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Virgin Media Advanced Search - 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Thomas

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Virgin Media Advanced Search [Saturday 17th October 2009 at 3:52 pm]
Thomas

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Virgin media have recently started redirecting missing DNS queries to their own search page. So, if you go to an address that doesn't exist, like http://www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com/ (a non-existant subdomain of a friend's site), you get redirected to a search page like http://advancedsearch.virginmedia.com/subscribers/assist?url=www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com. On the one hand this breaks the expected behaviour of DNS, while on the other hand this is much better than Verisign's Site Finder as a) only Virgin Media's customers are affected, b) they seem to be applying actual intelligence to this system and c) you can opt out of it in a way that actually works

So, on the whole I don't mind this. It would have been good if they'd given some notice of this (though I recall a Register article from a while back talking about this for their cable customers), but this is far superior to Verisign's attempt to take control of the internet, and for non-tech-savvy users it's probably ideal.

Interestingly, they only seem to be doing this with some addresses:

10/17/09 15:31:25 dns www.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Canonical name: pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Aliases:
  www.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Addresses:
  74.54.206.194

10/17/09 15:31:30 dns www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Canonical name: www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Addresses:
  81.200.64.50

10/17/09 15:31:34 dns bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
No DNS for this address
(host doesn't exist)

This makes sense... a request for a domain name beginning www is likely to be for a website, while a request for a different domain is probably not. Curiously their redirect script also only works with some user-agents:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Connection: close
User-Agent: Sam Spade 1.14

HTTP/1.1 403 Forbidden
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 2009 14:33:34 GMT
Server: Apache
Content-Length: 286
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1


GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Connection: close
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Win98; I ;Nav)

HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 2009 14:33:55 GMT
Server: Apache
Location: http://advancedsearch.virginmedia.com/subscribers/assist?url=www.bad.pleaseremoveyourfeet.com
Content-Length: 327
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

Again, this seems to make some sort of sense - if it's not got a common browser user-agent, then it's probably not a browser and will get hopelessly confused by a redirect. Even better, at first glance it looks like their server isn't running SMTP or similar, so it won't get mis-addresses email (in fact, it looks like SMTP attempts just timeout).

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: olego
Saturday 17th October 2009 at 10:22 pm (UTC)
This seems like a common trend of ISPs. Mine, Qwest, did the same thing--I opted out within a day, after only 5 minutes of browsing their site and restarting my DSL modem--but I wouldn't be surprised if more US ISPs follow suit.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pleaseremove
Sunday 18th October 2009 at 7:33 pm (UTC)
I noticed this the day they moved me to it. 3 clicks later and all gone.
(Reply) (Thread)