404 pages on 1&1 webhosting: complaint and solution

I had an unpleasant surprise today when I was testing a new site I’m setting up using 1&1 web hosting… I mistyped the URL, and lo and behold, instead of showing any kind of useful error page for the 404, the server neatly redirected my browser to a completely different URL, “domparking.php” at the “sedoparking.com” domain. [I’m carefully not linking, and don’t visit the page; I’m sure they get advertising revenue from it.]

I’ve seen default 404 pages where the host sneaks in a few of their own ads, and that’s kind of annoying. But there’s still a message in there somewhere that tells the person they hit a bad link.

This, though — it looks like the domain is parked. Like the site doesn’t exist at all. That’s not good.

I emailed customer support, and got this in reply:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting us. 

The error pages that you see on that page is the 1and1 generic error
pages, that's the reason why we give an option to our customers to let
them customize error pages. If you are not satisfied with the error
pages appearing on your site then I would suggets you create custom
error pages.

Anyone else with 1&1-hosted sites, have you tried it out? They say it’s normal, but then again, this is first-level support who rarely read the question before responding (no, I didn’t choose 1&1 for their customer support quality).

Either way, it’s another reminder of the importance of custom 404 pages. This just pushes it from “a good idea” to “essential” if you’re having the same issue. Fortunately, custom error pages are very easy to set up. From the 1&1 FAQ (check with your own host for variations): How to create custom Error Pages

Personally, I have 15 domains hosted in this account (various and sundry non-commercial mini-projects, including this blog), so I wanted a quick solution that I could use for all of them — certainly not creating carefully-themed custom error pages for each domain with site maps, etc., since none of these are high-profile by any stretch of the imagination. And I stuck with the simplest configuration: putting a file called error404.html at the web content root (htdocs, or whatever you chose to call it on your server), so that also means HTML only. No problem — K.I.S.S., right?

First, here’s the standard 404 page — pretty damned unhelpful, particularly to non-technical people:

Not Found

The requested URL /badlink.html was not found on this server.


Apache/2.2.3 (CentOS) Server at www.example.com Port 80

So I figured I have to at least do better than that. Admittedly, it’s a low bar to clear, but I used some basic JavaScript in a plain HTML page and came up with output that will look like this (if Javascript isn’t enabled, they’ll get a similar result with fewer details):

Page Not Found


Sorry! The address you followed (or typed into your address bar) doesn’t match up with any pages on this website.
http://www.example.com/badlink.html

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Is there a misspelling in the address? Edit it (in your browser’s address bar) and hit “Enter” to try again.
  • Did you come here from another website? Maybe they mistyped their link — you might be able to contact them about it. Hit your back button to return there.
  • Visit the homepage of this website: www.example.com

If you think there may be a problem with this website, you may wish to email the webmaster:
webmaster@example.com

That’s better, right? Because people don’t care that a “URL” wasn’t found on the “server” (if they even know what the jargon means). They just know they clicked a link (or typed it in from a scribbled note from a friend, etc.) and they see this instead of what they wanted. They only want to know how to fix it.

If you want to borrow this, right-click here and save the page as error404.html. It will work on any server, any domain name, etc. (since it figures out where you are based on the current URL) — you should just double-check that webmaster@example.com is a valid address.

If you use 1&1 webhosting, just upload this file to your web documents directory and you’ll be all set.

[Note to the more technical folks: you may wince to see the JavaScript code… I’m trying to support as many browsers & configurations as possible, so I’m minimizing the JS built-in methods I use, including ones that were later add-ons, or buggy somewhere along the way — which includes regex! Tweaks are welcome, though; just keep these limitations in mind.]

Update: I’ve traded a few emails with customer support (they insisted there was an error page even if it did include ads…) and I’ve done more research (I realized that being in France might affect the view, so I tested the results using lynx on a server on the US).  Here’s what’s going on:

It looks like they have a default 404 error page which displays ads as well, but at least includes the words “Your browser cannot find the document corresponding to the URL you typed in.”…  but it only works correctly for visitors within the US.

If you hit the same link from anywhere else, whatever handling sedoparking.com is doing for different languages, etc. breaks the error display.

And (the bad news for anyone else hosting with 1&1) since it’s a problem with sedoparking.com, it’s not something 1&1 screwed up on my server — this will affect the foreign visitors of anyone using 1&1 shared hosting.

If they fix it, I’ll update here again.

30 Comments

  1. Joshua 12th March, 2008

    Hiya,
    I think Sedo got this all fixed up.

    Ciao.

  2. rob 16th March, 2008

    I think Sedo got this all fixed up.

    I tested again — it’s still broken. They must be using IP records to choose locale (since the HTTP headers I’m sending them only show that my computer is localized to the US; I’m just physically in France), then they are showing any 404 as if it were a parked domain.

    I think they screwed up when set up the 1&1 404 page setup for non-US locales (or at least non-English locales). Or maybe they just didn’t bother?

    Notes on testing this:
    1) You need a domain on 1&1 shared hosting with no custom 404 page. http://tellmelater.com isn’t active yet, so you can use it for testing. (I’m leaving it broken….)
    2) Access a non-existent page (like http://tellmelater.com/notfound.html) on that domain from a computer in a non-English speaking country.

    If anyone tests from within Canada or the UK, let me know if it’s broken there as well (and you see a page like for a parked domain)… I’m not sure if this is broken for ALL non-US access, or just access from non-English-speaking countries.

  3. iRipoff 10th June, 2008

    Is there any way to turn the 404 error messages into a rss feed?

  4. arthur 26th June, 2008

    Edit .htaccess
    Insert

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

    Wait a few seconds and your wordpress 404 error page should work

  5. rob 30th June, 2008

    @iRipoff: I’m not sure what you’re looking for. Why would you want an RSS feed of 404s?

    @arthur: I’m not writing about wordpress 404 issues — this post is strictly about a problem with 1&1’s default 404 pages.

  6. Stephen 1st July, 2008

    You may want to unlink “the-domain-name.com” or use example.com. That domain is “parked” with ads and is no different than linking to Sedoparking.com

  7. rob 1st July, 2008

    @Stephen — thanks, I overlooked that… absolutely, no need to feed another one. I’ve switched the examples over to example.com (note to other readers: “example.com” is reserved for exactly this use and isn’t available as a real domain), plus added a rel=”nofollow” to the 1&1 FAQ page link, since it’s not much use to non 1&1 customers either, and 1&1 certainly isn’t paying me to advertise them.

  8. Noel Jenkins 13th July, 2008

    Thanks so much – a really useful post!

  9. Shane 17th August, 2010

    Rob,

    Thanks for the article. Helps me greatly.

    But is there any other way to use the error404 page and have it only for a specific domain? I wanted the error page to still have my site’s theme but also the information you have written here.

    I host a personal domain and a business domain on my account and do not care about the error404 parking for my personal domain, only the business domain.

    I didn’t think it was possible but wanted to double check because from what I understand this problem is exactly what the article is written to explain.

    Thanks in advance for any advice given.

    Thanks,
    Shane

    • rob 2nd November, 2010

      …is there any other way to use the error404 page and have it only for a specific domain? I wanted the error page to still have my site’s theme but also the information you have written here.

      Shane, thanks for the comments — and you can definitely customize your error404.html page to match your particular site! I encourage it, in fact — it’s better if your 404 page can offer useful links within your site, matches the look, etc..

      The code above is really just to have a sensible default from the very start of your development (and on hobby/personal sites), so that even if you don’t have the time to make a properly-integrated 404 page yet, you can at least avoid showing advertising for 1&1.

  10. Charles 30th October, 2010

    Edit .htaccess
    Insert

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

    Wait a few seconds and your wordpress 404 error page should work

    Thanks for that Arthur. I was running into the same problem discussed here with WordPress and non-WordPress sites alike, all hosted at 1&1. Very annoying. I used your code in my .htaccess file, and while it doesn’t display any of my WordPress theme’s error files (404.php etc), it at least keeps them on the site, instead of whisking them away to Sedo’s shady linkland. I imagine this will work for all of my sites while I decide on a new host.

  11. london acupuncturist 1st November, 2010

    thanks for the solution to this Rob.
    is this 1and1’s fault? if so, it makes me quite angry!! when you go to an invalid url on one of my sites, you first get a standard 1and1 404 page (the blue one with the computer) which then redirects to a page which has my domain name in large type at the top, followed by a load of ads. The page still has the same (invalid) url in the address bar and even my favicon remains displayed!

    this is happening for your domain, at http://tellmelater.com/notfound.html too..

    I run a few sites for my acupuncture clinics and my girlfriend’s business and it makes me really angry to think that 1and1 are forwarding potential clients on to their own pages, which, even worse, look like they are mine to those that don’t know, in order to make money.

    another reason to find another host..

    thanks again.

  12. rob 2nd November, 2010

    is this 1and1′s fault? if so, it makes me quite angry!!

    Yes, it’s definitely their decision to handle missing pages this way. I wasn’t very happy when I noticed it, either! It’s frustratingly sneaky, as well, because there are surely many 1&1 customers who have no idea that they are accidentally hosting ads for 1&1 anytime a visitor reaches a bad link or mis-types a URL.

    this is happening for your domain, at http://tellmelater.com/notfound.html too..

    That’s intentional (as I mentioned above) for anyone who wants to test to see how they are redirected by 1&1. If you’re in the US, you will see the blue 1&1 page not found message before the ads… where I am (in France), it just goes straight to the ads with no 404 message shown at all — an even worse experience, because it seems like the domain is parked (and visitors will think the main site doesn’t even exist anymore).

    I still use 1&1 hosting for some of my hobby projects, because it’s cheap and reliable, but I’m very careful to avoid these traps (and I’ve published this one here).

    I would not recommend their hosting to someone without the technical expertise to do this.

  13. london acupuncturist 20th November, 2010

    this is happening for your domain, at http://tellmelater.com/notfound.html too..

    That’s intentional (as I mentioned above) for anyone who wants to test to see how they are redirected by 1&1.

    sorry, I wasn’t very clear – you asked above if anyone got the same in the UK. I’m in the UK.. :)

    but I’m very careful to avoid these traps

    what!? there are more!!??

  14. london acupuncturist 20th November, 2010

    .i’ll try that again with proper formatting…

    “this is happening for your domain, at http://tellmelater.com/notfound.html too..

    That’s intentional (as I mentioned above) for anyone who wants to test to see how they are redirected by 1&1.”

    sorry, I wasn’t very clear – you asked above if anyone got the same in the UK. I’m in the UK.. :)

    “but I’m very careful to avoid these traps”

    what!? there are more!!??

  15. Dan Thurgood 29th November, 2010

    Fantastic solution to a really insidious, nasty, cynical, penny-grabbing problem. I’ve emailed dumbanddumb about it, but found this before their no-doubt-useless reply has arrived. Thanks very much indeed!

  16. Shanna Paet 12th December, 2010

    Have been looking at doing SEO and bettering the web design on my site for a long time, so this website has been very helpful. Easy read also, so thank you!

  17. cms applications 11th March, 2011

    thanks for the solution guys .it Helps me greatly.

    thankss

  18. warper 12th June, 2011

    Cheap hosting is expensive.

    I had a hosting company, my customers were satisfied, I used to work as hard as possible to make them happy…. but then 1and1 and others arrive to my country… and some of them begin to compare prices with them… I had to reduce my prices… I had to make dumping with prices (as 1and1) in order to not loss all of them… and finally, tired of fight with those cheap companies I had to close my hosting company to everyone and I decided to continues only as freelance with a selected small customers group that prefers me to a impersonal and cheap company….

    I guess 1and1 and others like them will be increasing its prices in the next years, when they will have no competence, because their prices are not “natural”. They are making dumping from several years ago, but they are giants, so they have not problem to continue doing it for several years more… until they decide to increase its prices a lot or they will be close suddenly…

    Sorry for this offtopic, just I wanted to warning you about those companies, but feel free to still use them, you are lucky if you thing that they are really cheap and you can put lots of files and websites in them… but then do not complain about its methods to get money using your websites, because I guess they have some contract with sedoparking in order to know which domains are interesting if expired using this 404 pages or other similar methods (406 error pages have same behaviour, etc…).

    Have luck

  19. Russ 14th March, 2012

    A friend of mine had this problem on her new 1and1 account.
    After some digging around she found an option (Sedo Domain Parking/Under Construction)
    right at the bottom of the “Domains & Webspace” page to turn this option off for all domains.

  20. Sakimichi 6th April, 2012

    Ok, I got a response from their costumer support. I was super mad that one of them doesn’t even know what she’s doing nor understand my complaint, luckilly after a few e-mail exchange another costumer rep understood what I meant. I hope 1&1 would brief their staff about this…. I never got problems with another host.

    ————————————————————
    Dear Customer,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    You will just need to upload your own index file in your webspace in order for it to not redirect on our parking page.

    Based on the link that you have provided on your e-mail, it seems like that person does not know what he is doing, once you order a package with us, by default there is an index.html file uploaded on the server you will just need to delete or replace it for you to be able to have your own landing page.

    If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

  21. Julie 9th March, 2013

    Thumbs up to Rob Whelan …Your post solved my 404 issue. 1&1 FAQ is somewhat confusing and often inconsistent. Defaulting on sedoparking is annoying, you find yourself back-tracking through layers of FAQs which do not consistently timeline the path you need to follow, spent enormous amount of time searching web for answers on how to edit( .htaccess on 1&1 ) then I found this post. Perhaps 1&1 can take note and re-write its http://faq.1and1.com/scripting_languages_supported/htaccess/2.html page

  22. Gill 19th July, 2013

    Thanks so much Rob, and also Russ for the quick fix option that 1and1 now offer in the Control Panel. The latter worked for me – it now displays a simple:
    Error 404 - Not found
    Your browser can't find the document corresponding to the URL you typed in.

    instead of the godawful Sedo ads.

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  24. ramadan 2013 calendar 27th July, 2013

    Hi would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re utilizing? I’ve loaded your blog
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  25. name 24th August, 2013

    http://blog.robwhelan.com/defaultsite still goes to 1&1

    Any idea how to stop this happening?

  26. June 22nd November, 2013

    I just found this page and today is 22 nov 2013 – 1&1 is still doing this underhanded $#%t today. Wow.

  27. June 22nd November, 2013

    I have also, while we’re talking about 1&1, noticed that using them for smtp doesn’t work because their servers are blacklisted about 3% of the time!! They won’t curtail spam sent using their servers, so the blacklisting affects all their users. I really appreciate this page and I think it may finally motivate me to switch everything from 1&1 to somebody else.

  28. Kay 5th February, 2014

    Thank you for figuring this out. What a lot of time wasted trying to figure out if I was hacked or not. Very under-handed of 1and1. I have had such great experiences with them. This is very disappointing. But, I am grateful for all of you for sharing this information.

  29. Greg 10th April, 2014

    To turn off sedoparking for your 1and1 hosted website simply login to 1and1, then click on “more” next to Domains. In the left hand column toward the bottom you will see “More Features” and a link to “Sedo Domain Parking/Under Construction Page”. Click on it then choose “yes” or “no” if you want sedoparking turned on. Takes only minutes to fix and no .htaccess work needed. Easy peasy.

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