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borg.microsoft.com 6 September 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Four and a half years ago I offered Bill Gates a billion dollar idea -- but unfortunately Bill wasn't a regular Aardvark reader at that stage so it's taken him a bit of time to catch on.

However, he's obviously been browsing through the back-issues and appears to have started extending his Net-takeover with one small step that is perhaps a precursor to future intent.

It seems that the latest versions of IE now refuse to display some pages from websites -- preferring instead to substitute their own, Microsoft-produced pages promoting services such as MSN.

Yes, reports indicate that Microsoft feels it's okay to hijack users from your website and feed them its own content -- without your permission! So how long before it also starts hijacking whole domains as I suggested back in February 1997?

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Exactly when does Microsoft's browser decide to usurp your pages with its own?

When those pages are presented as the result of an error, such as that oft-seen favourite "404 page not found."

Big deal right? Who cares? If there's no page to be found, why shouldn't Microsoft display its own page with the option of using the MSN search engine?

Simple -- it has no right to!

If my (or your) webserver returns an error 404 (or any other error) then the browser should report that fact -- but nothing more unless the site concerned agrees. Microsoft won't send web-surfers to my site for free so why should it expect my site to provide it with free traffic?

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • IE Redirection on 404... - Jamie
  • 404 hijacking... - Kane
  • Kumara Is Back... - Camryn
  • 404 etc... - Chris
  • Have Your Say

    Having already implemented this "thin end of the wedge," what's to stop Microsoft from leasing out space on these error pages -- perhaps to deliver targeted advertising.

    Of course you could argue that if your website is so poorly designed that it has 404 errors then you deserve to lose visitors to a competitor -- but what if it's a "Server Busy" message caused by too many users trying to access your wonderful information? Is it fair to give Microsoft full control over the ultimate destination those people arrive at after entering your domain name?

    Likewise -- what happens when your nameserver(s) fail? Entering www.yourdomain.com could see a web-surfer arriving at a Microsoft page promoting or suggesting a visit to www.yourcompetitor.com.

    Would it be fair or ethical that whenever an IE user encountered any kind of error on your website they were immediately shown a big bold advertisement for one of your competitors?

    That's not too dissimilar to a competitor ambushing the delivery of your monthly customer newsletter and inserting their own brochure!

    Given this latest move on the part of Microsoft -- I'm actually starting to regret that I published that column all those years ago. You can bet that if I thought of it, so has Bill -- and implementation can't be that far away!

    The Latest In The ING Saga
    A big thanks to all those who have emailed me to express solidarity in respect to my comments on ING and their mailshot.

    Just to give you an idea of how much money they stood to make from this little exercise -- Domainz has announced that they registered their 100,000th domain name in August. Imagine if just 1 in 20 of those domain name holders were confused enough by the ING offer to part with their NZ$300. That's $1.5m worth of cash flowing their way!

    It might be time to send out a search-party for ING's process-server too. I've seen no sign of their alleged law suit -- good thing I wasn't holding my breath.

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