Barefruit is an internet new media startup based in London, UK established in 2004.
|Industry||Internet & New Media|
|Key people||Shane Ambridge, Dave Roberts|
Barefruit has developed a range of solutions to identify and redirect internet error traffic. These errors are either user generated, such as Domain Name System (DNS) errors as a result of mis-typing domain names into the internet browser address bar, or HTTP errors which are a result of broken links in websites and server failures. Barefruit works with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and major portals to use a range of software solutions which modify the ISPs DNS service such as the BIND software and also a specialist proxy solution known as a "Frootbox" to capture the errors and redirect its clients to navigation pages that may contain sponsored listings and algorithmic results. If a user clicks on a sponsored link, Barefruit and the ISP share the revenue. Barefruit's HTTP solution is covered by a granted European patent (Patent No. EP1706823)
Barefruit is under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) that prevent them from releasing a list of all participating ISPs. However, from ISP Blogs it is known that Barefruit is active with Earthlink and Cox Communications in the US as well as a number of other partners in both the US and Europe. Their site also claims to have relationships with Blue Coat Systems, The Measurement Factory and Yahoo!. Qwest has disclosed that it partners with Barefruit.
ISPs have increasingly adopted DNS error correction primarily to generate revenue from surfing errors by their users. ISPs claim that it enhances the Internet surfing experience for users, however, it is clear from the significant adoption that ISPs view the monetization as the most important aspect. DNS errors cover a broad range of activity from typographical errors, mistakes with the ccTLD and TLD extensions and even keywords typed directly into the browser address bar. These errors have proved to be a particularly valuable source of revenue when monetized through PPC and CPA players with through the delivery of qualified sponsored search listings. The CPA (Charge per acquisition or payment by results) or PPC (Pay per click) sponsored click through is the fiscal model behind all the error solutions currently in use.
One early version of "error" navigation was the development of "Keyword" navigation. A keyword typed into the address bar is regarded as an Non Existent Domain or NXD by the DNS system. Originally pioneered by RealNames and AOL, the user entered a keyword and was taken directly via a paid-for route to a specific web page. Hence ‘jobs’ would be bought by Jobs.com. Each time the word ‘jobs’ was typed in the browser address bar of IE4, the user was taken to jobs.com website via an interstitial advising the user that they were navigating by a RealNames keyword. RealNames had a database of over 1.5m keywords, all of which were paid for. They were both brand names and a limited number of paid-for generic terms. The user of generics was restricted by MSN to use by them to navigate to MSN results pages.
The raison d’être of direct navigation was that an early study by MIT in 2000 revealed that each time a user was forced to click to the next page to uncover a particular location, 50% of the audience was lost. Hence if a deep site location was 5 clicks away for every 1000 users searching for the initial site only 31 users would follow through. A subsequent study by the University of Boston proved that direct navigation improved eCommerce conversion by between 65% and 300% depending on category.
Since 2002 there have been a number of direct navigation solutions based on keywords that have been deployed. Most notably AOL continues with AOL keywords (although their use is restricted to AOL subscribers). Yahoo! has deployed their own version on Yahoo! enabled browsers, as have Firefox and Opera. Most recently Google has moved to introduce a keyword direct navigation system based on the RealNames approach with the so-called “Browse by Name” approach, as well as a browser based spelling correction service using stored URL data. Google is offering both Brands and Generics with direct navigation. Since it uses the Google enable browser they have dispensed with any interstitial page. Type “Ford Explorer” in Google Browser and it will navigate directly to the deep site Ford Explorer page. Similarly type “Mortgages” it will directly navigate to “UK Mortgages Online”. All these solutions are browser-based. To date it is believed Google has not charged for this "keyword" service. It is based on a guessing the relative weight of the first organic search result over the other results for the same keywords.
Error correction as a result of mis-spelt domain names and broken links in search results, resulting from 400 class client errors and 500 class server errors are relatively new phenomena.
Initial approaches that have been adopted were limited to the analysis of NXDs. The first to be introduced was SiteFinder from VeriSign using wild card DNS in the US. It offered advertisers to buy VeriSign-added redirects from non-existent domains. This mandatory service not only created A records but also MX records, which are used for email. Therefore an email sent to a domain that didn't exist (usually a typo) went to VeriSign or its affiliates, and since the email was accepted (but not by who it was meant to go to) the sender was not notified about his or her mistyping, or the fact that it was not sent to whom it was meant. This also opened ISPs SMTP mail systems to virus attack. The service was quickly abandoned after a formal request by ICANN, the Internet’s governing body. VeriSign had overstepped its role as a register, and in providing this service was breaking many of the standards of the internet. This experience has made ISPs very suspicious of any DNS “modifications”.
In August 2006 EarthLink teamed up with Yahoo and Barefruit to redirect web browser users accessing nonexistent domains to a page containing sponsored search results, ads, and a Yahoo search form. The DNS protocol requires that a query for a nonexistent domain must return the "NXDOMAIN" error response. Instead of this response, EarthLink's DNS servers return several IP addresses for the HTTP servers that implement their redirection service. While such redirection might be helpful to users of some web browsers, it breaks the functionality of many other Internet applications, which assume that the DNS is implemented according to the standard specifications. Earthlink provide a non-patched DNS server address to enable users to have a standard NXD response, which they can use if they manually configure DNS in their systems.
Barefruit suggests a range of opt-out methods which some of their customer ISPs have applied.
Network Solutions has indicated in the past error traffic makes up up to 20% of total network traffic and of that NXD errors make up as much as 15%. In addition Google recently indicated that 404 HTTP errors alone account for 6.96% of published pages on average of the 11.5 billion web pages currently on the web. These huge volumes have stimulated significant interest in monetising this "lost" traffic.
Some of Barefruit's competitors in the DNS error space include Paxfire, Golog, Simplicita (recently acquired by Sandvine) and OpenDNS. There are currently no competitors monetising http errors, however, this area is attracting interest among deep packet inspection providers as a way of generating income to offset the cost of proxy servers.