Hostway, the large web hosting company, has applied for a US patent on a system of intercepting and redirecting requests for non-existent domains names.
The application describes “A system and method for controlling internet traffic controls internet traffic directed to a non-existing domain in a centralized manner.”
It appears to cover a service that could be offered to local ISPs, enabling them to show their users monetized search pages rather than domain-not-found error messages.
Under the system, ISPs would intercept NXDOMAIN responses to their users’ DNS lookups.
Instead of passing the error on to the browser, the ISP would consult a centralized controller for the IP address of a context-appropriate landing page to redirect the user to.
It’s not at all clear to me whether Hostway is using the technology or has plans to do so. The application was filed in October 2008.
ISPs using NXDOMAIN substitution to monetize error traffic is widespread but controversial.
VeriSign’s Site Finder, and later Cameroon’s .cm, both controversially did similar things when they “wildcarded” non-existent domains at the TLD registry level.
Other interesting US patent applications published today include:
20100106650 – covering Go Daddy’s auction services.
20100106731 – assigned to VeriSign, covering a method of offering alternative domain names for registration when a buyer’s first choice is unavailable.