Vodafone invents service to explain internet error messages
Hmmm…can’t reach this page. Oops! Something went wrong.
Error messages like these are all too familiar to most internet users and can leave us puzzled and frustrated. Is it an issue with the web page or the application they’re trying to access? Is it their internet connection or a firewall just doing its job?
Even if the problem can’t be solved immediately, just knowing what the problem is would go some way to easing that frustration, but it is difficult to provide an accurate description for every issue on every website due to way the internet itself is designed. Until now.
Enriched DNS Messages
Vodafone engineers have invented an ingenious solution that works around the limitations of the internet to pinpoint and explain these so-called Domain Name Server or System (DNS) error messages. All while keeping customers safe from harmful and illegal content.
Gianpaolo Angelo Scalone, Principal Engineer at Vodafone, said: “Given the way the internet is encrypted, no mechanism existed for a tailored-made web page explaining to the customer why they are being blocked. They are largely kept in the dark.
“We recognised that this can be deeply frustrating for users, especially for someone buying something online or looking up information in a hurry. We wanted to improve the customer experience for our own customers, as well as for every internet user.”
Vodafone’s solution proposes an innovative use of extended DNS error messages, so a user gets more information about the problem they encountered.
In a successful test, Vodafone was able to offer up two variations on the enriched error messages. One was via a dedicated blocking page that can be embedded in an actual browser or protection service, such as Vodafone Secure Net which protects millions of customers from fraud, spam and identity theft. The other was standalone generic text which describes the problem in more detail than a standard error message.
The first option is more user-friendly as it allows a service provider to tailor the message to their users. For example, they could inform the user that the site contains malware, and they should terminate the link immediately.
Open all browsers
Vodafone has presented its solution to the wider internet community via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which develops standards that are often voluntarily adopted by users, network operators and equipment vendors.
Gianpaolo continued: “We presented our innovation to this leading industry group as we want to improve the browsing experience for as many users of popular browsers as possible. It is available in open-source form ready for adoption by any browser developer.”
As new technology continues to evolve, Vodafone is also exploring ways to offer the same user experience for errors that occur while using the relatively new protocol DNS over HTTPS (DOH). DOH is designed to improve security and encryption when browsing the internet, ensuring that when you type in a web address you don’t get rerouted to a malicious website like a fake bank, shop, or government site.
Proponents of DOH say it improves security by limiting the exchange of data. But some opponents argue that by using DOH, web browsing data can be more easily ‘monetised’ by big corporations, and may also limit some companies control, or oversight, of DNS (or website) requests on their own networks.
New technology will always have advocates and detractors, but with Vodafone’s latest innovation, at least now internet users can be well informed when….
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