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According to the Apple developer documentation, setting HOSTALIASES will make a process look in that file for hostnames instead of /etc/hosts.

However when I tested this with ping and a replacement hostfile, the replacement never got used, only /etc/hosts (according to fs_usage) - I have also seen similar complaints online.

Is there a way to get a process to respect HOSTALIASES or otherwise use a different hosts file?

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The man page that you referenced is very old (ancient) - it's from 1995. Looking at the man page for gethostbyname on a machine running El Capitan (2006), that reference is no longer there meaning it's a very good indication that what you are looking for has been deprecated.

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