Just say no to cruft!
November 17, 2003 9:38 PM   Subscribe

.www deprecated? A quest to get rid off the "WWW" cruft in urls. Is it a good idea or a bad idea?
posted by riffola (58 comments total)

 
eh, i don't know that it really matters one way or the other. it's become habit for me to type www.
posted by pizzasub at 9:52 PM on November 17, 2003


I typically don't type it myself, and I'm annoyed when I run across a site that requires it. However, if I'm writing out the URL for an ad or brochure, I find the www helps identify the url as a web site, so I wouldn't be likely to deprecate it myself.
posted by willnot at 10:03 PM on November 17, 2003


It's a misconceived idea.

Historically, most hostnames began with "www." because this identified a specific computer which answered to the name "www". An organisation might have had "www.spleenexample.edu" for HTTP, "smtp.spleenexample.edu" for SMTP, "gopher.spleenexample.edu" for gopher etc, all pointing at different machines. Or if they didn't point at different machines, leaving that possibility open for later. And, for those few sites that predate RFC 974 and the MX record, the A record might have been used for specifying where mail went. Many places in the mid 90's would have had an A record for their main domain that pointed somewhere other than their web server. I imagine there are very few places like this now, but it is possible.

The notion that there should always be a host with an HTTP service at given domain name has merit on usability grounds. But at any given site there may be good if historical reasons not to do this. A "www" subdomain may actually be useful to some people, and insisting that there be something one level up will create headaches for them.

By all means set your site up without www if you can. Mounting a campaign against it is silly overreaction.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:09 PM on November 17, 2003


Ooh, and these guys apparently think that HTTP is the internet. And if we're mounting quixotic campaigns, I'd rather stamp that delusion out first.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:11 PM on November 17, 2003


SRV RR
posted by dorian at 10:15 PM on November 17, 2003


ACK
posted by quonsar at 10:18 PM on November 17, 2003


From the FAQ:

Very few sites currently hold this classification, partially because many internet users are not yet savvy enough to drop the www every time.

Nice. I'm not very Internet savvy, apparently.
posted by pizzasub at 10:23 PM on November 17, 2003


and i just don't know where the prey is. go to any great degree. american sheep must have their movies. well, there's a problem in that, i mean, it's like giving running bull a quart of jim beam! you've GOT to keep the bed thingy and the oldest jarvis son's take on small thinkers and right and wrong will either chill you or fill you with sticks until you bought into the ground.

yes, and its dependence on gasoline are not real, bush and company will be a correlation between molested boys growing up to heaven and hanging with your wife. i am today. anxiety ridden, and acutely depressed. 3rd draft: it's not personal, HTuttle, it's just the new Mother Nature takin' over she's gettin' us all she's gettin' us all

[quonsar examines his breasts]
posted by quonsar at 10:27 PM on November 17, 2003


hipcrime, is that you?!
posted by dorian at 10:28 PM on November 17, 2003


www.i think you're wrong about the movies.com
posted by muckster at 10:41 PM on November 17, 2003


quonsar depricated?

You know, we all could be replaced by a machine.
posted by wendell at 10:44 PM on November 17, 2003


Insane. I always type out the full URL. http://www.foo.com People who can't be bothered to type a few extra letters are just... hideously lazy I guess.

Besides, it simply doesn't feel right Why would I type "bar.com"? Too short. Doesn't have any real solid feel to it.
posted by Belgand at 11:24 PM on November 17, 2003


well, you wouldn't. in your example case, you would type "foo.com". otherwise i agree, web sites have been getting shorter. i think (well, i don't *really* think, it's just an expression) we need to lock all tall sites in a directory together and let them do some inbreeding.
posted by quonsar at 11:29 PM on November 17, 2003


using mozilla firebird I just type metafilter, then instead of hitting enter, i hold CTRL and hit enter, it automatically adds the www. and the .com
holding shift will add .net instead of .com
posted by Iax at 11:38 PM on November 17, 2003 [1 favorite]


I don't use it when I'm setting up sites. And if you want people to know it's a URL, type http://bla.com, rather then www.bla.com
posted by delmoi at 11:40 PM on November 17, 2003


Why would we want to weasle our way out of using the 'W' key? When would we use it--never, I wager--if not for the websites?
posted by The God Complex at 11:47 PM on November 17, 2003


The only thing that bugs me about www is saying it. Nine syllables. You can do a lot in nine syllables. That's half a haiku right there. Long enough to nod your head, waving your hands, saying, "I know, I know, you don't have to spell it out..." as someone crawls through the double you double you double you dot.

As a rule I type the whole thing in when writing it out, but when speaking it or hearing it spoken it's an irritating formality.

SRV RR, indeed. Always wondered why they didn't take over. Oh well...
posted by Voivod at 11:48 PM on November 17, 2003


First of all, he's not "deprecating" the www, he's disparaging it. You have to be in a position of some authority to deprecate a thing -- it's usually done by a recognized standards body.

Anyway, I like this: why do so many servers require their websites to communicate through the www subdomain?

That's a rather unclueful (read: inaccurate and seriously unclear about the concept) problem statement. The answer to that question is one or both of "They don't.", and "Do you know what any of those words mean?" No meaningful discussion of this topic can possibly occur without the term "host" and "hostname" coming up at least once, and he never uses them.

Mail servers do not require you to send mail to recipient@mail.domain.com.

Chalk and cheese, guy. An email can go through any number of mail transfer agents at little or no cost to usability, and the transaction is unidirectional from a user standpoint. Hostnames are effectively immaterial to email. HTTP on the other hand is connection-oriented and bidirectional from a user standpoint: you want to be talking to the actual web server.

If I were to host my website on the default host for my domain, it would require me to accept HTTP connections on the server that that domain resolves to. That server is not intended to be a webserver; and for a number of good and sound reasons, it never will be. The web, as i_am_joes_spleen points out, is not the internet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:49 PM on November 17, 2003


if you want people to know it's a URL, type http://bla.com

bonus feature! AOL users are thrown into panicky confusion when confronted with cryptic high-tech mumbo-jumbo like :// and most probably will never reach your site.
posted by quonsar at 11:50 PM on November 17, 2003


The only thing that bugs me about www is saying it.

I repeat the "aitch tee tee pee colon forward-slash forward-slash double-yew double-yew double-yew dot" before every website address that I recite. I also recite each.syllable.very.slowly.
posted by The God Complex at 11:54 PM on November 17, 2003


That's "dubdubdub", while "http://", as we all know, is pronounced "hitty-ping".

hee hee hee.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:55 PM on November 17, 2003


It only bothers me when I navigate to a site www-less and then I get all sorts of issues because the site's cert is for the www-full version of the url.

For example if you go to virgin-atlantic.com and click onwards a few steps you'll probably get an error about a cert mismatch. (www.virgin-atlantic.com vs virgin-atlantic.com)
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 12:46 AM on November 18, 2003


I make it a point to always have www.foo.com and foo.com pointed at the same IP. That takes care of BOTH the lazy slobs and the pedantic morons.
posted by spazzm at 1:14 AM on November 18, 2003


Pedantic morons sums these guys up for me, thanks spazzm
posted by ajbattrick at 1:22 AM on November 18, 2003


hitty-ping dubdubdub?

Sounds like lyrics from a 50s rock 'n' roll tune.
posted by bwg at 2:49 AM on November 18, 2003


My first webhost charged me (monthly!) for the privilege of making my site accessible without the "www." - thankfully I moved on from that so-called "provider" years ago. (Pssst: It was burlee.com, if you're interested in knowing.)
posted by jca at 3:27 AM on November 18, 2003


If www is dropped and http:// stays that's fine, but let's not break future innovation by always assuming foo.com is a website.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:48 AM on November 18, 2003


RFC's from the past about e-mail and DNS had the following ideas.

You have domains. metafilter.com
You have machines in that domain. The machine called www. As in www.metafilter.com

There was a null meaning to a IP address assigned to metafilter.com, as a machine is not a network.

The people (or person) who put up the web site whole argument revolves around lazyness. Not about the network. Guess what? Network wins, as far as I am concerned.

(I'm so damn old and cranky I don't have a SINGLE MACHINE that responds to domain.com. They repond to www.domain.com et la, but not the domain itself.)
posted by rough ashlar at 4:38 AM on November 18, 2003


Don't you think the WWW sounds rather, oh, pResidential?
posted by nofundy at 4:52 AM on November 18, 2003


1) I'm more in favor of changing the pronunciation of the English letter "W" from "double-yoo" to "wuh" or "dub" or "woo". It would mess up The Alphabet Song, but I've always been bothered that only one of the 26 letters has a three syllable name. If we're going to break backwards compatibility, let's really go for it.

2) I always thought Bare Bones Software got it right in the beginning: web.barebones.com. Too bad it's now just a forward to the more popular "www".
posted by jmcmurry at 5:38 AM on November 18, 2003


I've always been bothered that only one of the 26 letters has a three syllable name

Curiously enough, it also means my initial has more syllables than my name. Which is one reason why my personal domain is www-free.


(but unlike our friend in the linked article, I don't feel the need to make everyone else do this.)
posted by weston at 5:50 AM on November 18, 2003


I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out that "W" is the 23rd letter of the alphabet.



fnord.
posted by dvdg at 6:01 AM on November 18, 2003


"www" is three times double-u, so it's equivalent to six "u". My favourite pronunciation is therefore "sextupleyou."
posted by sfenders at 7:24 AM on November 18, 2003


I remember at some point with Netscape you could just type in "metafilter" and it would automatically assume you meant www.metafilter.com. I think it was removed when "internet keywords" started getting a buzz, so it actually reverted back to the longhand. Now more often than not the browser will mount a search for the word you type rather than take you to an attempted address. I think it would be a nice preference to have in Explorer... "one word web address."

My "w" key is going to burn out.
posted by robbie01 at 7:25 AM on November 18, 2003


That's "dubdubdub"

At a sales meeting a few years back, we were demonstrating the company's websites to the sales staff so they could go, you know, use it to sell stuff. I happened to be looking over someone's shoulder while the presenter was giving out the URL, and saw her write down, literally, "dub dub dub dot"...
posted by ook at 7:26 AM on November 18, 2003


You have domains. metafilter.com
You have machines in that domain. The machine called www. As in www.metafilter.com


I wonder which specific machine at google.com is called www.

The people (or person) who put up the web site whole argument revolves around lazyness.

And while we're at it, we should all be typing hypertexttransferprotocol://worldwideweb.metafilter.commercialworldwidewebsite
posted by rory at 7:28 AM on November 18, 2003


I never type www., except when forced. And if the site's a .com, I don't even type that. The browsers I've used for the past several years (iCab on Mac OS 8/9 and Omniweb and now Safari on Mac OS X) all surround a bare word with www. and .com. They even can figure out that, say, wunderground/US/MN should be http://www.wunderground.com/US/MN/.
posted by Utilitaritron at 8:36 AM on November 18, 2003


I always thought it was pronounced "trip-dub." That's what Wired told me in 1994.
posted by muckster at 9:01 AM on November 18, 2003


type http://bla.com, rather then www.bla.com

Yes, because that's much clearer to non-techies, and far easier to type.
posted by me3dia at 9:11 AM on November 18, 2003


I remember at some point with Netscape you could just type in "metafilter" and it would automatically assume you meant www.metafilter.com. ... I think it would be a nice preference to have in Explorer... "one word web address."

You could just add the Google toolbar, then you just have "metafilter" + I'm feeling lucky.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:15 AM on November 18, 2003


"I wonder which specific machine at google.com is called www."

It would appear to be, at the time of writing, a machine with the address 216.239.37.99. However, Akamai's DNS servers play clever tricks in order to balance load, and the "specific machine" is in fact a CNAME entry into that cleverness. A CNAME is, for purposes of this discussion, a specific machine -- the identity of a host or set of hosts which service requests directed to it.

$ dig www.google.com
; <<>> DiG 9.2.3rc4 <<>> www.google.com
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 12803
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 9, ADDITIONAL: 9

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.google.com. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.google.com. 3555 IN CNAME www.google.akadns.net.
www.google.akadns.net. 256 IN A 216.239.37.99


Yes, yes, I get the point of the snarkiness, but it is a failure to understand the technology while still bandying the jargon about that leads to confusion.
posted by majick at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2003


www is pronounced "wuh-wuh-wuh" and not "dub-dub-dub" which is soooooo 1996. The usage "wuh-wuh-wuh" hasn't been overused by the masses yet, and is therefore still much more chic.

For example, it's "wuh-wuh-wuh dot foobar dot com slash blah blah" or whatever, (http://www.foobar.com/blah), but for the Net savvy, "foobar dot com" (foobar.com) should be sufficient. You don't need the wuh-wuh-wuh if there's a dot com or dot net or dot orgie at the end. If it's dot eedieu or dot mill or something more obscure than that like cee-ex or whatever, maybe the wuh-wuh-wuh would make more sense.

"dub-dub-dub dot foobar dot com" sounds too much like "rub dub dub doodah in the tub." It's childish. Although both sound like stuttering. Perhaps if we started a new trend and began referring to "doubleyew doubleyew doubleyew" as just "wuh-dub" we could revolutionize the world. As in "wuh-dub foobar com" and keep the periods silent. If someone trendy and savvy hears "wuh-dub" they should automatically know where the dots go: after the wuh-dub and before the com.

Really this is quite elementary when one thinks about it, although I find myself feeling like Dan Ackroyd explaining the metric alphabet.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2003


Dumb. Kuro5hin, for example, has www.kuro5hin.org and scoop.kuro5hin.org, which are two entirely different sites and need to be able to set separate cookies. If I just used kuro5hin.org for the main site, the cookie would have to be pointed to .kuro5hin.org and would then show up when you went to scoop.kuro5hin.org as well.*

Now, usability wise, I always make sure that if I'm going to require a hostname, the user doesn't have to actually type it in for the site to work. If you go to http://kuro5hin.org the hostname will be silently added for you. In fact, it makes good use of mod_rewrite trickery so that if you go to a particular url, it will add the www while still taking you where you wanted to go. Sites that fail to work if you either do or don't add a www are retarded.

* Ok, technically we've fixed that, and the two cookies would no longer clash, and it could actually work this way, but that's not the point.
posted by rusty at 9:26 AM on November 18, 2003


I don't like the way they write. It's arrogant. It seems like these guys are trying to trick people into thinking their movement has already succeeded instead of honestly convincing people to jump on. "www has been deprecated," as if they are some kind of ruling body on this matter, instead of "we think www should be deprecated."
posted by tomorama at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2003


A CNAME is, for purposes of this discussion, a specific machine -- the identity of a host or set of hosts which service requests directed to it.

So you mean it's... a metaphor? An imaginary machine, invoked for the purposes of this discussion? And not the actual machines that subdomains initially referred to way back in the good ol' days when websites had addresses like frodo.ucla.edu pointing to boxes with 'FRODO' written on them? So our previous assumptions about what a subdomain refers to are out of date?

Like Akamai's DNS servers, humans also play clever tricks in order to balance load. One of them is to omit adding four extra characters every time we type a domain name into a browser when we want to go to the front page of the corresponding website.
posted by rory at 9:59 AM on November 18, 2003


If I just used kuro5hin.org for the main site, the cookie would have to be pointed to .kuro5hin.org

It's worse than that, iirc. You can't set ".foo.org" cookies for visitors who use hostname foo.org, only "foo.org". And you can't set "foo.org" cookies for visitors who use www.foo.org. So if a visitor switches from one to the other, he'll lose his cookies.

That's one reason why most everyone redirects to one or the other. Which one only matters if you have other hostnames that want to share cookies. Many sites do, so they use the www.
posted by sfenders at 10:46 AM on November 18, 2003


The www. = website is something that has always bothered me. Joe average does not realise that www.foobar.com is not an URL and doesn't really mean squat. It's like printing your phone number on your business card but not including your area code. Works fine locally but as soon as you travel out of your area code people can't reach you. In systems I set-up I always used http://web.foo.net when ever the client let me.
In support it bites me when ever someone has to visit a secure site. Trying to convince a user that the https:// is actually required is at times impossible. Makes me wish mailto:// gopher:// veronica:// ftp:// ftps:// were more popular so people would realise that a URL requires that information. As it so often is in computing this is all Microsofts fault. IE was the first browser to guess the .com; www.; http:// if you didn't type it into the address field.
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 AM on November 18, 2003


It's like printing your phone number on your business card but not including your area code.

More like printing a phone number on your business card but not mentioning it's a fax machine. But not really, because people's default assumption is that www.domain.com is a website (why would you point the www subdomain at anything else?). So it's like printing your phone number on your business card and having it go to your phone.

Your analogy is more like those businesses that advertise their 'net address' as 'foobar.com', but have a website that can only be reached at http://www.foobar.com, not http://foobar.com. Which is annoying. Webmasters who insist on the www should at least make sure their advertisers know the difference.
posted by rory at 12:21 PM on November 18, 2003


It's raining outside, right?
posted by i_cola at 12:43 PM on November 18, 2003


In support it bites me when ever someone has to visit a secure site. Trying to convince a user that the https:// is actually required is at times impossible.

It shouldn't be. A request to http://secure.site.com should redirect to https://secure.site.com.

Typographically, I prefer www.site.com to http://site.com . Like it or not, www is a pretty clear signal that we are talking about a web site (and personally, I'm not bothered by the assumption that the web browser should infer http as part of the url, in the same way that I'm not bothered by the assumption that ssh clients infer ssh, ftp clients infer ftp.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2003


You would think. It's amazing how many shopping, banking, trading, education sites seem unable to get it right.
posted by Mitheral at 1:50 PM on November 18, 2003


So if a visitor switches from one to the other, he'll lose his cookies.
I lost my cookies when I visited Metababy the other day (it was all those goatse and tubgirl pics).

But semi-seriously, if we're going to vote on the best way to verbally abbreviate "www", how about "Trip-Dub" (as in triple-double-u)?

Trip-Dub. It rolls off the tongue. (Or trips) C'mon, who's with me here? Trip-Dub!!!
*crickets chirping*
posted by wendell at 2:28 PM on November 18, 2003


This guy isn't the first to point out the stupidity of telling a webbrowser you want a web server twice (once with http, a second time with www), but most people see SRV as the means of acheiving that goal, along with adding some good features like fail-over support and the ability to map different hostnames to different ports (so you could run multiple HTTPS servers from one IP, which I'd think would be enough for every shared hosting company out there to heavily push for SRV record support in browsers).

The reason you have to type in the hostname www is that it is a universally adopted workaround for the problem of service-server mappings being unavailable for any services other than email. That problem was fixed in (according to Voivod's link) 1996,
but it's still necessary to use the workaround because there aren't any web browsers that support SRV records. When you ask for the address of www, you are actually saying "give me the name of the server handling HTTP for the domain above this record, but give it to me as the address of an imaginary computer called www so my idiot browser can understand what's going on." When a web browser supports SRV records, it automatically tacks on the equivalent of www (something along the lines of _http._tcp) to the requested address, and gets back a list of where the service is available along with how much each location is preferred over the next. This results in the user doing the same thing as in this site's method (going to http://sld.tld) but the SRV method is a better way of getting the location of the server providing the service since it allows for more services than just HTTP on different servers, all available at the same address. Best of all, SRV records can co-exist with a www alias (or maybe even point to a machine that really is called www), allowing non-supporting browsers to continue to work with the old manual step of telling a webbrowser it should talk to a web server (almost like the Class A method described on the site, but with the ability for the server to be somewhere other than at sld.tld).

Yes, it's stupid having to tell a web browser that it should ask for a web server instead of expecting it to ask for one automatically, but SRV records are the way to fix that. In the absence of SRV record support, fixing it by expecting users to manually tell their browser to look up what has been agreed by common use to be an SRV record's equivalent is a lot better than fixing it by this guy's scheme of requiring every second-level domain to be a CNAME or A record pointing to the server/load-balancer handling your web service.

A quick googling for SRV records and HTTP support found: a site trying to get users to start expecting SRV support and hostmasters to start adding the records, a draft standard on use of SRV records with HTTP (which seems to have expired), and a request to add support for SRV records to Mozilla. The age and lack of effect these linked sites have had shows how little people mind typing in four extra letters though.

Oh, and the reason you don't have to type in mail.sld.tld in an email address, and only sld.tld, is because the domainname to server-providing-email-service mapping is done through an ancestor of SRV records (the MX record), so no workaround equivalent to adding www to a domain is necessary. The ease and reliability of email getting to the server responsible for handling it just shows how well using SRV records for all services would work if they gained support from clients as MX has for email.
posted by Nick Tamm at 2:34 PM on November 18, 2003


In systems I set-up I always used http://web.foo.net when ever the client let me.

I hope they didn't let you too often. A large percentage of people recalling the address from memory will transpose "www" for "web" and they won't make it to the site. You could say, "serves them right for assuming", but in the end, it's your client's website that is losing business.
posted by 4easypayments at 4:05 PM on November 18, 2003


well, i just say "meepzorp.com". if they look confused i make derogatory remarks about the net being around since 1960 and the web since 1992, and don't they think it's about time they got with the program?
posted by quonsar at 6:21 PM on November 18, 2003


I don't know how to break it to you, quonsar, but it's not the ".com" part that confuses them. (I myself have on more than one occasion typed "meepzork" or "merpzorp". Why couldn't you have come up with a better domain name, like "izzlefaff", I mean "izzlepfaf", or is that "izlepfaff"?)
posted by wendell at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2003


This is also assuming that balh.com is understood to be a site on the internet.

But what about blah.info? or bla.ca? On PBS a few years ago I heard them describing their website address as "visit us on the web ad www.pbs.org (dot com not required for .org domains)"

If one of the three universal indicators isn't there, either the http://, the www., or the .com/.net, a lot of people won't autoatically get right away that it's supposed to be a web site.

Given that the floodgates have been opened and the idiotic new TLDs are all the rage, getting rid of the http:// and the www. both seems like a bad idea.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:55 PM on November 18, 2003


System admins who don't set a non-www address are the real lazy farkers.
posted by timyang at 9:33 PM on November 18, 2003


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