BigPond messes with DNS: fair or unethical?

Another yarn I wrote for CRN, this time on Telstra’s consumer ISP BigPond redirecting mistyped domain name queries to a branded error page. In other words, you type google.coj in your browser and rather than receiving your browser’s standard error page, you get redirected to a BigPond page that gives you helpful suggestions – maybe google.com? – but also ads and pay-per-click links.

On one side of the argument are the techies, who dislike Telstra messing with the way the domain name system is supposed to operate, albeit only within BigPond’s network. Whether they dislike this for reasons of technical purity, or because Telstra will make money out of it, is highly debatable. I suppose there’s also a slippery slope argument to be made; if BigPond makes this change to how DNS works, what’s to stop it from redirecting, say, iinet.net.au to bigpond.com or an error page?

The other side of the argument is that Telstra provides helpful, contextual information that more easily gets people where they want to go. (Though if this were purely altruistic, you wouldn’t have any ads or paid links on the page, presumably.) As long as an ISP delivers this service transparently, honestly and with an opt-out (all true in this case), where’s the problem?

Online glory is fleeting, but I would like to point out that for a couple of hours this morning, mine was the top tech story on Google News for Australia.

Who's number one?

Yay me!

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