Advanced Network Error Search FAQs & Feedback

The Advanced Network Error Search service is designed to help you find the websites you're looking for more easily. We think it offers a better customer experience and more convenience, but if you disagree, you can opt out in seconds, and you won't see it again. If you want tell us what you think of it, you can use the feedback form below.

How does it work?

Here's the technical bit. Our DNS (Domain Name System) converts the website addresses that you know and use, such as virginmedia.com, into an IP address like http://212.250.162.12, which the internet uses to find where these websites are located. If you mistype an address, our DNS can't find the IP address, and would normally send back a basic error message saying the site doesn’t exist, and then you would need to try re-typing the address.

With this new service, what we do is send the website address to a search service that attempts to match what you typed with known websites.

It also gives some related searches if we can't find a good match, and if that doesn't work, you can also make a further search in our Yahoo-powered search box. You might already have something like this on your PC, for example toolbars or security packages. When our new service switches on, it might override these toolbars, but if you prefer their service, it's not a problem - you can opt out and you will see your old service working again.

What if I can't access the opt-out page?

You need to be on your home connection to opt out. If you are having problems opting out, you can contact us.

Does Virgin Media earn money from this service?

Yes. However this service is firstly designed to help you get to where you want to go on the internet. We do earn revenue through our search partnerships, and we use this additional revenue to help keep increasing our broadband speeds to amongst the fastest in the UK, and to keep our prices competitive.

Will it break other applications?

It's all been tried and tested, and we've partnered with Nominum, one of the most trusted companies in the business with years of experience in this type of service. However, if you think this new service has caused any problems with any of your other programs, then please contact our Technical Support team, who will be happy to help.

What if I don't like it?

No problem. You can opt out of the service with one click here.

Do I need to log in to opt out of advanced search?

No. We've made it as easy as we possibly can to opt out so you don't even need to enter your broadband username and password.

How long does it take for opting out to take effect?

Opting out only takes a few seconds to take effect. However, with some unusual browser set-ups you may find that you need to shut down your browser or even re-boot your PC in order to switch off the service completely.

Even after you have opted out, your computer's cache may "remember" previous results, and so if you typed in the same unrecognised address, you might see Virgin Media's results page again. To get rid of these completely, you may need to clear your cache.

What happens if I get a new modem?

Although this is not a regular occurrence, if you've opted out of advanced search, you'll need to opt out again if you get a new modem. This is because the opt-out is related to the address of the modem. Once that modem is opted out, then all computers on that internet connection are opted out.

What if I've opted out and want to opt back in?

You can opt back in to the service here.

What if I want to give feedback or report a problem?

If you have a serious problem, or if you think this might have stopped some other program from working properly, then please contact our Technical Support team.

If you'd like to give us some general feedback, then please use the feedback form at the bottom of this page. We hope you find this service useful, and we'd like to hear from you if you’ve got some specific comments about opting out of the service, the search results you see, or if you have any problems with advanced search.

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Additional FAQs - updated 24/08/09

The following are a few additional FAQs based on feedback and queries from customers.

What if I'm a National / ADSL broadband customer?

Advanced Network Error Search works in a very similar way for National ADSL customers, and you can switch it off in the same way here.

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Why can't I access the opt-out page?

There have been no reported problems with the opt-out system or accessing the opt out page, but please note that you must be on your home Virgin Media cable broadband connection to see the page.

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Do Virgin Media do any kind of profiling or behavioural targeting with this system?

No. There is absolutely no profiling or behavioural targeting involved. What is typed into the browser in simply sent to a search engine if an error occurs.

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Why did you opt me in automatically?

If customers needed to opt in, far fewer people would have seen the service, especially those users who could most benefit. We decided that the best way to implement this was to enable people to see it in action, but offer a really simple opt-out mechanism for anyone who doesn't like it. Switching it off takes just a few seconds, you only need to do it once, and it doesn't require a login.

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Will the site I'm looking for appear in the search results even if they don't advertise?

Yes. Sites that advertise may come up in the sponsored links (highlighted with a grey background), but if they don't advertise, they can still come up in the natural search results.

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Does this system install or change anything on my PC?

No. We don't install or change anything on your PC. If you opt out, we just put a note against the account to make sure that error messages are sent back your browser instead of search results.

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Why didn't you tell me about this by letter or email before it was switched on?

We decided that the best way to implement this was to switch it on, so those who were affected would see the explanation in context, and have the option of switching it off there and then if they didn't want it. Telling people about this in advance could have been confusing as it was implemented in different parts of the country at different times, and many customers are unaffected by this service, for instance those who don't use Virgin Media's DNS. Also, we considered that reading the explanation on our opt-out page takes about the same amount of time as it would have taken to read any emails or letters we might have sent.

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Do you use proxies to implement this service?

No. We have not deployed any web proxies, transparent or otherwise, to provide this service.

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What does Virgin Media do with my search data?

Nothing. Virgin Media do not see, store, sell, or otherwise use your search data.

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What do Virgin Media's partners do with my search data?

Virgin Media's partners don’t use or keep any personalised information whatsoever. They use aggregate data to improve the quality of our search results, for example looking at which search results are most often clicked for which errors.

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Can I use someone else's DNS if I don't like Advanced Network Error Search, OpenDNS for example?

Customers are free to use any DNS service they wish but bear in mind that OpenDNS does pretty much the same thing, and we still think our DNS is amongst the best and fastest in the UK. If you don’t like Advanced Network Error Search, the best thing to do is switch it off rather than opting to use another DNS.

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What can I do about Advanced Network Error Search remembering and auto-completing incorrect addresses in certain browsers?

We are aware that this may cause some problems for browsers that remember the incorrect website addresses that you type, whereas they would not do this without Advanced Network Error Search. You can delete these in the drop-list of addresses that appears in your browser when you start typing, but if you find that this is really annoying then it might be best to switch the service off.

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Why does Advanced Network Error Search stop me from reaching sites immediately when I just type the name of the company in the address bar, e.g. "microsoft" or "apple"?

We are working on some features to make this happen automatically. For instance, in some browsers, if you type "microsoft", they will take you straight to http://www.microsoft.com. If you liked this feature in your browser, then it might be best to opt out of Advanced Network Error Search for now.

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Can adult websites appear in the search results?

In general, adult websites will not appear in the search results unless a specifically explicit term is used in the search. There may be a few unusual exceptions, but we do everything we can to avoid this happening, and we are also working on some new features to allow you to control the level of filtering in the search results. If you have children who use the internet, you may want to use some parental control software to protect children in any event. You will find more tips and advice here.

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What effect might Virgin Media Advanced Network Error Search have on establishing a VPN connection? (strictly for techies)

VPN systems usually involve a "concentrator" (operated by the VPN owner) and "clients" (operated by users of the VPN). The client is usually a piece of software running on the user's PC, but may be a separate hardware device. The concentrator can either be a hardware device or some software running on a general purpose server.

The concentrator must have a public IP address for a client to reach it over the internet. It may also have a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) in the DNS, for instance “vpngate.corporate.com”. This DNS entry will be made in the Authoritative DNS server for the domain, in this case "corporate.com". This server will be operated by, or on behalf of, the company.

The client will be configured to establish a connection either to the IP address or the FQDN of the concentrator. If the client configuration specifies the IP address of the concentrator, then DNS is not involved and the Virgin Media system will have no effect. If the client uses the FQDN of the concentrator, then as long as this is correct (i.e., DNS has an entry for it), once again the Virgin Media system will have no effect.

If the concentrator FQDN is not in DNS (and it is the responsibility of the owner of the concentrator to ensure that it is), then Advanced Network Error Search would intervene, and a failure may occur (i.e. the VPN client would be redirected and would try to establish a VPN connection to the Advanced Search server). However, if the client uses a non-existent concentrator FQDN, a failure would occur anyway, as a conventional DNS server would not return an IP address for the concentrator, and so no client-concentrator connection could be established. The mode of failure would most likely be a timeout in this scenario, rather than a name not found error however, so there might be a slight difference in the presentation of the error to the client.

As the rules for Advanced Network Error Search are tuned to avoid non-web traffic as far as possible, this result is unlikely. As a result, Advanced Network Error Search has no impact on the ability of clients to connect to concentrators.

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What effect might Virgin Media Advanced Network Error Search have on an established VPN connection? (strictly for techies)

The exact situation will depend on the VPN's mode of operation. For instance, one particular Cisco VPN uses a "VPN Network Adapter" in Windows, which sits between the operating system or applications, and the physical (wired or wireless) network interface.

Once VPN service is established, the DNS server used by the client will be the server defined by the VPN concentrator, typically an internal DNS server on the VPN owner's network. In this case Advanced Network Error Search is not involved as our DNS servers are never used. This is also true of other common VPN software, e.g. Nortel Contivity.

In the Cisco instance, it is possible to manually change the DNS server to a public one, so it is possible to use the Virgin Media DNS servers, and hence interact with Advanced Network Error Search. However, depending on the VPN setup, this use of a DNS server "outside" the corporate network may mean that internal corporate systems are not reachable, as the external DNS may not have entries for them. This behaviour is correct because the object of the VPN is to permit the client so "see" machines that are not "visible" to the internet at large. Because the VPN client machine is effectively inside the corporate network, the client’s ability to see the Virgin Media DNS servers will depend on the policies of that network.

Advanced Network Error Search will only be involved if:

- the above manual DNS reconfiguration is made to select Virgin Media DNS servers, and

- Virgin Media DNS servers are reachable from the corporate/VPN network, and

- an FQDN for an internal corporate server is not correctly configured in DNS (by the operator of the corporate network, on his authoritative DNS server), and

- Virgin Media DNS servers can "see" the corporate authoritative DNS server, and

- the server is not a web server being accessed by a web client.

An internal corporate server that was not correctly entered into the corporate DNS would, in any event, be unreachable by corporate users unless referred to by IP address, so once again no additional failure is introduced by Advanced Network Error Search, even in this unlikely set of circumstances.

Some VPN systems allow "split horizon" operation, where traffic destined for the corporate network is routed over the encrypted VPN network connection, and traffic destined for the public internet is routed over the normal network connection. Most corporate VPNs do not operate in this way due to basic security constraints. Bridging the internet and a corporate network is not normally advisable, so typically this is not a recommended mode of operation. If this mode of operation is used, behaviour will depend on the DNS server used for each type of traffic, but the comments still apply in that Advanced Network Error Search will not introduce any new failure modes to VPN traffic.

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Does Advanced Network Error Search affect any other applications?

This system is designed to redirect website address errors only. If you notice any other applications that are affected by this system, please use the feedback form on this page to give us the details, and we will investigate and post any relevant findings on this page.

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Additional FAQs related to home networks - updated 01/02/10

Can Advanced Search cause problems on Windows home networks?

If computers or printers on your home network have single-word names like 'HP' or 'Printer', and you are no longer able to access them, then check the following:

- open a CMD window (by clicking on Start > Run, and then type "CMD" in the small window that opens up, and click on OK)

- type "ping ", for example "ping printer1", and press Enter.

If the response is from either of these IP addresses: 81.200.64.50, 81.200.64.51, then Advanced Search is redirecting your local network device name lookups. The simplest way to resolve this problem is to switch off Advanced Search here.

If you are still having problems, you can contact us or give us any specific details in the feedback form below. The more detail you can provide the better - your information will help us to improve these FAQs, and if you give us your email address we will try to respond to you directly.

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Can Advanced Search cause problems on Virtual Private Networks?

It is possible that Advanced Search can cause problems with VPNs in some unusual circumstances. If you think there may be a problem, the best thing to do is switch off Advanced Search here, reboot your PC and see if this solves the problem.

If you are still having problems, you can contact us or give us any specific details in the feedback form below. The more detail you can provide the better - your information will help us to improve these FAQs, and if you give us your email address we will try to respond to you directly.

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Option 15 DNS / DHCP suffixes - what are they, and what have you changed?

We have started issuing a "DNS suffix" in our DHCP leases in some areas. This means that the PC or router connected to the cable modem will now be told that it is in the "cable.virginmedia.net" domain. In Windows terms, this means that the "Connection-specific DNS suffix" for the network connection (Ethernet) is set to cable.virginmedia.net. You can see this by opening a CMD window and typing "ipconfig /all|more".

- to open a CMD window, click on Start > Run, and then type "CMD" in the small window that opens up, and click on OK

- then type "ipconfig /all|more" and press Enter.

Use the space bar to scroll down, and you will see the setting in the section that relates to the network interface connecting to the cable modem.

This means that this PC or router will translate a DNS request, e.g. "printer", to a request for "printer.cable.virginmedia.net". This will obviously not exist as a valid domain, and our DNS will return the IP address of our Advanced Network Error Search (if you are opted in to this service), which may in turn cause problems with communicating with devices on your home network by name. You should be able to resolve any issues by simply switching off Advanced Search here.

If you are using a home router, this router might not "pass on" the suffix to PCs connected to it, in which case this change will have absolutely no effect.

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How would your rate our new service?

*If you’d like us to respond, please include your email address. We might not be able to respond to all comments personally, but we’ll do our best to post responses to the most common questions on this page.

07-07-2011