Does using Internet Explorer make you stupid? I think not, but sometimes it can trick you. (See part 1 of this story here.)
I use a variety of browsers and operating systems, but my favorite is Internet Explorer 9 running on Windows 7. I like the feature that combines the address bar with the search box into a single text edit field. It allows me to just type a company name in the search box and the browser will resolve it into a domain name for me. (Of course, not everyone likes this design.)
Anyway, a few minutes ago I was using Safari on my Mac and typed “Ikea” in the address bar. Naturally, what I really wanted was “www.ikea.com”. Safari doesn’t automatically send invalid URLs to the search engine like IE9 does. I have Comcast broadband at home. Comcast detects and captures any invalid URLs and displays its own custom DNS error page, a practice called DNS hijacking. A portion of the page is shown below.
Custom DNS error page. Image from Comcast
Notice that the first item is a sponsored link that has the title “IKEA.com – Official Site” and has the URL www.ikea.com that I wanted highlighted in green. Naturally, I clicked on it. After a few redirections, this is what I see:
It sort of looks like an Ikea home page. Image from rewardsclub.com
This looks like it could be the official IKEA site, but it isn’t. The domain name displayed in the address bar is not for ikea.com but for rewardsclub.com, one of those credit card scam companies that is basically a phishing site. The top part of the page is designed to look like it is complete. But you will notice that the scroll bar indicates there is more content below the fold. If you are willing to scroll down, you’ll see the following disclaimer:
IKEA is a registered trademark of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. BigBrandRewards.com is not affiliated with IKEA®. All IKEA® trademarks are the property of IKEA® and BigBrandRewards.com does not, in any way, claim to represent or own any of the IKEA® trademarks or rights. IKEA® does not own, endorse, or promote BigBrandRewards.com or this promotion.
This Gift Program is not endorsed, sponsored by or affiliated with the manufacturers and retailers of the gift items listed above in anyway. All trademarks, service marks and logos are property of their respective owners.
Well, I guess that disclaimer may protect them from lawsuits by Ikea (trademark infringement) or from disgruntled customers and state attorneys general (fraud and deceptive trade practices). But I doubt it.
This sucks. Only a credulous rube would actually purchase a prepaid credit card. But everyone is forced to waste time figuring out that this is not the Ikea website and either manually typing in the correct URL to get there or go back to Comcast’s search page and click on a different link.
However, I don’t blame Comcast for this travesty, at least not directly. I believe the search results on the DNS server not found error page are provided by Yahoo (which uses Microsoft Bing as its search engine) and that Yahoo and Microsoft run the keyword auctions that populate the sponsored links. Thus, it is up to them to ensure that the green text in the sponsored link ads matches to the domain that the user will be redirected to.