When ISPs hijack your rights to NXDOMAIN

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Life, liberty and the pursuit of popping a cap in a Redcoat

A right is something that you bust a cap in a Redcoat to defend, but as a side note, it is a little known fact that Thomas Jefferson was a touch pissed when he penned the Declaration of Independence because the Royal Mail printed advertisements on the letters that were returned to him undeliverable, and he thought that was a little shystery.

Techies outside of the Net Neutrality Freedom Fighters who complain about DNS hijacking are upset that it breaks applications that depend on DNS fidelity. It is a valid complaint, but it will in all likelihood affect such a small percentage of users that publishing a workaround, "opt out of the service" isn't a Herculean task.

Still, there's a cost associated with doing that, which is most likely ill will from users who wonder why all the sudden this program doesn't work the way it's supposed to. Any serious business will deal with this risk without complaining, recognizing that even though Virgin or any other ISP is causing them headaches, they share a common understanding that hustlin' is hustlin'. Respect.

What about the users? One of the reasons that Google believes it's so successful is a strict adherence to its corporate philosophy, the first commandment of which is: "Focus on the user and all else will follow". Well, so long as that user isn't an AdWords advertiser, then you'll find they can be much looser with this interpretation.

If you're just some bloke looking for the latest and greatest way to get spyware onto your computer, does it really matter so much that you're served a page of ads and search results? If the results are relevant and take you where you want to go, it's better than a browser error message.

A browser error is of no help, it smacks the user on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and forces him to think about what he's done. If I type in "google.cmo" accidentally, and am presented with a link to Google, then the ISP has just made my day easier. Who cares if they get paid for that click? It makes the internet work better for users.

Web entrepreneurs know that when a user lands on a page, they will click the first thing that looks satisfactory, and asking somebody to examine their input, decide what the mistake is, and type something on the keyboard to correct it is a significant frustration barrier. Technical people who don't understand, this is the reason that normal users have so much contempt for the IT department.

I suppose that this is also why the general public doesn't give a shit about net neutrality and the like. When bloggers complain about some esoteric detail and try to rally public support to influence the government, it's downright condescending.

Users don't recognize the political argument hides under a web page with some advertisements on it, and pointing it out to them only makes you look like a smug prick. Not that it matters any: the internet is only a cause to a small subset of people, to the rest, it's entertainment.

And for entertainment, there's probably no finer ISP than Virgin Media. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com. You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

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