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Link broken for one user

Posted on 2013-01-03
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Last Modified: 2013-01-04
One user is having a problem with a broken link on our website that's not broken for anybody else.  She must be using Google as a proxy server; when she clicks the link, she gets "Oops!  This link appears to be broken."  In the address bar (in IE), everything in the domain name is bold except the www part.  The rest of the address is gray. Under the "Oops" message, it has the typical "suggestions," and the first says to go to the domain name.  The top level domain name (e.g., the part after the dot) is in italics.  This matches what's in the address bar.

Now here's the strange part.  If I purposely misspell a page on the site, I don't get a message from the proxy server at all (e.g., my ISP's page, in my case).  Instead, I get a "Not Found" page from Apache that says "The requested URL [insert url here] was not found on this server."

So somehow, it appears that her browser, when she clicks on this link, is somehow not finding the domain.  What's even stranger is that she consistently gets this problem, while other people don't get it at all.

The fact that Google proxy server is putting the top-level domain in italics (under "Suggestions") makes me wonder if this could be a character encoding problem.  In other words, even though to the naked eye, it's exactly the same, could it be that the top level domain is different to the browser somehow?  For example, is it possible that when other people click on the link the letters get transferred to the browser and sent to the server and get the right domain, but when she clicks on the same link, the browser reads the letters that look exactly the same but somehow sees them as different letters because of some sort of character encoding thing, so that it comes back as not being able to find the domain, even though it looks right in the address bar?

By the way, she is able to view other pages on the site, so I would think that rules out there being an odd entry in her hosts file.  It's just this link (actually a couple of links) where she keeps getting this problem.
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Question by:Newbis
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 38742467
What is the error code?  If she is able to browse other pages on the site then her browser is finding the domain.  If it is a character encoding problem, you should be able to just type it in (correctly) and get access.
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Author Comment

by:Newbis
ID: 38742612
Not sure what you mean by error code.  When she goes to that link, she winds up on a page from Google, not from our server.  Just noticed something though:  It says Google Toolbar.  So maybe it's not a proxy server but her Google Toolbar that's putting up that page.  But in any case, if it got the domain right it ought to go to the error page that's on the server, just like what I see if I purposely mistype a page.

In any case, I have asked her to try to go to the URL directly but still waiting for a response.

I've attached a sanitized version of the screenshot.  As you can see, it's a .ca domain. Notice that next to "Go to" the ".ca" is italicized.  However, that's also what's in the domain...as if maybe the "a" was encoded differently somehow in the URL?
image001sample.png
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Author Comment

by:Newbis
ID: 38742623
Ah, okay, I've discovered that I made some false assumptions.  Now that I've installed Google toolbar myself, I see that it intercepts any wrong link, even if the domain is right.  So it doesn't let the server display its own 404 error page but rather displays its Google toolbar page.

Also, the top-level domain being italicized is irrelevant as Google toolbar is doing that to me too if I purposely mistype a link.

So it's probably that her link is actually wrong on the page, because somehow her browser isn't processing the page correctly.  (The link still works perfectly for me, even after installing Google Toolbar.)
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Accepted Solution

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Dave Baldwin earned 500 total points
ID: 38742638
Apparently, that can occur simply because the page took a long time to load and the message is coming from the Google toolbar.  This article http://www.ebookliving.com/crusing-the-web/oops-this-link-appears-to-be-broken.html says how to turn that off.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Newbis
ID: 38744575
This was it.  The user did not have the proper role assigned in the software we were using.  That caused the software to display a certain error message that somehow gets garbled up by Google Toolbar's "Provide Suggestions on Navigation Errors" option.  So removing that option allowed us to see the real error provided from the software, which revealed the problem in the user's account.
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 38744951
Thanks for the points.  I just love these things where they think they are making things 'easier' for us!  I remove virtually all toolbars when I work on people's computers.  They are intrusive and they spy on you to send ad info back to their 'masters'.
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