Companies join the ranks of big corporations redirecting “error” traffic.
Time Warner’s Road Runner internet service has teamed up with Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) to typosquat on millions of unregistered domain names.
The feature from the two companies is called “Web Address Error Redirect Service” and automatically sends web users to a page full of search ads if they type in a web address that does not exist. It appears to override customer’s own preferences in their browsers for what to do if an address doesn’t exist.
Road Runner isn’t the first ISP to do this. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) already does it for some of its customers. Yes, this is hypocritical given that Verizon has sued typosquatters that own misspelled versions of its trademarks.
Major computer manufacturers including Gateway and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL)have similar programs with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) but are managed at the browser level.
Both Dell and Verizon are members of The Coalition of Domain Name Abuse, an organization whose charter is to stop typosquatting and cybersquatting. Yes, that’s hypocritical too.
To be clear, I’m not a proponent of cybersquatting. What’s wrong here is that large companies think its OK for them to do it while they sue smaller companies for doing the same thing.
How it Works
If you’re connected to the internet through Road Runner and type a non-existing domain name, you are presented with a search page that includes 5 sponsored results above the fold. Unpaid search results show up below the fold.
Here’s a picture of a typo of DomainNameWire.com:
Users are opted in to the feature automatically and can opt-out through their preferences. Road Runner also has a “Typo Correction Service” which automatically corrects common typos of domain names.
Although Road Runner appears to have been redirecting error traffic in some areas for about a month, it just started showing up for me in Austin.
Why is Road Runner doing this? Money. Big money.