Verizon Wireless is subsituting its own search engine – complete with ads which earn revenue for Verizon – even overriding their users’ own preferences – whenever a user of Verizon’s fiber optic Internet service (FiOS) mistypes a domain name.
The “feature”, as Verizon refers to it, known as Verizon’s “Advanced Web Search” (although their technical name for it, which we just love, is “DNS Assistance”), was rolled out in limited areas as early as June of this year – and went nation wide recently – with an announcement claiming that Verizon’s Advanced Web Search is “designed to reduce the amount of dead-end, “no file exists” or similar error messages you see and to help you quickly find the destination web site you were seeking..” such as if “you type a nonexistent or unavailable URL (e.g., www.verizon.cmo), or enter a search term, into your browser address bar..”
According to Verizon, they are doing this to “help” their customer who fumble-finger a web address, but it’s an interesting way of “helping” them indeed. If, for example, Google is my search engine of choice – the one I specifiy in my preferences, who is Verizon to override that preference? (Well, in this case, they are the Internet service provider, so they can do this – technically – but should they?)
Moreover, while it is at least possible to ‘opt out’ of this by changing the default DNS settings which Verizon provides to its FiOS customers, should one have to opt out of having their own personal preferences – as set in their system – overridden?
We think not.
And their opt-opt instructions try hard to scare you away from opting out – and of course will scare away all but the most technically comfortable superusers anyway, as they require changing your DNS configuration. Say the opt-out instructions:
Opting out of DNS Assistance
When you enter a domain name into the address bar of your Web browser, DNS (Domain Name Service) translates the domain name into an IP address that your computer understands. Your computer then displays the Web site based on this IP address.
If you prefer that the DNS server display an error message when it can’t match the domain you’ve entered with an IP address, you can change your DNS settings in your hardware device (router, gateway, or modem) or in your Operating System. Either method prevents DNS Assistance servers from displaying a page of links to sites that have similar domain names to the one you entered.
Note: If you change the DNS settings in your Operating System, you could encounter problems if you travel with this computer. You will probably have to change back to the original settings to connect to a hotel network, for example. Changing the DNS settings in the hardware device requires that you know the device user name and password.
Complained one user on Webmaster World, “It was the very first thing I noticed when Verizon finally got FiOS installed here the other day. Very annoying and hardly in the spirit of net neutrality, eh?”