Why is Bell Canada returning a fake web browser 404 error?

Why is Bell Internet Canada ( via a domain called domainnotfound.ca ) presenting a pseudo web browser 404 error message even after you opt out of their 404 domain not found service?

*** Update Nov 25, 2009 - While not 100% related to this, IT World has a good summary of a comment from ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) that "condemned the practice of redirecting Internet users to a third-party Web site or portal when they misspell a Web address and type a domain name that does not exist. Rather than return an error message for DNS (Domain Name System) requests for nonexistent domains, some DNS operators send back the IP (Internet Protocol) address of another domain, a process known as NXDOMAIN substitution. The target address is often a Web portal or information site." You can also see the full PDF from ICANN

Like many ISPs, Bell Internet ( once called Bell Sympatico ) offers their customers a service - if you mistype a URL in your web browser, they will return a page with links to items you might be interested in. In many cases this is a useful service, and I assume Bell generates a fair amount of revenue from the sponsored links. Fair enough, everyone wins.

But what if I don't want my mis-typed URLs shared with domainnotfound.ca ? At work we have an internal intranet, and I don't want those URLs shared if I'm not connected to work.

Thankfully, Bell offers a form to opt-out:

And here's where my complaint to the Bell Privacy Ombudsman ( via privacy@bell.ca ) comes in.

Once you select to 'opt-out' of the service, it gives you a false sense of security; it seems like this works, you get a plain old browser 404 error message again, or do you?

The spacing is off, and there are some extra links under the 'Try again' button. But no doubt many customers would be fooled by this reasonable facsimile and think they're back to getting real 404 error message. What if we try Google Chome?

Whoa, you got your Apple Safari in my Google Chrome!

domainnotfound.ca has obviously taken the time to try and generate different looking pages to match the browser you're using. Why? I can only assume it is to give you a false sense that you've opted out of the service, when in fact little has changed.

Notice the URL of the phony browser 404 error message - even though I've opted out of the service, it still returns a page from domainnotfound.ca and still provides the mistyped URL that I thought Bell was going to protect for me.

Bell should stop misleading their customers with these phony 404 web pages, and remove the 'opt-out' option altogether until they have a way to do this properly.