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Page not found, neither is this child” The NotFound Project

Fri, 12th October 2012, 10:21

HostJury has written before on the inclination of certain web hosts to annex and monetize client’s website pages. GoDaddy is one that is infamous for covering any available white space with enticements that upsell their offerings including jazzing up your control panel with adverts. HostGatorDoteasyBlueHost, and iPage are just a few of the others that have shown a similar propensity to take advantage of under utilized pages.

News that “certain” web hosts hijack their customers domain landing page, or customize web server error messages with slews of paid adverts is old hat. They’ve been doing it forever and a day. Web hosts can justify the practice with rhetoric that includes circular reasoning like “404 error pages are not really on your  site -- the server generated error message clearly states that the page you are looking for can’t be found so how could it be on your web site?”

If all reason fails, these host can always claim that the client agreed to allow the web host to manipulate and utilize various pages at their discretion...  Remember when you checked that box that you have read, and agreed to the Terms of Service...

From the IX Web Hosting ToS

IX Web Hosting reserves the right to supply content-enriched pages, including but not limited to search engines, advertisements, directory links, etc., for non-existent user pages that are served by IX Web Hosting to requesting sources. These pages include error pages (i.e. 404 Not Found), new account placeholder pages, unused domains and suspended user sites.

Yep that box!

Is there a better use for those error pages?

Missing Children Europe (MCE) in cooperation with Child Focus recently launched the NotFound project. The initiative hopes to turn 404 error pages into billboards for missing children messages. With close to a billion websites now on the web it’s easy to recognize  realizes how much space these error messages occupy.

Errors becoming opportunities

The 404 page is one of the most recognizable and most consulted pages on the web. It is also an inexhaustible source of frustration for those who just happen to land on one. Missing Children Europe (MCE), and Child Focus have decided to make this hitherto useless space meaningful through the NotFound project.

Francis Herbert, Secretary-General of MCE : "The idea of ‌‌integrating missing person messages into 404 pages immediately seemed very interesting to us. We are always looking for new communication channels to distribute missing children messages and increase the chances to bring them home. "

Laurent Dochy, Digital Conceptor at Famous and creator of the NotFound project: "The 404-page is a cornerstone of the internet culture. An increasing number of websites designs have customized error pages that limit frustrations for the user. With the NotFound-project we are however taking this one step further by giving these pages a reason to exist. The next step came easily:  Page not found, neither is this child”.

Call for solidarity

The aim of this project is to encourage as many people and businesses as possible to join this initiative. Maryse Roland, spokeswoman for Child Focus: " This project will allow us to once again concentrate the attention on children whom we haven't heard of for many years. These children risk falling into oblivion. The choice of the shown missing persons message on the 404 page will be at random: it could be a recent disappearance, or on the contrary, a child that has been missing for a long time. We already have a few major partners and invite every business or person with a website to join our project. No financial investment is required, just good will."

How does it work?

Technically, it is sufficient to download a file from the NotFound project and to integrate it into a website. The missing child message will then automatically invade the 404 page space of this website. After installation, which will only take a few minutes, everything happens automatically.

Visit the www.notfound.org website to download the module. You will also find a complete overview of the project and its technical specifications.

Did I mention that you can avoid these issue entirely by just making sure that your site doesn't have any error pages!

Little Oak web hosting