trenchant.org

by adam mathes
archive · subscribe

SpiteFinder

Verisign really surprised the entire web community by actually coming up with a way to make people hate them even more than they already do.

Previously, most people who hated Verisign only had to deal with them concerning domain registrations and renewals. There have been many, many documented issues with Verisign’s mishandling and mismanagement of domain registrations, the most famous being the sex.com fiasco, but really, this only affected people once every few years, at most, and even then only the minority of web users who owned domains.

With their wildcard DNS entries, the world is forced to deal with Verisign anytime they mistype a domain ending in .com or .net, which now redirects to sitefinder.verisign.com.

Notwithstanding the cold, harsh, reality that this wildcarding callously and needlessly broke spam filters and various other internet technologies that depended on being able to tell which domains were valid or not, and that Verisign is a scummy company and had absolutely no right to arbitrarily break the DNS system which they still have far too much control over despite their abhorrent behavior and service, let’s just stop the litany of general complaints. Instead, let’s take a quick look at the sitefinder’s terms of service.

Now, you, like me, may be wondering how exactly there can be a “terms of service” for a web site that, essentially, has hijacked your browser and is displayed instead of an error message. But they do indeed exist.

Terms Of Use
INTRODUCTION.
In these terms of use ("Terms of Use"), "you" and "your" refer to each user ("User") and its agents and "we", "us" and "our" refer collectively to VeriSign, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiaries (collectively "VeriSign"). This Agreement sets forth our obligations to you, and your obligations to us solely in relation to the use of the Site Finder services provided through this web site (the "VeriSign Service(s)").

Even if you accept the legitimacy of the “click-through” license and contracts increasingly employed in software and web sites, to believe that mistyping a domain name actually means I have an obligation to Verisign is at the least legally dubious, and more realistically, mind-blowingly asinine. Also, not just obligation, but “obligations.” Plural. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites, shall we? Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, merely a very, angry and dissatisfied asshole with too much time on his hands.

5. Use of the VeriSign Services.
You agree not to use the VeriSign Services in any manner that is unlawful, or in any manner that could damage, disable, impair or otherwise interfere with another party's enjoyment and use of the VeriSign Service. You may not manipulate or attempt to gain unauthorized access to our website or systems or any websites or systems connected through our website through hacking, password mining or any other means.

Ok, fine, maybe I’ll agree to not “gain unauthorized access.” Last time I checked, there were laws on the books against that sort of thing already. But “impair or otherwise interfere with another party’s enjoyment and use of the VeriSign Service?”

Enjoyment?

Enjoyment?

Before agreeing to such a condition, I think VeriSign has a due diligence obligation to provide me with the names of anybody that might actually enjoy using the VeriSign service. Really, I would be happy if they provided just one name. Anybody. That’s living. And people who work at VeriSign don’t count. Furthermore, a written description, in excruciating detail, in what possible way this hypothetical human being is enjoying the VeriSign service.

I also have some other questions. Does my obligation to not interfere with other’s enjoyment of the service include linking to non-existent sites that get redirected to SiteFinder?

For example, will links to Andy Pressman Nude dot com, inevitably leading the disappointment to the teeming masses of teenage girls who want to see Andy Pressman Nude as they are instead offered opportunities to “Search Popular Categories” which include Travel! Entertainment! And my personal favorite, Gambling! (Exclamation points added to help simulate enjoyment.)

Am I responsible, merely because Andy hasn’t bothered to tap into this market and register the proper domain name? Will VeriSign sue me over all the angry, disappointed girls and their lowered enjoyment levels?

And, this is a purely hypothetical question of course, but what if I encouraged someone to add

127.0.0.1\tsitefinder.verisign.com

to their hosts file until the servers of the world route around the service?

Not that I would ever do that. It would violate the nearly sacred agreement I entered into with VeriSign when I typed in a non-existent domain. After all, I have obligations.

But I’m not sure I’m ready for all this responsibility. Who needs more obligations? Maybe it would be best if I just decided to opt out. Maybe there’s something in there about that. Let’s take a look!

10 Sole Remedy.
YOUR USE OF THE VERISIGN SERVICES IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. IF YOU ARE DISSATISFIED WITH ANY OF THE MATERIALS, RESULTS OR OTHER CONTENTS OF THE VERISIGN SERVICES OR WITH THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, OUR PRIVACY STATEMENT, OR OTHER POLICIES, YOUR SOLE REMEDY IS TO DISCONTINUE USE OF THE VERISIGN SERVICES OR OUR SITE.

Don’t you just hate it when lawyers scream at you like that?

Now, discontinuing use of the Verisign Services seems like a fine idea, except that since they are the ones in control of the root server DNS entry that has had a profound impact on their traffic, it would be impossible for most users to stop using the service. Unless they never mistype a domain name again. Of course, discussing an alternative, such as adding

127.0.0.1\tsitefinder.verisign.com

to your hosts file would, as we have already seen, violate section 5 of the user agreement I obviously agreed to by typing www.i-dont-accept-verisign-sitefinders-terms-of-service.com into my browser.

I have more to say about their indemnity clause, and what would happen if your roommate’s cat got electrocuted by a computer using the VeriSign SiteFinder “service” and how you could visit lovely Fairfax, Virginia as a result, but I think you get the idea.

· · ·

If you enjoyed this post, please join my mailing list