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Virgin Media DNS hijacking for profit?

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Virgin Media DNS Hijacking for direct profit?Overall I’ve been happy with my ISP, Virgin Media. A few teething problems with the so called superhub but nothing a techie geek couldn’t handle.

I usually use google chrome as my browser of choice but today I was using firefox for a change. I’m used to using the address bar to perform normal searches.

The BIG news ….. I just tried to search for ‘hotelopia’ by typing that name into my firefox address bar. I was silently redirected to:

http://www.hotelopia.com/home.aspx?P_PARTNER_ID=5&idMarket=1&utm_source=CJ&utm_medium=affiliates&utm_campaign=Text_Link&AFN=CJ

YIKES! I can’t believe Virgin Media just stuffed a commission junction cookie on me. I was so shocked I decided to try again. I typed ‘alpharooms’ into the address bar and received an error page that looked like this:

http://http//www.awin1.com/awclick.php?mid=984&id=72311&clickref=114

Guess what that is? It’s a failed redirect via affiliate window to alpharooms.com.

Cookie Stuffing

For the uninitiated …

Cookie stuffing occurs when a user visits a website, and as a result of that visit receives a third-party cookie from an entirely different website (the target affiliate website), usually without the user being aware of it. When (if) the user visits the target website and completes a qualifying transaction, the cookie stuffer is paid a commission. See wikipedia.

The difference here is that my ISP virgin media is taking my failed search to:

http://advancedsearch.virginmedia.com/assist.php?url=alpharooms (goes via affiliate window)

http://advancedsearch.virginmedia.com/assist.php?url=hotelopia (goes via commission junction)

http://advancedsearch.virginmedia.com/assist.php?url=expedia (goes via tradedoubler)

which attempts to redirect me to the various sites having stuffed an unwanted cookie from an affiliate network into my browser. If I book a hotel, they get a commission.

I know about this because I earn my living this way. My hotel website uses these techniques to legitimately direct users to accommodation suppliers when performing an accommodation search.

DNS Hijacking

According to wikipedia ICANN, the international body responsible for administering toplevel domain names, has published a memorandum highlighting its concerns, and affirming:”ICANN strongly discourages the use of DNS redirection, wildcards, synthesized responses and any other form of NXDOMAIN substitution in existing gTLDs, ccTLDs and any other level in the DNS tree for registry-class domain names.”

But this does not mention the use of affiliate cookies. Is it really possible that Virgin Media is really attempting to drop cookies on their customers browsers when those customers search for specific companies or could it be a corrupt employee?

Matt Cutts of google recently tweeted about a similar case in the US but even that did not go as far as dropping cookies.

Either way Virgin Media seriously need to get it’s house in order and be held to account. Any ISP is in a position of trust and as such they should uphold high standards of privacy and decency.

Written by barnabyfry

August 20, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Posted in SEO

CSS Div vs Table Layout

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OK. I’m going to eat humble pie. I have just migrated my main website to XHTML and Div based CSS layout with hardly a table in sight.

As I stated in my previous post I wanted to find a CSS solution which gave me the flexibility of tables using Divs. I stubbornly continued in this quest and came across Yahoo’s developer network grids: http://developer.yahoo.com/yui/grids/

I found that their template layouts were very similar to my existing layout and offered the opportunity to seamlessly migrate my site quickly with only minor tweaking of the CSS required.

I am very pleased with the result but will have to wait and see if the search engines approve.

Having migrated to Div/CSS based layout I decided to update my HTML to XHTML, a much cleaner markup language. With a very helpful tutorial from w3schools.com I proceeded to clean-up my code.

Although a bit laborious I was delighted to see the pages validating.

So, in conclusion … I DO think that CSS based design is the way forward and I am now a convert. My pages are smaller (around 20% smaller), the content is near the top of the markup (good for SEO as well as for software web readers) and I now find myself with a more flexible website because it is CSS based. I could even give users the option of where they want the menu at the click of a link. I won’t, but I could.

Some people will find their page sizes reduce more or less dependant on the use of tables. For example I had already reduced my page sizes by adopting <ul><li> instead of repeated <tr><td>’s for menus etc.

Written by barnabyfry

December 7, 2006 at 11:53 am

Posted in SEO

CSS vs Table layout

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<updated>OK. I’m allowed to change my mind aren’t I. Read the updated css div vs table layout post.</updated>

I spent much of the last week looking into CSS layouts with a view to making the leap to pure CSS as opposed to my usual html table layout.

I found many excellent resources and websites offering various solutions. I wanted as much layout control as I have with tables and I wanted to optionally order my columns and write the content in any order on the page. This would enable me to write the main content above the menus etc which reputedly increases relevancy for some search engines.

I found the excellent floatutorial which includes examples of CSS page layouts. The level of control is excellent, however, problems occurred when attempting to write the ‘middle’ content before the menus.

I also stumbled across adaptiveview.com with their 3 Column CSS Layout. Which allows for any order columns and any order of divs on the html page but didn’t give me the control I needed for the page layout. Specifically I wasn’t able to control the appearance of the centre column in relation to the leftmost column. I found it always drifted right due to the float: right; nature of this div. However, I thought the overall concept was excellent and offered a multitude of layout options with a fluid and elastic appearance.

All of the layout options I found needed some form of hack or fix to make them cross browser compatible.

In conclusion, the current lack of standard compliance amongst browsers means an unreliable result when using css to render a table like page layout. I was most disappointed to come to this conclusion as I really felt last week that it is the way forward and wanted to adopt it as my new layout option.

I will use these css layouts on some of my websites but I am not tempted to convert any existing sites to pure css.

Written by barnabyfry

December 3, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Posted in SEO

HTML Validation and Google

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I was working on my websites today and looking to see which sites are currently ranking high for my favourite keywords.

I noticed another website which was consistently high in the rankings for several searches. The website in question is very large and informative one with lots of original content, which is always nice to see. I wanted to examine the html and see what was under the surface.

It turned out that the html, although presenting well, was a bit shoddy and when I ran it throught a validator showed 69 errors. Furthermore, when I pulled the code apart it appeared that the menu on the left was below the content in the middle and the tables were badly composed.

This has the advantage that the keyword content was nearer the top of the page, a classic SEO technique. It was however obvious from the consistent performance of the website that the bad code in no way affected the rankings in any way. It is possible that the website has adopted this technique because of its success.

Of course the main point is that there was good, original, solid content on the subject for which I was searching … so no rants from me.

<footnote>Worth mentioning that there was not a single heading tag on this site. Interesting.</footnote>

Written by barnabyfry

November 27, 2006 at 10:54 pm

Posted in SEO