Lately a very intrusive "service" from Qwest has infected my computers. I've been able to "opt out," as they say, on my iMac, but not on the Dell laptop I sometimes use. The fact that I never "opted in" to this "service" in the first place seems to be neither here nor there.
The "service" in question--Qwest Web.Help redirection service--theoretically "helps" you find a URL when your browser isn't able to. In fact, it hijacks your browser.
Veteran web-users will remember a time when you absolutely had to enter the whole big long http-colon-slash-slash-dubya-dubya-dubya-whatever-dot-com in order to get anywhere. Then came whatever version of the wonderful old Netscape Navigator browser, whose authors decided that maybe, just maybe, a browser could be smart enough to decode the Domain Name Server information without your having to take it by the hand. You type in, say, "blogger," and presto! a few seconds later you arrive at http://www.blogger.com! Amazing!
Internet Exploder, of course, continued to insist on the whole string for quite some time, which was a big part of the reason I dumped IE--or, as I still think of it, Aieeee!--many years ago. Following the demise of Netscape Navigator, Firefox continued the smart tradition, and for that and many other reasons has long been my browser of choice.
Well, thanks to Qwest Web.Help, internet browsing has taken a giant step backward!
For now, typing "Zap2It" (my favorite TV listings service) into the URL field gives me this:
Charming, no? The worst part is, Qwest Web.Help can't find anything unless you type in the whole URL, or at least the name-dot-com part of it. Just like web surfing in the 1980s!
Or, perhaps more accurately, Qwest Web.Help won't find anything. And why? Well, look at the screenshot. All of those "helpful" results--only the third on the list being the actual website I want, incidentally--aren't there by accident. They're all "sponsored" links. "Sponsored" as in "paid advertising."
In short: Qwest's "help" involves their hijacking my web browser so they can make money on top of the fee I pay them every month for my DSL.
Gee, thanks, Qwest.
You will note, in small letters way off to the right-hand side of the screen, a link titled "Opt out of this service."
"Service." Right. He said with a sneer.
Well, not very easy. For one thing, to click the link does not, as you might expect, actually opt you out. Rather, it takes you to the following, eerily familiar page:
Yes, it's virtually the same page--got to keep those paid listings in front of your little eyeballs, you know--except that now you have a box telling you what the "service" that you never wanted does (it slows down your browsing experience so that you have to look at some ads along the way, that's what it does!), and then gives you another link to click on to, theoretically, "opt out."
But not so fast, buckaroo! First you have to look at this:
That's right, you're still not to the opt-out, um, option! Once again, they're telling you you can opt out "at any time"--instructions that must have been written by someone who never visited the Qwest Web.Help website. This is beginning to be a bit like Hotel California, no?
Okay, buried in the number-four position on the list is "Can I opt out of this service?" The answer would seem to be a resounding no, but I gamely click on it anyhow...and get yet another link for, supposedly, opting out!
This is truly and blatantly designed to prevent people from opting out of this idiotic imposition, and whoever at Qwest thought of this idea should have a special little corner of hell reserved for them.
Actually, I think there ought to be a law against this sort of thing, and I am seriously contemplating making such a suggestion to my congressional delegation (one of whom won't give a hoot, since he has over and over demonstrated himself to be in the hip pocket of "Business Interests," but the other two might at least give it some consideration).
Okay, having come this far one might as well play it out. I click on " opt out of this service" (again)...and...
Yep. No opting out going on quite yet! Instead here's yet another description of the "service" and yet another "opt out" link. What are we up to by now? I can't count that high!
Well, surely by now the "opt out" link must do something, no? So I click on it...and here comes this little gem:
Yes. We have at last reached the end of the trail, despite Qwest's best efforts. And what is our reward? Why, Qwest can't find the domain! Now, let's think for a moment. What is the domain that Qwest can't find? Well, the message says "Unable to determine IP address from host name for www.qwest.net."
Um...Qwest can't find its own address??
That's certainly how it appears. "Qwest DNS servers were not able to resolve the hostname presented in the URL," it says. "Check if the address is correct," it says.
The "hostname presented in the URL"? http://www.qwest.net/web.help/?confirm=1.
Qwest can't find its own address.
And they're the people who are going to "help" me with this wonderful "service" that I never asked for and which they won't let me opt out of.