OpenDNS Denies Gravatars, WordPress Blogs Full of Broken Images [UPDATED]

(This incident occurred on March 3, 2011. OpenDNS released its block of Gravatar within a week.)

This is huge: OpenDNS is denying access to gravatar.com. When I saw that avatars on my blog were broken I tried to look at the image on gravatar.com and got the following message page:

This site was blocked by OpenDNS in response to either the Conficker virus, the Microsoft IE zero-day vulnerability, or some equally serious vulnerability.

If you think this shouldn’t be blocked, please email us at contact@opendns.com.

This is huge because WordPress has avatars built in to the code. They link to images from gravatar.com. So every blog that uses avatar just got a lot of broken images. According to WordPress they have encouraged the use of Gravatars since WordPress 2.5:

WordPress 2.5 marries theme authors and casual WordPress users together with support for Gravatars in the WordPress Administration Panels. Theme authors have an option to include Gravatars in their designs, and are recommended to do so. WordPress users can easily control their Gravatar usage in the Settings > Discussion Administration Panel. via Using Gravatars « WordPress Codex.

My personal experience with OpenDNS is not a good one. They’ve basically hijacked my “broken” Google search results at home. Let me explain. I have suddenlink internet service (no trolls please). I used to have Google as my default search-in-the-url-box search engine. Back then – about three years ago – if I typed in a URL that didn’t exist, Google would return search results for what I typed. NOW, OpenDNS takes over the search from Google and displays their results which are not the same as Google. It’s basically hijacking and extortion. OpenDNS is paid or sells links to paying customers to display their results were Google gets paid to display a few results at the top but everything else (free) is displayed below.

I did a check of forums, and OpenDNS doesn’t have a clear cut or openly viewable documentation on it’s practices. It appears as though they deny domains at random on a daily basis. In that way – read the above message – it appears they are extorting domain owners to contact them (and possibly pay) to get removed from their blacklist. If that’s the case, that’s bad. How could one company hold that much control of the Internet?

UPDATE:

OpenDNS Twitter reply

After I wrote this and posted a couple tweets I guess I got noticed. I got a comment on this blog and OpenDNS responded with a tweet.

Thanks. I guess all of us can turn on avatars in WordPress again.