John doesn’t think it’s such a big deal that Internet Explorer now redirects to MSN Search rather than giving the user a 404 error page. I think I’m going to have to disagree. If they’re only doing it on default server error pages, fine. I probably personally wouldn’t like that (since I’m not an idiot newbie and I usually just go back to the home page and look from there), but as long as they allow you to change that setting, fine with me. However, if they’re actually overriding custom 404 error pages that people have created, then I do have a big problem with that. (That article doesn’t indicate.) A lot of people – myself included – have custom pages that can redirect users to the correct page, give them possible links to the information they wanted, or record the broken link for fixing in the future. If Micro$oft is going to break that functionality, I’m going to be very pissed indeed.


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  1. Funnily enough, when I was browsing from work at lunchtime yesterday IE did throw up the new-style MS 404-replacement page when I mistyped a URL – I haven’t seen it before, so I assume our IS department have been quietly installing some upgrades or changing some IE settings.

    I do understand that site owners who’ve developed nice custom 404 pages won’t be happy at this development, but I’m not too sure how MS could implement this feature in such a way as to let IE know whether it’s about to be served a custom 404 page. Is there some standard way for the server to signal that it’s responding with a custom error page?

    I suspect that it’s going to be an all-or-nothing setting within IE, but I can’t check that out on IE at work until Monday. (I use Opera when browsing from home, and although I do have IE on my PC it’s not a new enough version to have this feature.)

  2. Well, I think it would be fairly simple. Currently if a site doesn’t have a 404 page specified, you get the default IE one. So obviously there’s a kind of notification going on there. At my site, I’ve got an .htaccess document that tells Apache to serve my 404 page when it gets an error. Otherwise you get the dumb, not helpful IE one. (Of course, why I’m expecting MS to work properly with free software is beyond me anyway.) It would be very simple: if the server gives you a 404 page, you display it. Otherwise – fine – redirect. Quite frankly, I can’t believe that there isn’t more outrage about this. I’ll try it at work Monday too.

  3. Good point. If IE could tell to put up the old 404 page, it can indeed presumably tell when it was being served a 404 page.

    The funny thing is that when I looked on Slashdot for an outraged thread berating MS for taking liberties, or a sarcastic comment from The Register, I couldn’t see one. The CNet story I linked to was the only one I could find. Either this story happened weeks ago and none of us noticed, or else it’s really slipped under the radar. Very strange. Or possibly – just possibly – the feature only kicks in if no 404 page is served, and thus isn’t that big a deal.

  4. I’ve just tried to access a non-existent page on your site, and I got the custom 404 page. Presumably this means that IE is indeed spotting the use of custom 404 pages, which would be a Good Thing.

  5. Yeah, I went over the articles again and most of them say something about spelling a domain wrong. And if you get the domain wrong, there’s no custom page anyway. So I guess I don’t have a problem with that. 🙂

  6. The distinction between non-existent domains and incorrect URLs hadn’t struck me. Only having the feature kick in if the *domain* is unavailable is much more reasonable.

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