For those of you who are using Shaw as your internet provider, you may have noticed that when you type in an invalid URL your browser no longer does what it used to. Starting April 5th, Shaw unrolled a DNS redirection service. According to their support page...
If you are a Shaw Internet customer and type an invalid URL, you would have normally received either a generic browser error, or likely a Google / Bing search results page with a list of recommended sites that closely match what you typed. You will now see a Shaw-guided search results page in its place.
This came as a surprise to me. Apparently Shaw sent out an opt-out email sometime in the recent past, which just means I haven't been getting Shaw's emails either... does Shaw assign accounts an email addresses and, if so, how do I find mine? Because Shaw certainly hasn't gone out of the way to get this informative email to me.
This affair reminds me of Verisign in 2003, when it introduced a wildcard DNS record for all unregistered .com and .net domain names. Called "Site Finder", it allowed Verisign to redirect massive amounts of invalid URLs to an advertising web portal. No one bought the claims that it was to improve the web browsing experience for the naive user; we all recognized monetized domain parking when we saw it. Verisign also got in hot water for effectively "breaking" the internet, as web services that relied on detecting the validity of domain names (like email spam filters) all failed.
If you want to opt-out of this new "service" from Shaw, you can use this link. Note that this reset is tied to your modem, so it'll only be effective for your physical location. Also, Shaw does not block third-party DNS providers, so now might be a good time to look into some alternatives, like Google Public DNS and OpenDNS.