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11:09 pm on Sep 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Broke off from: [webmasterworld.com...]

There is a story on IE6's new error handling that when a user gets a bogus domain name, they are suppose to be sent to MSN.


I am not getting this. What causes it, and how can I recreate it?

11:17 pm on Sept 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

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enter "webmaster world.com" in the location bar (note space)

You should get this [auto.search.msn.com]

Heh! Got interested fast when Seth posted that 14Million/day number?

11:27 pm on Sept 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Ok, I see what's going on. If you switch your default search engine to something else, it goes there. I get it - it thinks it's a search not a url.

That's actually a cool feature. What isn't a cool feature is the fact that Google isn't on the list of default choices.

>Heh! Got interested fast when Seth posted that 14Million/day number?

Like an old book.

6:35 am on Sept 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

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For those who have yet to read it:

"The Web's once common "page not found" errors are themselves going missing, stripped from recent versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer in favor of a search tool provided by -you guessed it - Microsoft.

The software behemoth quietly introduced the change two weeks ago, updating Internet Explorer's autosearch function to launch whenever someone types a misspelled or nonexistent domain name into the browser's address bar.

Now an MSN Search page appears by default, rather than one of several standard error pages."

It looks as though this is yet another cool feature entrenching the old adage, "All roads lead to Redmond" :).

The above quote is from the ZDNet article, also run as "Microsoft gives error pages new direction [news.cnet.com]" on C¦net.

"...some critics say the feature could be likened to a land grab on territory that has otherwise been the Antarctica of the Internet. Error pages are called up more than 14 million times a day worldwide via Internet Explorer, according to Microsoft.

Because Internet Explorer is the most widely used Web browser, critics say the change could unfairly influence competition among search engines on the Internet."

Bunch of ingrates and losers...

The same cannot be said for the boys down at WISEnut who reveal something of their future direction:

"Himawan Gunadhi, chief executive of newly launched search service Wisenut, said that the move clearly delivers more novice Web surfers, likely to mis-type domain names, to MSN Search.

"For those that are competing against MSN Search, this is a challenge because this service captures more users for MSN," he said. Gunadhi added, however, that he doesn't see this as a threat to his company specifically because Wisenut hopes to license its search service to major portals such as MSN."

Microsoft furthering its monopoly? No ways. As Jim Cullinan says, "...this enhances and improves the experience for novice users." One has to give credit where credit is due, as does Dave Conrad, chief technology officer at Nominum. He steps up to the plate to bat for Bill:

"In this one particular case, it's Microsoft's attempt to be a bit more helpful," Conrad said. "This is just a cute little hack. The browser knows when a user types something wrong, and any browser can take that information and do something with it."

My italics - I just never thought I'd hear somebody say that - it's so sweet...:)

The article makes for a good read, illustrating clearly how Redmond will use anything to its advantage. Microsoft might not be popular but, hell, they're good...

10:07 pm on Sept 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Isn't this MS getting the idea from AOL, AOL browser has been doing something similar to this for a while...


9:53 pm on Sept 8, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Since when did Redmond come up with an original idea? Anything coming out of the compound is a clone programmed to 'off' the original and this is nothing new. If .Net’s UDDI is to fly, MSN has to pull in all the traffic it can and it will do so, by fair means and foul. As far as it being an old idea is concerned, Microsoft and AOL have long been locked in a dance of death.

Witness Redmond's [url=http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-6307956.html]June dredging of Paul McCartney[/url] from the British Queen’s Honor’s List to head up their WindowsMedia.com site’s drive into AOL territory dominated by that rubberised Barbie Doll on steroids, Britney Speares, and the criminal boyfriend of that Lopez girl, Puffbag.

Well, if not them, then Madonna and Rod Stewart. They’re bad enough. It’s quite apparent that, in its quest to master the Cyberverse, Microsoft is prepared to aim far lower than any of its scuzzball competitors. The software giant’s genius is its ability to fight on all fronts at the same time without using any of its resources. Again, witness the inroads being made by TOPtext, eZula, KaZaA and IBM-sponsored Atomica on the SmartTag front while MS continues to plug their tags as Office XP add ons from the [url=http://www.msnbc.com/news/default.asp?cp1=1]MSNBC[/url] front page. Why should Redmond get its hands dirty when there are so many willing to do its dirty work for it?

Brett [url=http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum9/1602.htm]rightly bemoans[/url] C¦net quoting a company calling on the FBI to plug holes in Redmond’s code. My reading of the article is that the FBI might be reluctant to do so – for the wrong reasons:

[quote]”The security firm that discovered the destructive Code Red worm has launched an attack on the FBI for its reluctance to publicise the Microsoft vulnerability exploited by the worm.”[/quote]

A July Newbytes report showed the FBI’s vulnerability to [url=http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/168288.html]SirCam[/url], and the DoD’s support of Microsoft products was cruelly exposed in the same article. The FBI’s readiness to cosset Microsoft leads one to believe ‘Furthering Bill’s Interests’ might be their main agenda. The organs of state and business appear to have formed an unhealthy mutual dependence. Why else the following?:

[quote]The Department of Defense confirmed Monday that it has blocked outside access to many of its Web servers as a precautionary measure against the Code Red Worm, a self-propagating program that infects Web servers running Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS).[/quote]

These guys are taking the same approach to viruses as the US federal Drug Program does to drugs, i.e. they harass the back-street junkies and code freaks. Why? Because the big guys generate revenue and coke-sniffing script kiddies don't? If they were to address the real issue, they would view each product coming out of Redmond as a national security risk.

With the DoJ in its back pocket and a sympathetic president bought for just $49million by the gun lobby and the pharmaceutical, oil, and tobacco industries (as one wit put it, “That’s cheap for a president but, then again, look at what we’ve got…”), Redmond is free to target AOL Time Warner. Hence Bill’s rolling over of RealPlayer in June and recent [url=http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-7079235.html]deal with Disney[/url].

[quote]Microsoft's courtship of media partners is seen as a direct attack against AOL Time Warner, causing many competitive concerns in the industry. Meanwhile, AOL Time Warner has backed technologies for delivering Web content that compete with Microsoft's. Thursday's deal could deepen those fault lines.[/quote]

These boys are high rollers and do not play for small stakes. As far as most of these little disturbances we complain about are concerned, they’re done deals and the twisted minds driving them are already miles ahead of us in double-dealing duplicity. In other words, let’s not kid ourselves. All we can do is whinge about that which is already [I]fait accompli[/I].

Plug and Pay, SmartTags and subscription computing are the future and we’ll either have to live with it or devise workarounds.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if AOL’s 29 million subscribers are dancing to the beat of a different drummer come this time next year. Along with 100 million First World businesses and their end users. Microsoft, of course, will deny all this. They will blame Confucius and invoke the ‘yellow peril’. And with the realization of both Code Red and the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times…”, can one blame them :)?

[small]PostScript, a PageCount FootNote.[/small]

11:31 pm on Sept 8, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to the forums at Webmaster World, PostScript. What a full post!

I agree with you that by the time we hear about it, the high rollers of the world have already moved so forcefully that it seems like there is little we can do.

It's also true that we CAN do something when a direction looks just plain wrong. IMO, it's important not to buy into a dark or defeated view of things, or to place all the responsibility outside ourselves.

Microsoft's recent retraction of SmartTags from IE6 is one relatively small, but nevertheless real, example. We can move through public education and by voting with our wallets. From what we've seen recently, the Wall Street Journal is playing vigilant watchdog to the moves that Redmond makes. I pray that continues.

11:49 pm on Sept 8, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Returning to the topic that began this thread, I find this "innovation" of sending typoed URLs to MSN Search is both clever and potentially useful -- inm addition to bringing Microsoft a lot more eyeballs.

I've been noticing a steady climb in MSN referred traffic over the past few months. They're doing something right, and this is just one more tool in their toolbox. The need right now is for another browser to compete with IE, otherwise these innovations from Redmond will mean that MS gains far too much influence.

However, I'm not sure that AOL 7.0 can be enough of an answer, or the "right" answer, as far as that goes.

12:11 am on Sept 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, I missed this thread when I started a somewhat more reactionary one. [webmasterworld.com]

So does this only work on failed host lookups, or does it kick in on 404s as well?

6:08 am on Sept 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

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404's are followed. It only works on failed domain names.

Basically what it does is treat anything it doesn't recognize as being a url, as a search string. Type in:

webmasterworld.com and it comes here.
webmasterworld and it goes to the default "search url" and passes the domain name as a search string.

It appears, what they have taken out is domain name "guessing". Such as if you type in "webmasterworld" in Opera, it attempts "webmasterworld.com" first and then .org, then .net, and finally gives up (user controllable tld's and order of checking). I believe IE5 did that too?

By default, that search url is MSN. You can change it easy enough, but of course, many won't. I think MORE will than most of the statisitics on such things show, but many won't of course.

2:22 pm on Sept 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Unless I'm misreading this, it wasn't "very quietly" at all. It got press last November, albeit in cloudy terms, and for the life of me, I cannot find it. In retrospect, I believe it is what I read (and misinterpreted) before I posted in the old GoTo Dance Card thread [webmasterworld.com].

>MicroSoft Internet Explorer: GoTo and MicroSoft have announced a similar partnership to be implemented "very soon." It is thought that when a MS Internet Explorer user clicks on the search button on the browser, the results will be, to some as yet unknown extent, from GoTo.

These searches have been showing up in logs for quite awhile now -- I have them as far back as my current logs go, which is March -- looking like this:

>auto.search.msn.com www.aisha.com ( <a href="http://auto.search.msn.com/results.asp?cfg=DNSERROR&FORM=DNSERR&v=1&q=www%2Eaisha%2Ecom"> )

and like this:

>auto.search.msn.com all search engines ( <a href="http://auto.search.msn.com/results.asp?cfg=SMCINITIAL&srch=5&FORM=AS5&RS=CHECKED&v=1&q=all+search+engines"> ).

If you type a word in your address bar, it appears that the first thing IE does is look in your favorites. If you have an Internet Shortcut with that word in it, the browser takes you there. Otherwise, it does the MSN search.

Of course, I have probably misinterpreted this thread as well, and expounded on something which has nothing to do with it. If that is the case, then....

<voice type="Emily Latella" content="Never mind"> :)

7:10 am on Sept 10, 2001 (gmt 0)

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This is a quietly snuck in tweak of the Search in the Address Bar function introduced with IE 5+. As the Address Bar search facility is enabled by default, those not disabling it are taken directly to MSN Search. Now they go there when they slip up on typing an address as well. rc’s example above pretty much explains the new angle.

Microsoft itself did not make too much of it when introducing the search facility, hence the massive increase in MSN autosearch traffic over the past few months. Thanks for the examples, Laisha. MSN now outstrips Yahoo for second place on a couple of my domains. This indicates that a fair number of searchers are using the tool.

What we do not, or cannot, know is how many have disabled it, how many use it to access the engine of their choice, or how many use one of the other options open to them on the Internet Options – Advanced tabbed page. The choice made here determines whether or not IE goes to the ‘most likely site’ (probably the Favorites feature). For those who’ve not yet come across it, the search feature operates from the Address Bar as follows:

  • Type in webmasterworld and you’re taken to MSN.
  • Type in google “webmasterworld’ and you’re taken to Google’s search page.
  • Type in alta vista “webmasterworld” and you’re taken to Alta vista’s search page.

What led to the C¦net piece was Redmond’s hijacking and redirecting of any failed domain name entry to MSN as a search. To get some perspective on the benefits of the tweak to MSN, it’s worth repeating the above quote:

"...some critics say the feature could be likened to a land grab on territory that has otherwise been the Antarctica of the Internet. Error pages are called up more than 14 million times a day worldwide via Internet Explorer, according to Microsoft.

Because Internet Explorer is the most widely used Web browser, critics say the change could unfairly influence competition among search engines on the Internet."

In other words, more traffic through MSN, the portal through which Redmond hopes everyone will at some stage flow.

To answer other points raised above, I do take a dim view of Microsoft’s shenanigans. I do so from within a certain context and it’s one I’ll gladly outline for those who tend to dismiss my blathering out of hand. This goes somewhat off topic but I hope you’ll bear with me.

Sooner or later, Microsoft (MSN) will dominate Search through UDDI [uddi.org] in one guise or another. The above tells us they intend to do it and we all know Redmond is pretty good at realizing its intentions. By becoming one of two major players just before releasing WinXP, they’re putting themselves in a solid position to tackle Google. We’ve entertained the notion that the arrival of WISEnut [wisenut.com] and TEOMA [teoma.com] indicates that all is well in Search but TEOMA has said it wants to explore Pay to Play and, as far as WISEnut is concerned, I’ve heard no refutation of Himawan Gunadhi’s statement that he intends licensing WISEnut’s search service to major portals such as MSN.

In the aftermath of the Bush administration’s decision not to pursue a Microsoft break up, hoping for browser competition is futile. Dave Winer [scripting.com], however, is a perpetual optimist. This is from his latest communiqué [davenet.userland.com], which is well worth quoting in full:

”A quick piece after the bewildering Bush Administration decision to drop the tying charges against Microsoft, and to unilaterally declare that they would not seek the breakup of Microsoft.

It's so puzzling because it's not balanced by a quid pro quo of any kind by Microsoft. Since when do lawyers negotiate this way? This imbalance leads me to believe that an agreement has been reached and that we're now seeing the first stage of its execution.

Alternative theories raise serious ethical or competence questions about the government. Is this how the Bush Administration plans to negotiate with other governments? Would we take down our military before getting a balancing commitment from other countries' military? What is going on in Washington?”

He still believes a breakup to be the best remedy.

”Separating the Web browser from Microsoft is still the best remedy for past, present and future antitrust sins, absent a realistic developer philosophy at Microsoft including self-restraint.


The browser is the choke-point that Microsoft holds over the rest of the industry. Eight judges decided that Microsoft attained its monopoly in browsers through illegal tying. That the government is unilaterally letting them off is totally unacceptable.

After the sweeping Court of Appeals decision in favor of independent developers, the Bush Administration had nothing to say to us, our investors and users. We're business people too. We pay taxes and vote. This is an issue I will vote on in 2002 and 2004. This should cost Republicans quite a bit of support in future elections.”

Though I agree with Winer, I feel the DoJ decision has dealt a body blow to any such hopes. Most people use IE – NN and Opera are alternatives for those who like to be different. Microsoft knows that most people conform. They do so because it’s easier and, in the short to medium term, cheaper. Besides, as part of what is an excellent desktop package, IE is a top-drawer browser. So “Why change?”.

Redmond’s greatest marketing tool is their monopoly and our inertia, epitomized by apathy to the DoJ decision. For this reason WebmasterWorld cannot hope to begin educating the average user out of that mindset. Cisco, Sun, IBM, Oracle, Novell, the Open Source movement and countless others have tried and failed with far more resources at their disposal.

I realize that, in the short term, Microsoft’s monopoly need not be ‘a bad thing’. Redmond’s inexorable march to Web and Net dominance holds enormous benefits for us as end users and business people.

I’ve stated several times that I believe Microsoft the only organization capable of dragging the Web and every wired organization kicking and screaming into a financially viable model of e-commerce in the near future. With the development of .Net, HailStorm, and myriad Web services accessible through MSN’s VeriSign-secured Passport, I will be able to access any business service I want to without having to venture elsewhere. SmartTag technology will ensure that I have no need of Search Engine optimization and no need to send a check anywhere but Redmond.

However, acceptance of a situation does not imply agreement with it.

My concern is simply a question of principle, pretty much the same one that launched Microsoft on its way to the top. Monopolies stifle creativity, innovation, and progress. Perhaps it’s time the Net consolidated but I still hold that the first two attributes mentioned should be encouraged rather than crushed.

.Net’s introduction of the Common Language Runtime and the reduction of every language to a variant of C# - which, after several iterations, will become the only viable proprietary language – licensed to Redmond, are bad news for independent developers and programmers. Sure, it’s a lot easier to work for Microsoft and we’ll all make money out of it. But what of the innovation shown by those who gave us blogging [blogger.com], already the foremost means of self-publishing and disseminating useful information? I’m pretty clueless on the subject but, from what I’ve read, application interoperability has been achieved by using SOAP and XML-RPC without compromising the original languages in which programs were written. Yes, it is more difficult, but programming integrity and, with it, creative invention is retained.

That innovators and creative thinkers should be locked out of mainstream computing is anathema to my way of thinking. In the medium to long term, by supporting conformity to mundane uniformity, we’re condemning the Internet to a similar future suffered by the former Soviet Union.

Or, to bring it closer to home, look at the eighteenth century, when Britain monopolized the globe. Just about everybody with European roots and an interest in profit felt as we do today, “Why fix the code if it’s not broken?” Well, there were creative thinkers who, on looking about them, realized that what we had was not a global village but a lockout. There were those who knew that they were being milked, that their ideas revolutionizing ways of doing things would never see the light of day under the systems imposed on them.

In North America, far removed from the English court by both time and distance, it was relatively easy to organize. Even so, it took time. As John Adams, second US president, put it:

"The Revolution," he said, "was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people." The principles and passions that led the Americans to rebel ought, he added, "to be traced back for two hundred years and sought in the history of the country from the first plantation in America."

In 1776, those determined to forge their own economic futures broke the lockout and declared themselves open for business using a new operating system, now popularly known as the Constitution of the United States of America. Out of history and the carnage attending the battle for freedom came ‘the American Way’, a belief in life, liberty, and all the good things accompanying them – most notably, freedom of expression and the sovereignty of the individual. Let it not be forgotten that this constitution survived its own antitrust battle of sorts, the Civil War.

Today, Microsoft and businesses like it threaten the ideals of the country sustaining them. Lose your ideals and you lose your way. If you don’t believe me, look at Britain. To put it bluntly and from the perspective of a foreigner, Microsoft and its supporters appear to be singularly 'un-American'. This latest little 404 stunt of theirs represents just another nail in the coffin of freedom on the Net.

9:09 am on Sept 10, 2001 (gmt 0)

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...and, going beyond 404 searches conducted from the Address toolbar, comes this report [internetnews.com] from Internet.com.

"One company [RealNames] is hoping to cash in on businesses who want to reach Web surfers tired of typing in 24-character-long URLs with a Keyword search offering that sits on top of the Domain Name System (DNS), officials announced Friday."

"Now, instead of IE users typing in www.hitmewithyourbestshot.com (it's still available), the intrepid Web surfer can just type in the name of the product, service or company into the IE address toolbar to get directed to the appropriate Web site."

Microsoft has a 20% stake in RealNames, a provider to the IBM-supported Atomica Alt-click SmartTag application.


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