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Is "www" redundant?
Wai_Wai




msg:686678
 3:29 am on Sep 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi.
Usually when we type a URL, it is in form of www.{doamin-name}.com
Why do we need to have "www"?
Do you feel "www" is redundant?
Should "www" be abolished?
Any opinion?

[edited by: Webwork at 4:22 am (utc) on Sep. 24, 2005]
[edit reason] Edited hotlink. Please read the Charter. [/edit]

 

twist




msg:686708
 8:09 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

(Am I allowed to say this, or is it for mods?)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld dealguien!

After 10 years, there are now billions of people in the world that have learned that web adresses start with a "www" (some may never have used the internet, but still know it from TV etc). Now you want to change that again and train all those people that they should write the URLs without "www"? What for?

Because billions of people don't even know what the "www" stands for. Billions of people also think all web addresses end in ".com", but that doesn't stop new top level domains from being created.

mm1220




msg:686709
 8:16 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Again, this isn't apparent to people using virtualhost setups. Imagine if you've got five servers in your setup and in order to balance the load you distribute incoming requests (e.g. ssh) to example.com among each of the five servers. Now what happens if apache is only running on server #4.
You create an alias for server4: www.example.com -> server4.example.com
This bypasses the load distributing by directly accessing the server4 by using a common standard alias for webservers, namely www.

If you did away with www you'd be faced with having to tell users to directly access server4.example.com or running copies of apache on all five servers.

econman




msg:686710
 8:35 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I see the www's as unnecessary surplusage, which will eventually become obsolete.

The only real benefit right now is that it helps people figure out they are looking at a web address.

Once the average user realizes the www's don't really mean anything, and they have no imperative technical function, there will come a "tipping point" where they will start to disappear. Once this tipping point is reached, there will be a period of a few years when the stodgy, old fashioned, outdated sites continue to use and promote it, while all of the "hip", up-to-date sites get rid of it.

The only question is when this tipping point will be reached -- in a few years, or even faster?

One way or the other, I think the www's will disappear, because:

1. wastes 3 (actually 4!) extra keystrokes

2. adds visual "noise" (clutter) which makes it harder to "brand" a website.

3. the www's take effort to say, and there is a tendency for language to become shorter and easier to say over time; television ... TV, Joseph ... Joe, International Business Machines ... IBM, personal computers ... pc's, etc.

[edited by: econman at 8:40 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2005]

MultiMan




msg:686711
 8:38 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Ah, to "www." or not to "www." That was the question.

For me, when one of our servers upgraded for ASP, allowing upgrading of a site and one server to go from index.htm files to index.asp (etc), the possibility of using no "www." was made possible. Thinking it was superfluous, the site and the links on it were changed to remove the "www."

It was consequently learned that many others on the web still insist on the "www." For example, back in the hey day of LookSmart's Zeal.com directory (when MSN used to be their major customer, providing over 65% of Zeal's revenues!), listings could only be with the "www." Then there was the double-listing minimization in search engines SERPs, due to pages being listed with "www." and others without.

Ultimately, the decision was both realized and made that it had to be defaulted to always include the "www." using 301-redirects.

As the sites and servers were expanded to also include a Linux server using Apache, the idea of /public_html/ directory made the /www/ directory (which hotlinks to /public_html/ anyway) make even more sense. In fact, all the coding of the site was then made in a /home/offwww/ directory, with the webpages made in PHP doing little more than calling the offwww code-files as include-files in the dynamic PHP webpages.

Finally, there was one additional value realized that could never be "purchased" yet is now a goldmine of "goodwill." That is, because the vocalization of saying "www." before a web-site name has been repeated so frequently on TV, radio, as well as in print, the value of the "www." is in its ability to grab the listerner's/reader's attention. That is, for example, when listening to the radio, the instant the sound of "www." is said, the listener is now trained to know, "Ok, a web-site now follows..."

Say "w-w-w-dot" three times fast, and you get the point. The sound is unique, and it quickly grabs your attention. So, it is a great value in reducing air time on either radio or TV, while at the same time saying, "Listen up. I'm about to give you an important web-site for you to remember. Ready? Here it is..."

So, although I do agree that it seems superfluous to us who are "in the know" to keep the "www.", I do think that, in the long-run, the "www." is mostly to all of our advantage to keep.

dataguy




msg:686712
 8:40 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have a competitor that is making millions with his web sites, which mostly cater to new webmasters. I would think this guy understands the Internet.

Two years ago I showed him something I was working on, a remote-plugin version of my main web site. I told him to check it out with the URL remote.mysite.com.

After a short time he told me that my new site didn't work. I checked and assured him it did. Nearly breaking into argument, he said that he typed it in exactly as I had said. www.remote.mysite.com.

I told him to remove the www., and after he did, of course it worked. To this day he still can't imagine why I don't use www.remote.mysite.com (the www. being the FOURTH level domain) and I can't imagine why anyone would do it this way.

I guess a good webmaster would make it work both ways.

onebaldguy




msg:686713
 8:53 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I use it just because when I do a backlink check on Google, the www version is generally more comprehensive.

Regardless of what you decide to do one your site, make sure you 301 from one to the other (either 301 all www pages to non-www or vice-versa).

Beagle




msg:686714
 9:00 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

To those who want to drop the www, what's the answer to mm1220's situation:
If you did away with www you'd be faced with having to tell users to directly access server4.example.com or running copies of apache on all five servers.

I'm also curious about the URL of the website for the university I work at, which is www2.exampleuniversity.edu -- Would that become 2.exampleuniversity.edu? (Confessing that I don't really know what the "www2" means.)

stormy




msg:686715
 9:23 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm thankful that we can at least print urls without putting "http://" before them like we used to do just a few years back.

"domain.com" can be any kind of resource, and just because the WWW is the most popular resource today (as was already mentioned) we can't assume it always will.

If you are going to omit the protocol, the subdomain "www" does tell you what kind of resource you are going to access.

In fact, as new TLDs get more common, the "www" will tell the layman "ah, it's a website".

My advice... don't lose it on your sites or you will regret it!

twist




msg:686716
 9:27 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

[rant]I personally can't wait until they rid the web of extenstions, another pointless useless artifact of days gone by. As long as they don't decide to replace the extensions with backslashes. Why can't we just keep things simple. No one on earth cares if your webpage has an html, php or asp extension. It's just more unnecessary dots and abbreviations to make URL's less readable to regular people. It's almost like people use them on the off chance that someone someday will finally ask them, what does asp stand for. Then you can feel high and mighty and explain to them that you are a uber-geek and code your pages using a server-side language. Well, get over it, it will never happen. Even if they do ask, they don't really care, their just being polite.[/rant]

techrealm




msg:686717
 9:29 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Its just an option to me - sometimes its better looking to have the www in the front, other times it's in the way. For instance when's the last time you heard or seen www.aol.com in the reading copy of a commerical?

As for the technical reason for www on load balanced servers, properly set up you can have any domain name there and then have your load balancer point to the www2,www3 as needed etc... The "proper" setup for that is not typically hard as long as all your redirects etc start by pointing to the domain name that kick starts the balancing act how ever it is done.

The reason some major sites give a page not found error is simply because they didn't set up a redirect for the non www version of their domain, sometimes the "problem" is in the dns settings and other times it's in the config files of their server and or not setup in the Windows IIS controls. Takes 5 minutes but some dont care...

[edited by: techrealm at 9:34 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2005]

Clark




msg:686718
 9:31 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

At least the extensions to filenames serve a purpose.

This has to be rid of on the protocol level. A few webmasters banishing httpwww will do nothing.

And for the billions who untrained, just make it backwards compatible for awhile.

whoisgregg




msg:686719
 9:31 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

bill nailed it in msg #9 -- pick one and redirect the other. The only real mistake is picking one and abandoning visitors to the other location.

the value of the "www." is in its ability to grab the listerner's/reader's attention

Most radio copy actually contains a call to action like "Visit us on the web at www.example.com" or "Check out our website at www.example.com" Doesn't the call to action preceding the domain name already prepare the listener for an address?

Even 800 numbers still need to be repeated for listeners to retain the number, and those all start with a distinctive sound of "one eight hundred" (or some similar variation).

The only real benefit right now is that it helps people figure out they are looking at a web address

If we're talking about a business card, let's check the other common data types and see if it's difficult to pick out the web address:

1-800-555-1234 ... johndoe@example.com ... example.com ... 12345 Main Street ... John Doe

Are that many people putting "12345 Main Street" or "John Doe" in their browser? The only reasonable confusion is caused when people try to put an email address in a browser, or a domain name in an email application, but a "www." won't do what the existence or non-existence of a "@" is already failing to do for less experienced folks.

"aahch tee tee pee colon backslash backslash double you double you double double you dot example dot com"

Don't forget to add the "port eight tee" at the end. ;)

creepychris




msg:686720
 10:04 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Like incredibill, I redirect everything to a non www url format. All links within the site also are minus the www to be consistent. However, on print, such as name cards and flyers or newspaper ads, I still use the www so that it is immediately identified as a website resource.

Garfieldt




msg:686721
 10:05 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'd rather see the http:// part removed, that's 7 characters less instead of 3 characters less.

And the best would be to just remove the [www....] part. But that would be probably pushing it.

AlexK




msg:686722
 10:26 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Beagle:
www2.exampleuniversity.edu ... Confessing that I don't really know what the "www2" means.

Here's a quick WWW 101:

It's to do with the HTTP protocol upgrade from http/1.0 to http/1.1 (which introduced the Host Request header), the workings of DNS servers and the way that a browser sends a page request to a web-server.

To get a page from "www2.exampleuniversity.edu" a browser needs first to know what the IP-address is; it goes to the:

  1. TLD- (Top-Level-Domain) -DNS-server for edu...
  2. which tells it the IP-address for the exampleuniversity-DNS-server...
  3. which tells it the IP-address for the www2-DNS-server...
  4. which tells it the IP-address for www2.exampleuniversity.edu
(DNS-servers 2 and 3 may be the same)

The browser now sends a page-request to the final IP-address and includes a "Host: www2.exampleuniversity.edu" Request header. The web-server probably has many virtual domains (www, www1, www2, news, etc.) and uses the Host header to decide which of these virtual domains is the correct one to pass your page-request to. In this example, it is the www2 virtual domain, which actually serves up the page.

Clear as mud?

abates




msg:686723
 10:31 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

as an aside, "www." often gets pronounced here on television as "dub dub dub dot". I'd be tempted to support dropping "www" just because I find that incredibly annoying.

Meltdown




msg:686724
 10:33 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'd rather see the http:// part removed, that's 7 characters less instead of 3 characters less. And the best would be to just remove the [www....] part. But that would be probably pushing it.

I was just about to say, you don't even need to type http:// let alone www. in IE at least.

How many people waste time typing www. but then how many people waste time when going to another web address they know? I try and break out of the habit, it's not easy, of highlighting from the domain name to the end in the address bar and then typing over it, automatically deleting as I type.

Instead all you need to do is left click the address bar, and type in example.com and you're there but then I suppose this is built into IE or the software, rather than being a standard? It's hard breaking the habit though. The seconD I must waste....

Sanenet




msg:686725
 10:55 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

The http:// bit informs the browser that it's transferring a hypertext document (as opposed to ftp:// or gopher:// or whatever://), and the www. originally informed the browser that it was transferring a standard HTML document (World Wide Web document).

Over time, browsers evolved and assumed the [,...] so you don't need to type it.

Over time, the HTML format evolved, and the doctype of the page now informs the browser how to render it (ie, the charset, HTML, XHTML, XML, VML, etc), thus rendering the www. bit obsolete.

However, as webpages and browsers evolve, I can see more and more webmasters returning to the prefix, in order to distinguish their web pages (www.example.com) from their mobile content pages (wap.example.com) from their foreign content pages (english.example.com, french.example.com), etc.

IMHO, we're all getting too used to "assuming" that the browser will correct the users mistakes. You boys think Microsoft [Google - Yahoo! - example.com] is too powerful? Wait until they are controlling how people type in URIs and see what happens! ATEOFD, computers run on specific commands, let's not generalise as it cuts down on our future expansion capability.

Beagle




msg:686726
 11:03 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

AlexK - Thanks. That actually did help. :-)

john_k




msg:686727
 11:07 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I was just about to say, you don't even need to type http:// let alone www. in IE at least.

How many people waste time typing www. but then how many people waste time when going to another web address they know? I try and break out of the habit, it's not easy, of highlighting from the domain name to the end in the address bar and then typing over it, automatically deleting as I type.

Instead all you need to do is left click the address bar, and type in example.com and you're there but then I suppose this is built into IE or the software, rather than being a standard? It's hard breaking the habit though. The seconD I must waste....

This comment (and many others in this thread) are confusing the issue of A)what a user needs to type to get to your website with B) how your server responds to what they typed.

By all means, configure everything so that a user can get to the correct place by typing EITHER "www.example.com" OR "example.com".

The browser will determine whether or not the user needs to type "http://".

Advertise your web address in print as either "www.example.com" or "example.com" as you see fit. Be consistent.

Then
- Configure your system to redirect requests to "example.com" to "www.example.com"
- Advise owners of inbound links to point them to "www.example.com"
- Avoid the hassle of having to retrofit a growing website and/or a new type of server that works over HTTP.

If you don't think your organization/domain name will survive to see the next great thing traveling over the Internet, then it doesn't matter whether or not you use a hostname.

Y2K problems were etched into code written in the 60s because the programmers, who were certain that the code they were writing would be replaced long before the century portion of a year was important, went against the advised standard of using 4 digits for a year, and instead used 2 digits to save space.

By utilizing "www" you will not cause any problems for yourself. On the other hand, by dropping the host name portion of your Universal Resource Locator you are potentially sewing the seeds of your organization's own little Y2K-type issues in the future.

There are a lot of standards to be adhered to. Many aren't so standard (like "standard" HTML). Others are. Generally, it is sound advice to stick to standards unless you have some good reason (better than I don't like it) not to do so.

microcars




msg:686728
 11:22 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Not-so-educated users assume www is mandatory.

so much so that I got users typing in their email addresses as:
www.myusername@example.com

I've also received email that was addressed to me like this after they manually typed it into their mail program.

aarrggh

also- regarding using WWW or not for advertising, I think it just depends on WHAT you are advertising.

as previously mentioned, the use of aol.com and not www.aol.com on a Print Ad is because they just want you to remember the BRAND.
They don't expect you to go home and type in aol.com in your browser.

But the remark about giving out a URL and EXPECTING people to:
A: remember it
B: remember how to manually type it in and that it is a WEBSITE and not an EMAIL address
is very important and really depends on the target audience and medium.

My wife will absolutely not type anything in the browser's address bar, she types the URL into Google. It drives me nuts, but I assume there are MANY others doing exactly the same thing.

I personally do not like using WWW in front of any domain in Print if possible, but sometimes I realize it is necessary simply because many people still do not know the difference between a website and email. This seems to be especially true with people who use a browser for checking their mail and for web. It's all the same to them.

So... *I* think it is redundant, but it is still necessary in many instances.

I've given people a card with my name and "example.com" at the bottom and they ask "is that your email?"

so now I make sure there is a nice SHORT email address AND a www.Example.com on the card.

moTi




msg:686729
 11:25 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

let's face it from another point of view:
it's a language problem.
although english is a very practical language, it has one big flaw: it's the pronounced "w".
english: "double-u-double-u-double-u"
german e.g.: "wewewe"

it's kind of funny to hear english (or french) people struggling with that damned URLs. so inconvenient to pronounce.
apart from that: i feel sorry for people, who have gone the wrong way to eliminate www. from their internet presence. imho it looks irritating and cheap, at least in the google index.
stick with www for indexing purposes. it is absolutely standard. why worry, you can do nothing about it anyway! don't try to train millions of people. and, as being said, non-www's sometimes don't resolve. as webmaster, of course, you should make it work both ways - but redirect to www.
for branding purposes, it's another issue. in this case i use the non-www version.

StupidScript




msg:686730
 11:59 pm on Sep 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Re: www

Romeo is right on in msg #11.

The comments about backlink numbers are also correct.

MultiMan's msg #34 makes good sense, although it is an unintended "benefit".

dataguy's experience in msg #35 is extremely common.

But the real key is msg #11, by Romeo. The "www" isn't arbitrary and it isn't useless. In anything other than a very basic setup it is a routing tag that speeds data to its correct destination. For those of you who are using 301s or rewrite rules or whatever ... that's adding a process to a basic request that could be handled simply by configuring the server to accept both (with and without) and pass it to the correct handler.

People are going to use it for many years (not just Ma and Pa and Uneducated).

Re: file extensions

Most applications ignore the file extension. It's primarily used by Windows to figure out which application is responsible for handling those types of files. (Macs don't use 'em. Not required for 'Nix.) Otherwise, the headers and/or MIME type are indicator enough. Try making a JPEG image, removing the extension (and the dot) and opening it in your browser. No problem.

If anyone really has a problem with "www" (and it's amazing to me that some of you are so passionate about it), take it up with the IETF [ietf.org] ... get involved! Make your case with a body that has some say in it.

From the Tim Berners-Lee's IETF RFC2396 [ietf.org]:
This specification of URI syntax and semantics is derived from concepts introduced by the World Wide Web global information initiative, whose use of such objects dates from 1990 and is described in "Universal Resource Identifiers in WWW" [RFC1630]. The specification of URI is designed to meet the recommendations laid out in "Functional Recommendations for Internet Resource Locators" [RFC1736] and "Functional Requirements for Uniform Resource Names" [RFC1737].

Check it out! ;)

Clark




msg:686731
 12:45 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

If I.E. and Firefox automatically insert it, that would go a long way.

roldar




msg:686732
 1:39 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think the 'WWW' should be there, but not visible in the browser bar or anywhere else on the WWW. I think the browsers should automatically append it when they send and receive information, but that it should otherwise be invisible. It goes without saying that browsers are using 'WWW' so it's just a technical detail that most people shouldn't have to bother with when they're obviously browsing the WWW with their browser.

But I do think it should be there, and that every web server should accept requests to 'WWW' alone, and ignore requests for pages from domain.com alone.

I don't think any service, web, email, ftp, alternate reality, should use the domain by itself. In OO terms I see domain.com as an abstract object, while 'www' and 'ftp' and 'mail' are all children that use the domain name in specific ways to accomplish their different tasks.

patiodragon




msg:686733
 2:34 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

The "www" part of the address is a subdomain, just as photos.yourdomain.com, docs.yourdomain.com, etc. It may be mis-used or over-used, but this talk of "abolishing" it is a bit silly.

-KB

ssjxxx




msg:686734
 5:19 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I recently (<2 weeks ago) 301-ed www to non-www on my highest ranked domain. www.domain.com no longer appears on the search engines. The SERPs haven't changed, other than showing domain.com in every case instead of a mix of the two hostnames. I'm calling this redirection experiment a success.

I have known for quite some time that there is no technical reason for using the www. But when you tell some people to go visit "site.com", they will often type "www.site.com" out of habit. It's because of this behavior that we cannot abandon the www hostname entirely.

The whole debate on whether to use 'www' is very subjective. I prefer not to use it. But whatever you prefer, it's probably not a good idea to abandon either approach.

Wai_Wai




msg:686735
 7:36 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Interesting topic. For some reason, years ago, I decided the www. was redundant and I decided to promote my sites using sld.com. My largest site has about 100,000 backlinks (according to Yahoo) and about 2,000 link to the www. version of the domain name, so I used the DNS service at my registrar to redirect the www. to the non www. name.

This has worked fine for the most part, but I still occasionally have people pop up and tell me that I've done it wrong. The biggest problem is that when someone does a marketleap analysis on my sites, they always use a www. and my sites show very poor results. I guess it would only matter if I was going to sell one of these sites though.

If I had it to do all over again, I think I'd use the www. version.

Just wonder why these people do marketleap analyses on your "www." version. They should be professionals and know how to do the alayses correctly.

Anyway, the problem can be simply solved if you tell them how to do their marketleap analyses correctly, ie analysing the "non-www." version. So I don't tihnk you need to worry too much when you indeed sell your website. You can still sell for a good price :P

Wai_Wai




msg:686736
 8:00 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I was just about to say, you don't even need to type http:// let alone www. in IE at least.

How many people waste time typing www. but then how many people waste time when going to another web address they know? I try and break out of the habit, it's not easy, of highlighting from the domain name to the end in the address bar and then typing over it, automatically deleting as I type.

Instead all you need to do is left click the address bar, and type in example.com and you're there but then I suppose this is built into IE or the software, rather than being a standard? It's hard breaking the habit though. The seconD I must waste....

Other browsers (eg Firefox, Mozilla Suite) support this as well.
Actually if it is exmaple.com, you can simply type "exmaple". The browsers will add [www....] & .com for you :P However if you set the browsers not to do so, you can't beneift from it.

As to how to get rid of old habits, I know old habits die hard. But personally I have an effective way to get rid of it.

1) Be persistent! Tell yourself you must get rid of it. Then follow the following steps strictly with no excuse!

2) Now learn to type example.com only. However it is normal that you will type www.example.com naturally once in a while. When you DOES do so, clear the URL IMMEDIATELY, and retype it as example.com .

3) Keep doing the same every time you make this mistake. Don't be lazy or lenient and let you off retyping when you make a mistake.

4) After a while, your brain will be accustomed to it, and you will never type www.

I tried it. It works! :P

Wai_Wai




msg:686737
 8:09 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I personally do not like using WWW in front of any domain in Print if possible, but sometimes I realize it is necessary simply because many people still do not know the difference between a website and email. This seems to be especially true with people who use a browser for checking their mail and for web. It's all the same to them.

So... *I* think it is redundant, but it is still necessary in many instances.

I've given people a card with my name and "example.com" at the bottom and they ask "is that your email?"

so now I make sure there is a nice SHORT email address AND a www.Example.com on the card.

I do it in this way. Instead of relying on them to identify which is website or email address, I simply tell them explicitly on the card:

Telephone: ...
Mobile Phone: ...
Website: example.com
Email Address: admin@example.com

That's the best. No more confusion even for the ultimate newbies.

Wai_Wai




msg:686738
 8:17 am on Sep 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think www in front of your domain looks balanced with a .com on business cards - Having just a domain.com makes it look uneven to me.

Why do we need to make it balanced?
Actually it is not really balanced. The most balanced way to display might be:
www.#*$!.com

All sections have 3 words only. Completely balanced (but of no use except maybe being an eye-candy) :P

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