM (#18175858)

        No, Firefox is not doing this! When you type in a domain name that doesn't exist, you get the following:

        Server not found

        Firefox can't find the server at www.feiwona.org.

        • Check the address for typing errors such as ww.example.com instead of www.example.com
        • If you are unable to load any pages, check your computer's network connection.
        • If your computer or network is protected by a firewall or proxy, make sure that Firefox is permitted to access the Web.

        (Note: "domain name" means something in the form foo.TLD, not just a word. Words get interpreted as search terms, which do get sent to Google.)

        • by MooUK (905450)
          For some reason, individual words get interpreted as internal (usually nonexistent) servers within my university. Which really annoys me.
          • by Tmack (593755)

            For some reason, individual words get interpreted as internal (usually nonexistent) servers within my university. Which really annoys me.

            Its a feature of WINs. Im guessing here that this university network has a microsoft domain setup, and you have WINs resolution turned on on a Windoze box. It will automagically try to take the hostname you provided and match it to a subnet in its control. I hate it, since the IT support people where I work rely on this, and build links on their support webpages using that feature. It doesnt work so well with MACs unless you can get it to sign in to the domain (and even then Im not sure, as the domain ser

            • by MooUK (905450)
              I believe it's a local DNS issue, since behaviour is identical in both windows and linux. Thankfully internal links tend to be properly done; it is occasionally useful to be able to refer to "estates" or "domino" rather than the full names for those servers but I wish it had been set up to only catch those that actually exist.
    • Showing a pageful of ads is not a service.
  • SiteFinder broke DNS for the purpose of making money. This is just a 'feature' similar to the one in Firefox that automatically performs a google search on things you enter into the URL bar if they aren't valid addresses; MS is just taking the idea further (and making money off it, because they love money). I can see people being miffed by the fact that there are ads on the search page, but it's not as if Google doesn't have ads on their search pages.

    This is basically just a bunch of advertisers and domain squatters getting upset because Microsoft and Google are making money and they aren't.
    • by RajivSLK (398494) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:32PM (#18175508)
      Firefox makes money off of it too. Google pays Fire Fox a lot of money for those searches.
      • by BZ (40346)
        Google pays for the searches via the search bar. I'm not convinced they pay for the ones coming from the location bar. Last I checked, the two did different searches, and one of them didn't advertise itself as coming from Firefox.
    • by jcorno (889560) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:42PM (#18175596)
      This is just a 'feature' similar to the one in Firefox that automatically performs a google search on things you enter into the URL bar if they aren't valid addresses

      That's not true. If it actually looks like an address to Firefox (i.e. it has a period in it and no spaces), then you get a "Server not found" page with the "Try Again" button. The important thing (to me, at least) is that Firefox leaves the url alone when this happens, so you can just correct your mistake and hit enter. IE makes you delete the long address they put in there and start over.
      • by Vancorps (746090)
        No it doesn't, it gives you the original address you typed in the search field so you can just correct it and hit search or copy and paste it back into your address bar. The Try Again approach is nicer in my opinion but it doesn't make it harder to see what address you entered to begin with.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          Compared to leaving it in the address like Firefox does, IE's practice of forcing me to copy and paste it back from the search field is incredibly (and needlessly!) annoying.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Binestar (28861)
            Compared to leaving it in the address like Firefox does, IE's practice of forcing me to copy and paste it back from the search field is incredibly (and needlessly!) annoying.

            Tools -> options -> Advanced -> Scroll down to "Search from Address Bar" -> [*] "Do not search from addressbar"
            • Oh, I don't bother with that -- I just use Firefox instead.

              Incidentally, that still doesn't match the functionality of Firefox, since you lose the ability to search from the address bar. The only way to really fix it would be to not have a URL for the error "page."

              • by Binestar (28861)
                Oh, I don't bother with that -- I just use Firefox instead.

                Incidentally, that still doesn't match the functionality of Firefox, since you lose the ability to search from the address bar. The only way to really fix it would be to not have a URL for the error "page."


                In IE7 there is a search bar right next to the addressbar. But that said, I don't bother with searching from either, I just goto google and type in my search. Same on Firefox.

                (BTW: I use firefox as well)
    • Good! I hope Microsoft keeps this up.

      Firefox searches for you while Microsoft dumps you on an advertisement. Which do you think the consumer appreciates more?

      This is short term cash for long term losses.
      • by kurt555gs (309278)
        Well, CUSTOMERS would know the difference, consumer sheep probably wont know any better. Is this a surprise that M$ profits from the ignorant?

        Cheers
      • by Kalriath (849904) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:25PM (#18176952)
        Could you be any more misinformed. MSIE drops any nonexistent addresses (assuming you didn't configure it not to) into your default search engine. That can be Live, Google, Yahoo, Altavista, Ask.com, Baidu, even Dogpile if you're crazy. If you prefix it with "http://", then IE will NOT search for you, it will bail with "Cannot find server". There is no money for Microsoft if you a) set a different search engine as your default, b) disable searching from the address bar in Internet Options or c) enter in an address that CLEARLY is a domain name (i.e. has a protocol prefix) but is not correct

        Oh, and the consumer likely appreciates Microsoft's approach more. Stop spreading idiocy.
        • by malfunct (120790) *
          I'm not a mod but I wish I was. This is exactly the point I want to make. If you change the default search you go somewhere else. In IE 7 this is fairly easy (choose "Find other search providers" from the drop down next to the search box) and google and a number of other search engines are available to be set as the default search engine with only a couple clicks.
        • I have to agree with the parent. More than likely, people appreciate Microsoft's "help".

          The real losers here are the domain squatters like pool.com

    • by Kelson (129150) *

      SiteFinder broke DNS for the purpose of making money. This is just a 'feature' similar to the one in Firefox....

      As I recall, Microsoft was already doing this back when Verisign put SiteFinder in place. Maybe it wasn't loaded with ads at the time, but they were redirecting unresolvable domains to MSN search or something. It was widely held up as the right way to do it -- in the one application for which it was, well, applicable -- rather than SiteFinder's wrong way, which changed the response for every

    • by JacksBrokenCode (921041) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @09:58PM (#18176322)

      From TFA:
      Fire up Internet Explorer and try this right now. Enter Lexus-Financail.com into your address bar and hit enter. (If you're on a different browser, click here to see the results you would get.)

      I type "Lexus-Financail.com" into my address bar and IE automatically routes it to a Google search that suggests Lexus-Financial.com. Whenever IE doesn't find a server that you type in the address bar, it redirects to a search using your default search hooks. Mine are set to Google and it uses Google to search. If IE just showed a blank "Server not found" page it wouldn't be broken, but it could easily be argued that using your default search provider to try and find your intended server (in event of a "not found") is useful behavior.

      At the end of the day, this isn't "evil" behavior. They aren't preventing people from accessing a legitimate site, they are providing relevant search results instead of a generic error screen. They may garner some ad revenue in the process but they haven't programmed the browser in a way that they are the only ones who could benefit from the behavior. And unless the user is paying their ISP per-bit at an extremely expensive rate, there's no monetary damage to the user.

    • I don't know where you get your info but my default installations of Firefox never bring up Google.....
  • by prostoalex (308614) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:07PM (#18175190) Homepage Journal
    That happens only if your default search engine is Live.com.

    Going to http://www.lexus-financail.com/ [lexus-financail.com] site in IE 7 with no default search engine yields

    Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage

    Most likely causes:
    You are not connected to the Internet.
    The website is encountering problems.
    There might be a typing error in the address.


    So if you want to make untold millions as well, build (a) search engine and (b) popular web browser, and make (a) the default in (b).
    • Non-Issue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:16PM (#18175316)
      Going to Lexus-Financail.com takes me to Google. Wonder why? Oh, of course, Google is my default search page... Wonder how that happened?

      Really, I think this is a "non-issue". You're not locked in to Live.com or any other search site. Microsoft "makes" Internet Explorer, why wouldn't they set the default to Live.com? Why shouldn't they? You can always change it...

    • Yep, I second that, on my DELL provided machine, the default search engine is DELL branded Google, and it is providing the paid ads from Google on the search.

      I have to agree with whomever said that this is nowhere near as bad as SiteFinder - you have full control over this and it does not break DNS service. Besides, what do I care, I stopped using IE years ago.:-)

      -Em
  • At least... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SinaSa (709393) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:09PM (#18175228) Homepage
    Well if you're gonna do the wrong thing, you at least might as well do it the right way.

    Verisign literally broke DNS in their attempt. This cash grab is confined to software that can easily be switched from.
  • by SashaMan (263632) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:10PM (#18175240)
    All IE7 does is go to the search page OF YOUR CHOICE if you misspell something. I have IE7 configured with Google as my default search engine, and when I type in lexus-financail.com I go to Google's search page, which I find is a very helpful feature.

    Sheesh, it's like people don't even TRY with the FUD anymore.
  • Have google set as my default search engine and it took me to http://www.google.com/search?q=lexus-financail.com [google.com]. Thats without the http:/// [http] part, as per the article. If I put the http:/// [http] part, it gives me a 'Cannot find server or DNS Error' error page.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:11PM (#18175248)
    I tried what the article said to do. I have Google set as my default IE search engine. It just did a Google search for the incorrect domain. This seems like a feature (albeit one that I dislike) rather than some money grabbing scam.

    Come on, if we want to bash MS, and especially IE, we can do much better than this.
  • This is inaccurate. (Score:5, Informative)

    by eieken (635333) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:12PM (#18175256) Homepage
    The Sitefinder you mention is nothing of the sort. What you are experiencing is IE7's auto-search feature. If you set your default search to Google, you'll get google search results with the same thing as IE.

    Here [defhoboz.biz] is the first page from the blog, with me typing in the same search as the blog does.
    Now here [defhoboz.biz] is what I get after I hit enter.
    • by julesh (229690)
      I think the problem is less that these people don't know what's going on here, but don't understand what was wrong with sitefinder. They think the entire objection to sitefinder was that it profitted from typos. But that wasn't it at all.

      Here's a clue to just one of the issues for them: it should be up to the user what happens when an incorrect domain is entered. Sitefinder took that choice away from the user.
  • is actively testing it. From their perspective, it's free money.
  • Sheesh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:14PM (#18175296) Homepage Journal

    This article is stupid. It's just takes you to the default search engine (which is usually Microsoft), and offers you a spelling correction, which then performs the search. THEN it shows you the search results, which has -- ADS. OH MY GOD!!

    In other news, typing the same string into Google (or any other search engine) also shows search results -- WITH ADS.

    Man, I've really busted the conspiracy WIDE ASS OPEN.

  • When I type in their mis-spelled domain name into IE6's address bar, I don't get the advertising page they say I should. All I get is the page from IE saying the hostname couldn't be resolved.

    I think the article is conflating two things: manipulation of the DNS network to return actual A records for domains that don't exist vs. IE redirecting any request that yields a DNS error to a pre-configured page. The first breaks all uses of names, the second only breaks IE. The first is a fatal problem because it a

  • FireFox has its default page set to Google. Wonder how much that rakes in for Google (and Mozilla)? Come on folks, good for the goose and all...
  • by AntiMac (100361) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:29PM (#18175464) Homepage Journal
    I highly recommend OpenDNS, available for free at http://www.opendns.com./ [www.opendns.com] They also redirect your typos to a search page, but you can brand the pages with your own logos. They provide many other useful services such as phishing site blocking and DNS usage statistics. You don't even need an account to use their DNS servers, if you don't want the statistics and custom settings.

    I have 7 /24 networks registered with them now, and I can't thank them enough. I have zero DNS problems now, and it even seems much faster.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AMSRay (992267)
      Thank you! I'm reading all the way down the list of comments thinking "OPEN DNS!, OPEN DNS!" How can any self-respecting geek not know about Open DNS? I've set all the routers at my company to use their DNS servers regardless of which ISP the connection uses. Sure they have some adds if you hit a typo for a domain name, but the proceeds pay for this FREE service. We've had zero problems with DNS issues since I switched. opendns.org
      • by jZnat (793348) *
        Hell I just run my own DNS server that polls the root ICANN servers and recursively until it gets the IP address. Who pays ICANN? We do. I don't need ads thank you very much.
    • by davidu (18)
      Thanks for the plug. We think we rock too. :-) We've been pretty quiet as of late but that's because we're cranking on some really intense stuff. We'll keep pushing the envelope to give people a better internet experience, that's for sure.

      -david
  • by Aphrika (756248) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @09:07PM (#18175874)
    Try typing Lexus-Financial.com into Google...

    Apart from getting the two results that link back to this specific story, at the bottom, on big letters, you get Did you mean to search for: Lexus-Financial.com

    This is just straight MS bashing for no reason - chances are that if you typo'd, you'd probably be looking for the suggested alternate. If you typed the same stuff into Google and spelt it correctly, chances are your first link would be a sponsored one at the top.

    I mean, if a search engine helps you fidn what your looking for, it's doing its job. if it makes money while it's doing it, so what?
    • I mean, if a search engine helps you fidn what your looking for, it's doing its job.
      I tried to look up the word "fidn" in the dictionary to understand what you were talking about, but my dictionary didn't have anything other than ads for California's Fashion Institute.
  • ...not nearly as bad as what Verisign did. The reason Sitefinder was dangerous is because it has the potential to break things. If an internet-based program relies on a valid server not found error it will break if it gets a ad page redirect. Granted, that would be unusual, but that's not the point. It's been that way since day one. If it's not broken...
  • I'm a Charter customer/victim, and the first thing I did upon discovering the new "feature" was disable it. Of course, it's not that easy. Disabling Charter's site-finder bullshit just replaces it with Microsoft's site-finder bullshit, because that's Internet Explorer's default, and apparently they thought that nobody would notice. I notice because I'm using Safari on a Mac, and Windows Live search sure as hell isn't the default behavior for me. "Disable" is supposed to mean "stop doing that", not "do i
    • Wow, that's fucked up. I hope they at least left port 53/udp open for you so you can use another DNS server.

    • by tji (74570)
      Yup, I'm in the same boat. Lately their DNS has been extremely shitty too. So, even requesting a valid name is slow and often fails.. a lookup for www.google.com failed and took me to their page. Of course, I opted out (which is bullshit, because it's cookie based and thus cannot help for non-browser apps), and it took me instead to microsoft's search rather than responding correctly with a DNS error. I'm also using a Mac, so the Microsoft search site is definitely not my default search.

      So, I chan
  • Stolen tech! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sabernet (751826) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @09:47PM (#18176214) Homepage
    They stole this feature from Firefox! How dare they!

    Seriously, since when is defaulting to a -chosen- search engine being monopolistic? I mean, technically, AOL sent you to AOL's search page whether you liked it or not.

    There are plenty more things to be critical of MS then this, don't waste perfectly good flame time on silly things.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    News for nerds, stuff that matters?

    IE and other browsers have had a "search from the address bar" feature for a long time. And it's user-configurable.

    So this isn't news and it doesn't matter.
  • non-story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spitzak (4019) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:10PM (#18176390) Homepage
    They are using the 404 response correctly, this is what it was designed for! IE is trying to do something intellligent when it knows that the page is missing. What verisign did was fool every program (including IE) into thinking *all* pages exist, which breaks anything that wants to respond in a useful way to the page being mistyped.

    I checked on a Windows machine, and they even let you change it! Didn't even bury it too deep in the configuration! You can go to google or bash-microsoft.net and thus the mistyped domains probably can hurt them!

    Microsoft does plenty of evil and stupid things, but this is not amoung them.
    • No kidding. When I saw this, my first thought was "it's like SiteFinder, how it should have been implemented". The problem with SiteFinder wasn't that it redirected mistyped web addresses, but that it did it at the DNS level, which screws things up. If you're going to do this at all, doing it in the browser is exactly right.

    • Mods: please do not mod people who think NXDOMAIN is the same thing as a 404 response "Insightful". You'll only encourage the idiots to spread their misinformation further, and make the people reading these comments dumber.
  • ...accurately.

    End of problem.

  • Open DNS -- well, one word and one acronym. Maybe just a URL. http://www.opendns.com/ [opendns.com]

  • It's really not as bad as described. If you do mistype a domain name in Internet Explorer all it does is a search for it in the _default_ search engine. This of course happens to be Live search, but the default can easily be changed. Thus, since my default search engine in IE is Google (surprise!), mistyping a domain name takes me too Google search, which by the way also contains PPC ads.
  • I'm an earthlink customer and when I mistype something it sends me to an eartlink page that suggests one or two site URL's one of which is almost always the right one. The page itself has no ads on it.
  • .. those shady domain-squatters are now finding their flawed business model of profiteering from other's work has been broken by the advent of new technology.

    Should we expect another flood of lawsuits to browser users..........?

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