How to fix location bar search?

For a while now the Firefox URL address bar has also served as a shortcut to Google search. I’ve never liked that default, even though I found it handy, and have wanted to change the setting from time to time. But I never got around to it, mostly because I didn’t know how — and still don’t. (I also wanted to get rid of — or at least find the option to get rid of — the gray shade that comes down when I click on the little icon to the left of a URL, and says “This website does not supply encrypted information. Your connection to this site is not encrypted.” For all sites, pretty much. So, if I want to copy a URL by first clicking on the icon, I have to do that twice. I think this “feature” showed up around Firefox 2.5, but I forget. It predates 3.0, I’m pretty sure.)

Anyway, now suddenly my Firefox address bar’s default search engine is no longer Google but , with results identical to Yahoo’s. Why is that? I’m thinking it might be due to activating , which is a Yahoo property. Could it be that I’m using OpenDNS name servers? (Been doing that for a while, actually.) There’s also this in Wikipedia’s OpenDNS entry, under Privacy Issues and Covert Redirection,

While the OpenDNS name resolution service is free, people have complained about how the service handles failed requests. If a domain cannot be found, the service redirects you to a search page with search results and advertising provided by Yahoo.[citation needed] A DNS user can switch this off via the OpenDNS Control Panel...
Also, a user’s search request from the address bar of a browser that is configured to use the Google search engine (with a certain parameter configured) may be covertly redirected to a server owned by OpenDNS without the user’s consent (but within the OpenDNS Terms of Service).[12] Browsers configured to omit this parameter do not get redirected and address-bar searches are sent to Google as normal.[12] . Firefox and Flock users can fix this problem by installing an extension.[13]

That extension is the Feeling Lucky Fixer, from Cotcaro. While the two reviews of the thing both give it five stars, it’s still an “experimental” add-on, which requires a log-in (and has had only 170 downloads as of this moment).

So now I’m slowing to pass through that detour (not an instant process, since I run mail to my main address through Gmail for spam filtration, which can delay mail for up to several minutes)… but now I’ve done it and restarted Firefox… and encountered Glitch #1: Firefox didn’t remember my tabs, even though I told it to. Grr.

Also, the extension doesn’t work. When I type cotcaro, for example, in the address bar, it takes me to the OpenDNS search page.

So, does anybody know what’s going on here? I feel like my address bar has been hijacked, but I’m not sure that’s what’s going on. Yet.


  1. Flip’s avatar

    A faster and trouble free way to copy the URL is to:

    Press command-L to highlight the URL.

    Press command-C to copy that URL.

    Much faster than reaching for the mouse.

  2. David Ulevitch’s avatar

    Doc — Do you have an OpenDNS account? This has been the OpenDNS behavior for almost two years, although you can login to your account and disable it.

    Perhaps you are using someone else’s network when you are connecting who has a different set of preferences?

    I’m happy to look into this for you.

    -David (from OpenDNS)

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, David.

    I’ve been using OpenDNS domain name servers for awhile now, just to speed up browser action. I don’t think I have an OpenDNS account, though. I’ve looked through a very large pile of back email to see if something shows up, and nothing is there. I’ll get an account if that’s the only way to solve the problem, but I’d hope there’s a better way.

    My colleague Hal Roberts explains what OpenDNS does, and how it works, which is also helpful. What’s a mystery to me is why it just started working that way.

    What happened to the defaulted Google search in the address bar? Why the sudden change to OpenDNS? There was no defaulting to OpenDNS searches in the past. I never saw OpenDNS search result before yesterday.

    In the past if I had typed, say, searls in to the address bar and hit Return, I would have gone to If I had typed in lyrfmstrdl, I’d get to a Google search result. Now both go to OpenDNS/Yahoo search results.

    In addition to wondering how this happened, I am interested in asserting my own control over it. (I mean, maybe I would prefer OpenDNS/Yahoo, or Clusty, or nothing at all, rather than Google. I dunno. Hadn’t thought about this much until now.)

    Put another way, is there any setting or pref that gives the user control over address bar behavior? Or are we at the mercy of BigCo choices instead? I would think that Firefox has provided a way for users to control what happens there, but so far I haven’t been able to find it.

    By the way, I would be glad to pay OpenDNS for its help via a VRM system, in respect to the company’s public service through its domain name servers. Also to relieve some of the need to make money through advertising.

    Unrelated… Anybody know if there is a way to keep links in WordPress from using the rel=”nofollow” element? That’s another default that irks me.

  4. David Ulevitch’s avatar

    Doc — You should be able to assert your own control over it, most definitely. No BigCo (or SmallCo like us) should dictate your experience.

    keyword.url in the Firefox about:config does give the user control over what search is being used.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, David. (btw, you responeded to my last comment while I was still editing and reposting it several times… there’s some new stuff in there too.)

    I went to about:config (which, non-obviously, is where you go when you put that in the address bar), and don’t see keyword:url. Do I add it somehow? If so, what do I put in the Status, Type and Value columns?

    Earth to Firefox: there should be an easier, less hacky way to do this.

  6. carterfsmith’s avatar

    Call me suspicious, but with the release of Chrome in ‘beta’ I suspect Firefox is exploring how loyal it needs to be with Google . . .

  7. Calvin Dodge’s avatar

    I believe you right-click in the about:config page, and select New->String

    The preference name (in Firefox 3 on Linux, at least) is “keyword.URL”. Set the status as “default”. On my system the value is “”

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Calvin! That’s exactly how the setting sits defaulted on my Lenovo running Linux, and how I suspect it sat on the Mac where the problem showed up (and on which I’m typing now). I just made the changes you specified, although I’m not sure how to set the status. Right now it’s at “user set”. Lemme quit Firefox, restart and see how it works…

    Arg. Didn’t. Still going to OpenDNS search. Lemme go back to about:config…

    Okay, now I have three entries. (Separated by semicolons, they are Preference Name; Status; Type; Value.)

    1) keyword.URL; user set; string;

    2) keyword.enabled; default; boolean; true

    3) keyword.URL; user set; string;

    Before this, there was no preference that started with the letter k. On the Mac, that is. On the Lenovo running Linux, #s 1 and 2 are there.

    I don’t know how to eliminate any of those. I seem to be able to modify only the value.

  9. Calvin Dodge’s avatar

    Well, I think I see one way to modify that value – but it’s REALLY not pretty.

    The default value is set in a file called “locale/browser-region/”, which is contained in “chrome/en-US.jar” in your Firefox install directory (/usr/lib/firefox-3.0.1 in my case).

    So, in theory, you could:

    1) Close Firefox
    2) Unzip that jar file
    3) Edit
    4) Zip the jar file up with the edited file, and copy the jar back to the chrome directory
    5) Open Firefox

    (I said it wasn’t pretty)

    But meanwhile, I’m suspicious because of “keyword.URL’ not existing in the desired browser’s about:config. So I’m wondering if add-ons can delete those default values.

    (and my suggestion about setting a value as “default” was just a guess, and clearly a bad one)

  10. Mic Edwards’s avatar


    David Ulevitch and the rest of the world disagree on the appropriate OpenDNS behavior for Google results.

    David has generated enormous amounts of ill will among the more technically savvy in the audience by persisting in this proxying and Google DNS result munging, but appears to be indifferent to the effects.

    From my point of view (given the alternatives) I have to put up with his response, but it hurts me every time I see the effects.

    Frankly, if you care about the politics of openness and privacy, you should support another DNS provider, but we all know how hard they are to find.


  11. Mic Edwards’s avatar


    Since you’ve mentioned you’d gladly pay for an alternative, you might like to look at the ‘Recursive DNS’ service available from … about $30 a year and no know address munging or proxying!

    You are paying OpenDNS already … with your attention … BTW!


  12. James’s avatar

    Dear Doc your other weblog has been hacked so when someone goes to this page here is redirects them to a porn site. Please tidy up!

  13. James’s avatar

    It will not let me add the end string to the URL attached so here is the rest /discuss/msgReader$8867?mode=day. If it does not go threw in this comment than email me and I will send the link that way.

  14. Doc Searls’s avatar

    James, yes that blog did get hacked, and there is a pile of bad stuff when you look at it from certain angles. The archive I’m putting behind this blog (the good stuff from the old blog) doesn’t have that stuff in it. We should be moving it soon. Meanwhile I’m not sure how to get rid of the gunk. I do know at least that if you view that blog from the day angle, ratehr than the msgReader angle, you don’t see the bad stuff. Here’s hoping we can be hasty about the move.

  15. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Okay, I found this…

    … and followed its directions. It worked. The thing goes to Google again.

    And I know how to make it go elsewhere.

    As for why this happened, maybe David Ulevitch can explain. It’s not clear to me why I’ve been using OpenDNS for a long time and this behavior just cropped up.

    David’s response above suggested that OpenDNS does not hack about:config. But something did. What?

    Meanwhile, thanks, everybody.

  16. Gary’s avatar

    i found this website

    If you, like me, has been the victim of Yahoo Spyware aka Yahoo IM then you may notice that in the firefox location bar if you type in a keyword, it takes you to Yahoo preferences page. Previously it used to perform a Google “I’m Lucky” Search and take you to the first page of its search results automatically.

    If you want to restore the Google “I’m Lucky” search then perform this simple steps:
    1. Type about:config in Firefox location bar and press Enter
    2. Type keyword in Filter textbox and you will see only the preference keyword.URL.
    3. Double-click on keyword.URL and change the value to:

    That’s all it takes to restore default keyword search functionality in Google.

    Note: You can use this to change to any search engine for keyword search.

  17. Ajzi’s avatar

    Kind of funny. It like totally doesn’t work no matter what you do.

  18. bandsxbands’s avatar

    I truly believe that we have reached the point where technology has become one with our society, and I am fairly certain that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.

    I don’t mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside… I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of downloading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It’s one of the things I really wish I could see in my lifetime.

    (Posted on Nintendo DS running R4i SDHC DS SeKu)

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