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OpenDNS, TLDs, and Searching

Now that OpenDNS has fixed the "caching" issue, I'm down to one reason not to use them: the removal of the "auto-.com" feature wherein I type "apple" in the location bar of my browser and it dutifully tries first the local network before quickly switching to "apple.com."1 This feature even works with subdirectories, like "apple/trailers" and is quite useful in my day-to-day life.

If I am using OpenDNS and I type "apple" into my location bar, I'm presented with a list of search results at an OpenDNS page, not taken to apple.com. Some apparently like this "feature" because "the web will need to continue to evolve and expand past the current TLDs" and the auto-completion of only .com domains is "a hindrance to that future expansion."

My argument is simple: most browsers already have a search bar that's just as easy to get to as the location bar. Forcing the location field to effectively act as a search field costs me the "auto-.com" feature. I'm worse off than where I was before.

Furthermore, I don't believe using this feature from time to time is "short-sighted" as has been suggested in the comments. I'm merely using the tools available to me now. In the future, as TLDs expand (and we're not quite there yet), I'm sure my usage patterns will change. I don't think the committees in charge of "expanding" the Web give a flying hoot about the feature, so they're not going to let it stand in their way. Browsers will change based on their decisions - not the other way around.

Footnotes

  1. Technically "www.apple.com" of course.

18 Responses to "OpenDNS, TLDs, and Searching"

  1. There's two problems here. The first is the concept that everything resolves to something. From a DNS standpoint, that's broken, bad, evil, and what got NetSol into a ton of trouble last year.

    The other is the automatic appending of .com by a browser. This is a neat hack, but can be bad in fringe cases (says the owner of a .net and .org). A good example that happily does not work anymore was to type in "whitehouse" -- that's a generic search site now, however.

    But the latter has little to do with the former. The former breaks everyone without a workaround. The latter is personal choice.

  2. I get that some people would rather see search results. More power to them. Before my browser had a search tool built in, I found ways to hack it so that I could type "? searchterm" to hit Google without first visiting google.com. I get that easy searching is a plus… but modern browsers have it with a search field.

    Arguing against the "auto-.com" feature, though, strikes me as selfish more than anything else. If you don't like to search that way, don't use it. To many, however, the "auto-.com" feature is quite beneficial.

    I've not yet seen a compelling argument for the removal of such a feature when, as you say Adam, it's a personal choice. The presence of such a feature doesn't hamper the ability of those opposed to use their computers without the feature.

    And, in the end, it's largely a power-user feature anyway. Most grandmas and technically non-savvy almost always assume a domain is ".com" and they type .com. So Alex could tell people "alexking.org" and many would still type in "www.alexking.com" and miss out on the search results anyway.

  3. I'm pretty sure that's how they make their money. Maybe at some point, they'll make it a paid upgrade to get error messages again?

    That way, you'd have the benefit of (possibly) faster DNS, as well as the phishing protection and the TLD error correction.

    What really bugs me is that I've got AFP shares that mount at login, and if the machine they're hosted on isn't booted up, the app responsible for mounting AFP shares tries to connect to OpenDNS, as if to load a search page.

    Doesn't happen too often, but when it does, it's a problem for me. I'd pay a couple bucks a year to have it fail more quickly, as well as get error messages again in Safari.

  4. I'm not positive is this will work, given that I haven't tried OpenDNS, but OmniWeb offers a customizable shortcut query for the address bar, so OmniWeb would intercept that call and add .com for you, rather than having OpenDNS show search results. Alternatively, you could have it do something like show Google search results, or redirect to the top Google search result for that keyword, which would definitely work. I know switching browsers is an arduous process, but OmniWeb trumps all over Mac browsers I've tried, and might be worth a look if it can solve your dilemma.

  5. Richard, thank you for the suggestion, but I don't have a dilemma. I like the auto-complete feature when I use it, and I like Safari.

  6. I agree with you on this one and commented on my blog as such. Already taking some heat for it. I guess we're in the minority on this one, but I agree it is basically making the address bar a second search bar.

  7. After nudging by my brother I tryed OpenDNS again myself to see how it behaved. He told me that it actually behaves how you would like. I tryed it on both my work PC's and Mac. Multiple browsers. He was right. Type apple you get apple.com. Type apple/trailers you get apple.com/trailers. Other lesser known sites the search page is probably better than having DNS just choose and the first choice was usually what i was looking for anyways.

    It appears OpenDNS acts as you would like it too, plus offers other benefits. It appears that this functionalty is grouped in their type correction.

    When OpenDNS receives a request to resolve a domain which does not exist (known to techies as NXDOMAIN or RCODE 3), OpenDNS first attempts to correct any known typos and resolve the domain again. If that fails, OpenDNS uses the request as a search query to give you a page of search results. If you turn this feature off, you will no longer have us correct typos for you.

    I stand corrected and am going to reevaluate using OpenDNS. Mabye their extra features are worth more than I have first considered. Especially at the price of free.

  8. Tino said on January 8, 2007:

    He told me that it actually behaves how you would like. I tryed it on both my work PC's and Mac. Multiple browsers. He was right. Type apple you get apple.com. … Other lesser known sites the search page is probably better than having DNS just choose and the first choice was usually what i was looking for anyways.

    "bestbuy"? "circuitcity"? "bhphoto"? None of those work. It seems the OpenDNS folks have decided to make a list of some domains that automatically forward and everything else sees the search results.

    Tino said on January 8, 2007:

    It appears OpenDNS acts as you would like it too, plus offers other benefits. It appears that this functionalty is grouped in their type correction.

    Except that turning off type correction does not stop the search results page from coming up.

  9. On my ISP's DNS if I type in Tino, I get tinocorp.com. Seems like at some point any DNS provider has to make a "list" as to what is going to go where. You like your ISP's list better obviously though.

    That said bestbuy, circuitcity, etc do work on my ISPs DNS as well vs. an OpenDNS search page. But since the first link is what I am looking for anyways I guess it doesn't seem like an inconvience to me.

    As you said over on AlexKing's blog

    In fact, I only ever use it when I know what I'll get - apple/trailers for example, or nslog/searchterm (I've implemented a 404 search at my blog), or "microsoft" or "cnn" or some such site that I know exists at .com.

    It would involve relearning some of the URL's that you used to know what you get but I suspect the learning curve would be very minimal.

    Of course you're more pleased with the way things are, so hopefully your ISP doesn't hop on an OpenDNS type bandwagon, but this whole discussion is making me seriously consider switching the router over to OpenDNS.

  10. Tino said on January 8, 2007:

    On my ISP's DNS if I type in Tino, I get tinocorp.com. Seems like at some point any DNS provider has to make a "list" as to what is going to go where. You like your ISP's list better obviously though.

    It has nothing to do with my ISP. My ISP returns a "no host" and then my browser tries adding "www." and ".com" to the thing. That's why on Windows (IE) you had to hit "ctrl-return" to get the automatic appending. Just hitting return got you a "site not found" error. It has nothing to do with the ISP or the DNS server(s), except that OpenDNS appears to forward you for a few words rather than supply their search.

    Tino said on January 8, 2007:

    It would involve relearning some of the URL's that you used to know what you get but I suspect the learning curve would be very minimal.

    It doesn't involve re-learning anything - it involves typing four extra characters for .com domains.

  11. Why would tino go to tinocorp.com then if the browser is just adding .com?

  12. Hmm nm Firefox behaves differently than Safari. I get tino.com in Safari, tinocorp.com in Firefox. Weird. I don't really like Safari so I don't use it often. Anyways the more I read about this, the more it appears to me that simply adding .com is generally discouraged, I had never thought about it much before.

  13. Tino, it might be pulling tinocorp.com from your Safari history or bookmarks. This isn't browser-specific.

    I don't think anyone's going to come to a consensus here, it appears to be a personal choice.

    Frankly, I see it as a tradeoff for receiving other things for OpenDNS - that you're giving up the ability to have your browser append .com, .net, or .org to the end of URL's, as well as receive a "could not be found" page.

    OpenDNS has clearly stated that they make money from the ads on the OpenDNS search page. If the page never opened for people, how would their advertisements be seen by people?

    The only solution I can see here (besides making OpenDNS completely free, which probably won't happen) is for them to offer a paid upgrade, maybe $10 a year, to be able to use OpenDNS without the search page.

    That'd be guaranteed money, as sometimes you don't know how many people would click an ad. I can't see how it would be bad for OpenDNS, except the effort to code in such a system.

  14. Clearly it is browser specific, Safari sends "tino" to tino.com, Firefox sends "tino" to tinocorp.com. I've never been to either page before today. This is the case here on Charter and also at the University. Safari is doing something different than Firefox.

    As for it being a personal choice, I agree. And OpenDNS is just that a choice. Just was interesting to me that I started the day agreeing with Erik, and ended the day finding I prefer the OpenDNS way. For one thing because it appears to me to behave much like he would like anyways. Obviously at some point we all have to agree to disagree on all of this.

    And now I'm wondering what's different about Safari and Firefox in this mix.

  15. Alright I have figured it out. Firefox sends you to the top page from a Google search for that term. tino = tinocorp.com, pizza = pizzahut.com, etc. I can't find any preference allowing me to change this... Safari I assume is behaving as you described. Adding www. and .com

    You said browsers will change, looks like some (Firefox for one) have already. I'm settled on OpenDNS now. I would rather see the search page then have the browser choose from the search page for me.

  16. Ah, that's right. I had forgotten about that.

    Here's a page all about changing that sort of thing in Firefox, if you'd like.

  17. Neat. Thanks for the link.

  18. [...] that's not a valid domain" page: http://ww23.rr.com/index.php?origURL=http://homedepot/. It's the same thing I dislike(d) about OpenDNS and my dislike has not [...]


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