Time Warner and Road Runner Attempting to Monetize by Hijacking DNS

Road Runner

Here we go again. Third Pipe predicted it and now it’s happening. Time Warner, using their Road Runner internet service, is attempting to monetize typo domain names and domain names that are not found when their users are type a domain that doesn’t resolve.

If you are a Road Runner customer, Road Runner is attempting to make money by presenting you with a page full of advertisements if you land on a domain name that does not exist or cannot be displayed. See the screen capture below:

Time Warner Road Runner hijacking not found domains

Many companies in the past have gotten a lot of heat from customers (and non-customers) by attempting to make money every time one of their customers types in a bad domain name or goes to a web page that cannot be found. In many cases, there was such a publich backlash about these horrible (unethical?) business practices that the companies ended up stopping what they were doing.

A while back Embarq was caught attempting to monetize these typos by redirecting their users to their own default search portal. Here is an other example of what Road Runner is doing and the type of page that is displayed. You can see this example for yourself by going here or even here.

Road Runner Hijack

If you are not familiar with this practice, let me explain: If you are using a web browser and type in a domain name in the address field that does not exist, an error page (from the web browser you’re using) should come up. Your internet provider should not ‘automatically’ be displaying a page of advertisements. Every time you click one of the links that’s displayed on the error page, your internet provider makes money from you. After all, you’re paying them for internet access, right? Why pay them twice?

If the fact that your Internet provider is attempting to make money from you, then there are a few things that you can do. You can complain to your ISP, you can blog about it if you have a blog and make it public, or you can switch your DNS default. It is possible to configure your computer and your own router so that this doesn’t happen.

Domain Name Wire originally reported this and we’re continuing to see it happen with all sorts of typo domains.

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  1. Bailey says

    Charter Communications has been doing this now for at least a couple months, and I find it highly annoying, especially considering their “results” NEVER have a link to the site that I misspelled. *roll eyes*

    Personally, as a gearhead, I prefer a standard “server could not be found” result in my web browser. But if they’re going to insist on hijacking these occurrences to push me to a paid-search page, then at least show me something useful! They don’t. And that’s really, REALLY annoying. :)

  2. Tony Cecala says

    This unseemly practice started recently on my Verizon FIOS. I was both surprised and annoyed. Do you know of a “HOSTS” file trick that could block these?

  3. wii bundle says

    Isn’t this sort of thing Black Hat tactics? Hosting services like godaddy and domain registers do this as well. Everybody is trying to choke the last possible penny from the Internet. Eventually they will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

  4. Matt Wolf says

    That is a lame way of doing things. I would definitely complain, especially if the page I was trying to get to was not one of the links. Boo to RoadRunner.


  5. SEO Milwaukee says

    Devils advocate, but what is the problem with this? I use Time Warner and I hate them, but for other reasons. I guess I am numb from having ads thrown at me from every possible angle that nothing surprises me. I also know that I and many other people with neighbors that are not in the know don’t pay for our internet access. If it was throwing popups or trying to install something I would be pissed off, but popping a page that looks like every other parked domain.. whatever. As far as killing the goose, that will never happen. Web advertising is only going to get more and more intrusive.

  6. InjuryProne says

    Sadly, I agree with SEO Milwaukee’s comment, and I guess we’d better just get used to this way of doing things, even though it seems so underhanded! So, the question remains, is there any way around this new policy/practice?

  7. Dan Thies says

    The problem with this is that it’s corrupt. You can turn it off as a user, but I’m starting to wonder if the increasingly poor DNS performance I’m seeing isn’t a scheme to display more ads. ;-D

    I click the Google toolbar button in my browser, which should go straight to http://www.google.com. Instead, I get the Time Warner /Roadrunner / Yahoo error page – gee, we can’t find Google.com, but here’s a PAID AD you can click that will take you to Google… and after I click the ad, they can suddenly find Google again.

    Now I can give the benefit of the doubt to a degree, but intentional or not, DNS performance has gotten noticeably worse since this “feature” was rolled out.

  8. 1969 Camaro For Sale says

    As a Time Warner customer, this really upsets me. It’s not so much because I think they are doing a bad thing so much as because it’s not so much a useful service. Placing a screen of paid ads on typo domains doesn’t really improve the user experience. At least when OpenDNS does this for its users, they place some organic ads in there. Also, if customers are paying $40-50 a month for internet service, why should Roadrunner be further profiting from typos. It’s just a joke, but at least they aren’t registering each typo domain that is searched for.