Thomas (boggyb) wrote,

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Virgin Media Advanced Search

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 (a non-existant subdomain of a friend's site), you get redirected to a search page like 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
Canonical name:

10/17/09 15:31:30 dns
Canonical name:

10/17/09 15:31:34 dns
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
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
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
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).

Tags: internets

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