Verizon Redirects Typo Traffic to its Own Search Service

23 Comments

[qi:004] Update: Some customers of Verizon’s (VZ) high-speed FiOS Internet Service are reporting that when they mistype a website address, they are redirected to a Verizon’s own search engine page, regardless of what they have set as default. Verizon had introduced “Advanced Web Search” in June 2007.

Cox and Earthlink (ELNK) have dabbled in similar search-jackings, and if you use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, a mistyped URL leads you to MSN Search page. On the surface, it seems this is to save Verizon customers the hassle, but it is also a nice way for the incumbent to goose up their revenues via advertising. The ads on the site come from Yahoo (YHOO) and Ask (IAC).

Sure, they can’t beat Google, but they can game the system in their favor. Thus far, domain squatters have benefitted from mistyped web addresses, and seems like large ISPs are waking up to “money making opportunity.” If this trend spreads across the world, then pure-play search engines, especially Google have a reason to be concerned.

Verizon has an opt-out option for its Advanced Web Search service. Why make it a default – is what I ask. If they are just offering it as a helpful add-on, then make it an opt-in feature. Let the customer decide, what and where do they want to do. I have emailed Verizon to get their side of the story. Stay tuned.

Update from Verizon Spokesperson:

The industry went to this approach a couple of years ago.  Many others have similar procedures and this has become a de facto industry standard.

The money we make from ad sales on this site offsets some (probably not all) of the cost of providing it.  Nice as it is to get the cash, it’s not a significant income stream for a company like ours. Our procedure hardly makes a case that Verizon is unfairly competing with sites like Google or MSN or Yahoo that also offer search.

23 Comments

K Hill

By the way, the instructions say change the ‘Broadband Connection (Coax)’ DNS setting. However, I changed the ‘Broadband Connection (Ethernet)’ setting on mine.

K Hill

It isn’t a setting of your browser. It is a setting of your Verizon issued router, which lays the cause of problem directly at Verizon’s feet. I don’t have a websearch program on my browser and I certainly don’t need Verizon’s help in searching the web. And I’m not like “Justin” who always, perfectly types every URL perfectly every time, and thinks if you mistype a complex, non-grammatically correct URL means you can’t type. Anyway, here is how you fix it on your router, the way that fixed it for me courtesy of:
http://log.psi.cc/?s=how+to+disable+verizon+dns+assistance
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nonzero
Posts matching your search.
How to disable Verizon DNS Assistance (websearch.verizon.net)

If you’re a Verizon FiOS subscriber (or a Verizon DSL subscriber, presumably), you’ve probably noticed that if you try to visit a URL with a bogus domain (e.g., http://www.tgbuiewafna4wifwe.com) your browser will end up at a Verizon-branded, advertisement-riddled, annoying search page at wwwz.websearch.verizon.net: “Sorry, ‘www.tgbuiewafna4wifwe.com’ does not exist or is not available. But here are some completely irrelevant ads that you should click on!” No thanks, Verizon!

I was really surprised to learn that there is actually an opt-out tutorial on verizon.net here, but unfortunately the directions aren’t completely accurate. The important information is there, but the steps to configure the router are off (at least in my case).

So, below are the steps I took to get it working on my Actiontec MI424-WR router, firmware version 4.0.16.1.56.0.10.7, hardware version A. You can check out your router specs on the ‘System Monitoring | Router Status’ page. I can’t guarantee these steps will work or even make sense on all FiOS configurations, so let that be my disclaimer. If you’re afraid of messing up your router, make a backup of your configuration file under the ‘Advanced | Configuration File’ page.

1. Log in to your FiOS router.
2. Click on the ‘System Monitoring’ tab and then ‘Advanced Status’ on the left menu.
3. Confirm that you are an advanced user by clicking ‘Yes’ and then go to ‘Full Status/System wide Monitoring of Connections’.
4. Under the ‘Broadband Connection (Coax)’ column, take note of the IP addresses in the ‘DNS Server’ row.
5. Now click on the ‘Broadband Connection (Coax)’ column header which should bring you to the ‘Broadband Connection (Coax) Properties’ page. Click the ‘Settings’ button.
6. Towards the bottom of this page, look for the ‘DNS Server’ field. Change the drop down to ‘Use the Following DNS Server Addresses’. The page will now reload with two extra fields: ‘Primary DNS Server’ and ‘Secondary DNS Server’.
7. Recall the IP addresses from step 4. According to Verizon, the last octet will always be 12. Change the last octet to 14. (The *.14 DNS servers don’t provide DNS Assistance. My DNS servers were 71.250.0.12 and 68.237.161.12 which I changed to 71.250.0.14 and 68.237.161.14. I pinged these addresses to make sure they existed. They did.)
8. Enter the *.14 addresses respectively in the ‘Primary DNS Server’ and ‘Secondary DNS Server’ fields. Click the ‘Apply’ button.

After this, wait a minute or so, and then try a google test to make sure you can access the internet.

If the internet works, try visiting our bogus domain again: http://www.tgbuiewafna4wifwe.com. After a few seconds you should see your browser’s error page. No more Verizon web search b.s.! Hooray! Meaningless geek victory!

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Good luck and I hope it works for you because this fixed it for me.

martin

I notice that OpenDNS does the SAME THING also that checking “do not search from address bar” does not affect this.

CorporateIT

This is worse than just a problem for misspellings and typos. We have internal network only domain URLS that are accessible via our VPN. With this Verizon system, when they can’t be found on the public DNS, we are redirected to the search page, instead of to our internal DNS and sites.

Matt

I care. My ISP redirects me to a search engine that doesn’t show advertisments. But, as Nathan said, you have to start all over with a miss-typed URL. Personally, I like to choose where my browser goes and If a website/URL no longer exists then I would rather see an error than too be redirected to some strange, unfamiliar website. I found this information helpful: http://www.swcp.com/~manos/blockads.html
I have since edited my hosts file to include the address of the offending website wilst using my local numerical address in conjunction with it and, I am no longer redirected. Be sure to read it thoroughly.

fijis

Justin I couldn’t agree with you more. Who cares if your ISP is monitoring your traffic and redirecting it to generate more ad revenue?

Wow that’s a slippery slope! What if the ISP decides that users don’t want to ‘accidently’ view child p*rn from Norway? Redirect it! Make some more cash. Yeehaw! While we’re at it, who visits sites in Norway anyway? Redirect it! Cha-ching! Lot’s of malicious sites in Russia… redirect & cash in. The RIAA is leaning on us why don’t we redirect torrent sites and make another wad of cash? etc…

Once your ISP starts monitoring and redirecting your traffic, where do they draw the line?

Justin

Let me see if I get this, you are all upset because you can’t spell and your ISP presents a search that tries to correct your mistake…?

I find it incredible how people see what they want to see.

Let’s look at the alternative:

A domain squatter that tries to install trojans and downloaders into your machine. Now thats a great alternative!

Katherine

I have Verizon FiOS and this doesn’t happen to me. I work on a Mac so maybe it is a PC thing. When I activated my initial setup, it configured my email software so that my outgoing mail route is correct. I have a feeling that the browser re-routing is merely a preference change–like selecting a default home page.

MB

Noticed this with my connection (FIOS in DC) in the past couple of weeks. Very annoying. Thanks for the link, Zac.

Shama Hyder

Yikes! Verizon is forgetting money making and marketing rule number 1- Keep your customers happy.

Thanks for the head’s up!

Nathan Gilliatt

This is a real pain. The automatic redirect prevents editing of URL typos. Even a one-letter error leads to typing the whole thing again, since the URL isn’t in the address bar to be edited after the redirect. With a domain squatter, at least I don’t have to retype the whole thing.

William

FIOS isn’t the only one…i’m on dsl and my typo traffic is getting jacked as well.

Rocky Agrawal

Install Yahoo, Google or AOL’s toolbars and the default install options all change your error page to use their search engines.

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