Xtra website redirect a poser

The performance of New Zealand ISPs accessing overseas websites differs markedly and even after a decade of website creation some pages are still inaccessible using some browsers. But a few weeks ago a Computerworld reader discovered an apparently unique example of web behaviour using Xtra.

A link on a certain web page goes to the expected page within the site, when using several ISPs (so far we've checked ClearNet, Zfree and Paradise), but when connected through Xtra the same link goes to a different site - giving a plain white page with the word "Loading ..." in one corner. Nothing loads.

Xtra, however, differs in its experience of the link. On an initial test with the Netscape browser and Xtra connection from within Xtra's premises it goes to the wrong page, Xtra's Ted Grenfell reported earlier this month. However, with Microsoft Internet Explorer, he says, the link goes to the right page.

Our reporter and our original informant re-tested it, and an Xtra connection (though dial-up or ADSL) still goes to the wrong page with both leading browsers - and with Opera. Unfortunately, we cannot invite our readers to test en masse, because the pages are in a password-protected area of a site.

Grenfell subsequently tested the link more thoroughly in several environments (LAN access, dial-up, with and without Xtra's caching server) and has found some go the right way, some the wrong way. Dial-up through Xtra seems never to work.

"We now know the caching server has nothing to do with access so there are no incompatibility issues," he says by email. "We also know that I can access it as can someone else with a static IP address with or without using the caching servers. We also know it does not work dialling through us or Ihug.

"I conclude that there is nothing at Xtra's end that is preventing access or is redirecting customers to the wrong URL. As the link ... forces a .cgi script to be executed, that script must be deciding who should be allowed and who should not. It appears from this that the site owners are deciding people on Ihug or Xtra dial-up accounts are not permitted to view the intended web content. We do not know why they have decided to do that."

Inquiries made already to the owners of the site bring denials that they are doing anything to discriminate. One spokesman, however, claims the company gets far more complaints about unsuccessful access from New Zealand than from anywhere else

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