April 30, 2008
Pop quiz, hotshot. Which one is the superior Uniform Resource Locator?
This is one of those intractable problems. Global wars have been fought over so much less. In hacker circles, this is sometimes referred to as a bikeshed discussion.
That said, I do have a few bits of practical advice that I think apply unilaterally, whatever your position is:
- Pick one or the other form and stick with it. Once the URL is out there in the wild, you need everyone to link to the same form for link juice amplification purposes, if nothing else. If half your incoming links are split between the www and non-www forms of your URL, that will hurt you a heck of lot more than picking the "wrong" prefix. It's also a bad idea to decide a few years down the road that you want to switch teams -- so choose wisely.
- Make sure your site works with or without the leading www prefix. Regardless of your position on this critically important issue, your site should work either way. Serving up visitors who assumed you had a leading www prefix a 404 page is just plain bad internet citizenship, and borderline rude. Sure, encourage people to use the correct form of your URL but don't penalize them when they fail to respect your wishes. It's best if you implement URL rewriting rules that "fix" the error automatically and with no fuss for your visitors.
- The www prefix is implicit and assumed outside the address bar. Even if you use it -- and many of the biggest sites on the internet still do -- nobody says the dub-dub-dub any more, and certainly you're not printing "www" on your logos and business cards and so forth.
- Consider whether you plan to use other subdomains. If you plan to have, say, blog.* and mail.* and beta.* subdomain prefixes active on your domain, you might actually want the www as a disambiguator.
Beyond that, it's largely a matter of taste, though you could make a case that user-centered URL design should rule the day. If we're dropping the www prefix, why stop there? Why not drop the http:// protocol specifier before it, and the inevitable .com at the end, too?
For me, though, the great dub-dub-dub debate is mostly a source of amusement. Readable URLs are important, but you should be far more concerned about the content behind that URL than the URL itself. It's the kind of meaningless distraction that is parodied beautifully in the animated series Home Movies. The relevant section is right at the beginning of the episode "Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion".
Melissa: You know, Brendan, you don't have to say dubya-dubya-dubya any more.
Brendan: What? Why?
Melissa: You can just say the website name without the dubya-dubya-dubya.
Brendan: No, no, no. That's how you type it in, Melissa. Dubya-dubya-dubya dot..
Melissa: I know that's how you type it, but you don't have to say it. If you said to me, moviewinnerorweiner dot com, I would know what you meant, without the double-u.. double-u.. double-u.
Brendan: So no w's, ever?
Melissa: OK, Brendan, for the sake of this conversation, you don't have to say dubyadubyadubya. Because I know what it is. And so does the rest of the world.
(starts at 6:48)
Brendan: dubya-dubya-dubya dot movieweinerorwinner dot com likes my stuff a lot, so they asked me to write some stuff.
Jason: you're writing a review for dubya-dubya-dubya dot movieweinerorwinner dot com?
Melissa: (shouting) You guys, you don't have to say dubya-dubya-dubya!
Brendan: But yet..
Melissa: I don't want to have this conerversation again!
Jason: What are you talking about, Melissa?
Brendan: You have to say it Melissa. You gotta say it.
Melissa: (exasperated sigh) You don't!
Brendan: You gotta say it.
Melissa: You don't, because everyone knows what it means!
Jason: How do you know it's a website?
Melissa: Because you say dot com.
Jason: Yeah, but how do you know it's dubya-dubya-dubya?
Brendan: Yeah, that's a good point!
Melissa: Because it's just one of those things that when something's around for a long enough time in society, you can just abbreviate it.
Brendan: Like what else?
Jason: Like what, like names? Names of people?
Brendan: That's what I was saying.
Melissa: (exasperated) All right, you know what? Say dubya-dubya-dubya, I don't care.
Jason: No, you know what I'm saying.
Melissa: No, forget it. You're right. In fact, don't say dubya-dubya-dubya, say "world wide web" every time you say a website.
Jason: No, that's a total waste.
Brendan: That's a waste of time.
My point exactly.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I'm always amazed when emnot/em typing in "www." manages to break things; my university's public website somehow redirects to the SSL port and breaks if you don't type WWW, which I've pointed out, though I continue to be ignored.
Practice tends to favor the simple: how many people actually enforce www.domain.tld as canonical anymore?
haha, nice post. Hits the point exactly...
Agreed - it's ridiculous that some very popular sites still break if you don't explicitly request www.example.com. It's 2 or 3 lines in your .htaccess file! Come on!
Heh, I remember that episode. One of my favorite shows - good post :D
The worst part is that saying "double u double u double u" takes 9 syllables while saying "world wide web" takes 3. How many acronyms are three times longer than what they stand for?
And there was me thinking all the hip cats said "triple-w dot".
I've heard "hippity-tippity dub-dub-dub" said for "http://www."
I *think* the person said it jokingly.
Nice, you showed me a funny cartoon series I din't know about.. know I'm gonna have to waste hours.
http:// is a crucial part of the URI simply because it designates it as a URI!
What should "example.com" mean?
"a href="http://example.com/"http://example.com//a" or "./example.com"?
I've always liked having the "www" at the beginning of URL's, but as you said when sub-domains come into it I leave them out. What really annoys me though is when people add "www" to the beginning of a subdomain (e.g. http://www.blog.globodex.com). For me leave the prefix with a normal URL and keep it off when using sub-domains.
It's important to get your canonical links down, but oddly you can do everything wrong with your URL (having a "real" domain and a Typepad domain, accepting both www and sans www, having unfriendly URLs) yet be a very succesful blogger (see many popular Typepad bloggers like Seth Godin and VC Fred Wilson).
Good writing and good engagement with readers can overcome almost any bonehead technical move. Course, if your content is great AND you do the blog tech stuff right, you're golden.
www.somecompanyname.tld was our production website,
but vwvw.somecompanyname.tld was our qa sandbox while showing our products on QVC.
with the proper font, it's hard to tell :-)
If only it was their ABC Saturday morning show, Squigglevision: "www, learn it, use it, wear it out."
Personally I prefer the no-www approach - www is so 90s. But of course the www subdomain should always be supported using a permanent redirect.
The only technical issue I've come across with no-www is segmenting cookies by subdomain. If you set your cookies against '.example.org', you can't have cookie-free subdomains like 'static.example.org'. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong - perhaps not specifying a cookie domain at all while serving cookies from 'example.org' does not include subdomains, but specifying a cookie domain of 'example.org' implies '.example.org' which includes all subdomains.
There's a whole lot more discussion on the www debate matter here:
I'm I the only person that no longer types the url in the adress bar? 90% of the websites I visit are bookmarked, the other 10% I just google it. Using a quick search shortcut (like "g coding horror" for google "coding horror", or a quicksearch bar) is faster and less error prone than typing the url itself. URLs are obsolete, in these days an URL is just a little more meaningful than an IP adress.
It's much easier for us Germans, as we pronounce W pretty much like you pronounce V (slightly different vowel). So it's "Weh-Weh-Weh".
I wonder what Coach McGirk would have to say on this issue...
Home Movies was comedic genius. Sadly, I think a lot of us HAVE had discussions like the one in that episode, too. heh.
I've become so trained to ALT+D rootWord CTRL+Enter for going to sites by name that not having a "www.rootWord.com" would seriously slow me down. Thankfully all of the big browsers have this exact shortcut.
Hmm.. I agree about the removal of www.. but the complete removal of the suffixes and the protocols would be a mistake, if for only of reasons of readability, which you touched on. You'd have to rewrite the browsers to accommodate for these omissions.
I prefer the abberviation 3-Dub. It's much faster and most people don't get it the first time they here it (self included). Hopefully this makes them consider how inferior Dub-Dub-Dub or worse DoubleU-DoubleU-DoubleU is to 3-Dub. It's only 2 syllables and much easier to type.
Bikeshed discussion := "saying/not saying www". Now that's easy to remember.
I find it more convenient to Internet search the url of something I type these days. Instead of typing the prefix "http://www.codinghorror...", I just type "g coding horror" and then get ready for the mouse clicking or whatever. (Even if I use w3m in emacs)
Your post is a reminder to make it easier to do the latter. In other words, do the technical side right, so the users can be as casual about it as possible.
I'm not that old, but I remember a time when not every hostname on the Internet was a web server.
I've always hated the "www" convention. It's completely arbitrary. But it's become so widely used that it's almost part of the protocol by now. I've observed a lot of users that think "www." is a required part of every URL. Sites like del.icio.us are totally inaccessible to them, because they'll invariably type "www.del.icio.us" or even "www.del.icio.us.com", and get one of those impostor advert sites.
I remember the time when you used to email /etc/hosts to each other.
In Firefox, just typing "codinghorror" or even "codding horror" into the address bar gives the proper site (www.codinghorror.com/blog) without any problems. This works for most sites that aren't at the top of my URL history.
I agree with the redundant 'www'... I remember the early days of the internet, BEFORE http, when the protocol was used to determine which host handled the request (e.g., ftping to 'example.com' would send you 'ftp.example.com').
However, for the non-US audience, the .com is far from redundant. Not to mention various non-profits, education institues, etc.
Sadly my university's CS site breaks if you don't enter www and it's a subdomain too.
what's worst for me is when users assume the "www" on things like our web-access mail, (mail.domain.tld/exch).
You've nailed it right on the head, re: using an Internet search to navigate to websites.
I've watched many family, friends and colleagues navigate to their favorite website and I'm amazed at how many of them will always use a search engine to get there.
The conversation I end up having with them about how to simply type in a domain name in lieu of using a search engine ends up sounding like the Home Movie animation.
dub dub dub is dead...
I remember way back when there was a small group of websters who tried to change the convention from 'www' to 'web', as in http://web.example.com. I wish that had taken hold.
I say make both work, then what difference does it make? I just don't see the reason to argue about it.
I say make both work, then what difference does it make? I just don't see the reason to argue about it.
Arguing about minor/unimportant issues is the lifeblood of the internet!
In french, we commonly say "3 w", wich is simple and painless in our language. Very few people use the http:// prefix anymore.
Hi Jeff, I notice stackoverflow can be accessed via either form- now when you install the 301 redirect which way are you going to go?
It's true that "www" may be passe.. for technocrats.. but average users still expect the "www". Which is presumably why Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Sun, et al. all enforce "www" as the canonical version (via 301 redirect).
Technorati and Digg, on the other hand, remove the "www" (via 301 redirect).
Interesting, that. The more "blogcentric" a site gets, the less likely they are to use "www". Meanwhile, it seems like most of the big guns (it would be interesting to see some hard numbers) still use the "www".
If www is good enough for Google/Jeff Atwood, it's good enough for me.
ok, I was reading your comments, and I read that prefix thingy in my head so many times, it really started bugging me, like a bad song stuck in my head.
I've seen where example.net and www.example.net went to two completely different sites.
I always just thought it was lazy if you didn't type the WWW. I've never checked my sites to see if they don't work. If people aren't willing to type the WWW, then they clearly aren't the caliber of people i want to frequent my site anyways.
Now how about the (even more trivial) debate about the trailing forward slash on URLs? :)
I believe the trailing slash is prefered, it has something to do with allowing the web server to skip some kind of lookup process... I remember reading about it years ago in an article for optimizing sites since everyone was still on 28.8 modems back then, but all the details are a bit fuzzy now.
"I'm not that old, but I remember a time when not every hostname on the Internet was a web server."
That's still the case. The point is that technically it isn't the "www" that designates it as a web server, it's the "http://". (Yes, the http that you don't even have to bother typing in because if you're in a web browser, it assumes unless you specify otherwise that you intend to go to a web site.)
And it's not a per-hostname thing either. There were (and no doubt still are) sites you can hit either as a web host or an ftp site. There was even some goofy lyrics site that started off as an ftp site then added a web interface which you'd access by going to http://ftp.whatever.com/.
I don't like "www" because it's just a convention and it's usually redundant. What is the point of this:
Yes, it might have made sense when these had to be separate, easily distinguished machines AND when it wasn't clear that http was going to become by far the dominant way of accessing information on the web.
But today, how about if the protocol just defaults http for a web client and ftp for an ftp client? And you only have to bother specifying it if you're doing something unexpected?
It already works that way today for a ton of sites, and it's been proven there are no problems at all with this, so "www." is just a waste of everyone's time.
As for getting rid of tld suffixes, that's great, too. I hated it when they introduced a bunch of new TLDs a few years back. Now, in addition to knowing the company name, I'm supposed to know if it's arbitrarily ended up on .com, .net, .info, .web, or whatever? You're telling me codinghorror.com, codinghorror.net., codinghorror.info, and codinghorror.web might all be different, valid sites? I say that's nonsense. They might as well be the equally arbitrary codinghorror.1, codinghorror.2, codinghorror.3, and codinghorror.4.
But that's another discussion. The point is losing the "www." loses us nothing. As someone else said, "www." is so 1990s. URLs without it look cleaner and correspond to how most people say them.
"I always just thought it was lazy if you didn't type the WWW. I've never checked my sites to see if they don't work. If people aren't willing to type the WWW, then they clearly aren't the caliber of people i want to frequent my site anyways."
Saying someone is too lazy to do something usually implies it's something worth doing. Are you "too lazy" to count from one to ten every hour on the hour?
There was a famous virus called the cookie monster that would pop up every now and then and say "give me a cookie", and you had to type in the word "cookie" to go back to using your computer. Requiring your users to type "www." essentially makes you the modern-day version of that virus.
Well, I do not think that the question whether to use ww or not is trivial. Because as Paul Annesly correctly pointed out, using a non-www-version of a webpage will lead to setting cookies for the whole domain, thus making cookieless domains (for example for fast cdn-like access of static resources like css, js and images) impossible.
And while the url obviously ist a little shorter without www., the branding and recognition of urls in offline media seems to be better using www as prefix (since nobody bothers to print out the http://).
So I generelly recommend allowing both ways of accessing a domain while forwarding the non-www to the www-version.
The http:// specifies the protocol and has nothing to do with the fact that some people think they are surfing some kind of web so replacing it with "web" is really stupid.
And I have never seen a browser that requires you to type that in, just type the domain and it assumes the http protocol.
Removing the top domain is impossible, why would .com be implied ?? I know IE sometimes does that depending on language settings but that's just stupid, why would a certain top domain be preferred over another ?
Of course both www.domain.top and domain.top should work, since we have to live with people thinking the www is part of some kind of standard, other than that the domain name system and the protocol is just fine, don't touch it, or are you looking for an AOL keyword system int he future with reserved words and sentences ??
Damn, Home Movies rocks... but have you ever tried to find episodes on the net? I wouldn't recommend searching for "Home Movies"...
I tend to specify every last character of a resource - but I work with a bunch of idiots who'd never work it out if I didn't. Hmm.
Put me down as the 'I don't type in the URL box, I type in the Google box' crowd. It makes a lot more sense. In FireFox and in IE both bars are right at the top of the browser.
If I type 'codinghorror' into the search box I'll find myself here. If I type 'coddinghorror' or 'codinghoror' into the search box, I get a 'Did you mean...' and bam, I find myself here.
But if I mistype a URL into the address bar there is no telling what I might find. People go out of their way to buy domain names that are common typo's of popular names.
Going through a trustworthy search engine is just good practice. It also means not having to worry about 'www' or not or if the site was .com or .org.
1) Type the company name name into your homepage.
2) Are you feeling lucky punk?
3) Website appears.
I used to think that procedure was just for the likes of my mum. Sadly I've found it's usual quicker than Alt+D etc even as a touch typist...
Finally a non hardware post :)
One thing you need to watch out for when you use non-www is cookies bleeding down to sub-domains.
Google Webmaster Tools has an option to "Set preferred domain", where you can choose if Google will provide search results for your site with or without the www.
Incidentally, I've always pronounced it "triple-dub"
To Rob: I do this from time to time too. I believe it's why the "I Feel Lucky" button was invented.
I think URLs with www look better and more web-ish. To people who are not geeks they might as well look more familiar and "right".
I also think that a www. in front of the domain gives a certain counterbalance to the .com in the end. So I always use it. And yes I'm printing it on the business cards and I expect no one to say the www when they read the address.
And the cookie issue which Paul Annesley, above, already mentioned is another factor.
@Jeff: The www prefix is implicit and assumed outside the address bar. Even if you use it -- and many of the biggest sites on the internet still do -- nobody says the dub-dub-dub any more, and certainly you're not printing "www" on your logos and business cards and so forth.
I agree with most points, but not this. I like seeing www.* before urls in print (and of course online).
And www. *is* a subdomain, so www.whatever.codinghorror.com is really ugly (but should work for the "www is always mandatory" crowd.
If we're going to start dropping the www why not go with Tim Berners-Lee's suggestions for making the whole URL more standard, reversing the current order of specificity (TLD-domain-subdomain). He even suggests dropping the double slashes:
It sounds horrid to say, but looks much better to me as a programmer.
Great minds etc. At least I know I didn't make it up and really did say that.
@Julian: It DOES look lopsided without the www. I'd never thought of it before but yep...
...is definitely missing something.
It's as if you need the "www" to shield you from the suckiness of the anal, pretentious, and socially maladjusted "http://" scheme specifier... obviously if they'd been reading Coding Horror (assuming CH had been around back in those days) we'd have a better web.. ah well. One day we nerds will learn to stop ramming our oppressive nerd data/schema/specifiers/syntax down the throats of normal people...
At the University of Maryland, we used to say, "um-de-doo", i.e. umd.edu == "um-de-doo". For example, enrollment-dot-um-de-doo.
So, in this context, the main site for maryland - www.umd.edu could be: "dubya, dubya, dubya, um, de, doo".
Sounds like Sinatra to me...
@Walsh, @Ferguson - Google's BigTable distributed storage system basically uses that method (reversed hostname) to create Webtable keys:
"For example, in Webtable, pages in the same domain are
grouped together into contiguous rows by reversing the
hostname components of the URLs. For example, we
store data for maps.google.com/index.html under the
key com.google.maps/index.html. Storing pages from
the same domain near each other makes some host and
domain analyses more efficient."
If that's not fascinating, I don't know what is..
I don't care about whether it's with www. or not, just as long as I don't need to type it in. I never ever type in www. , even for my college website which requires the www. I always type it without www. first then realise my mistake. THey even redesigned their website recently, would have thought they'd correct that.
I use Ctrl+Enter a lot, but have found myself using "g website" in Opera a lot recently.
When I'm watching someone use the internet and they actually type in the www. I feel genuinely frustrated at them. If it's a .com and they don't use Ctrl+Enter then I get frustrated too, my friend types the www. for that too I feel like removing them from the computer. It's perfectly computer literate and I used to make a point of saying "Ctrl+Enter" but he still persists typing it all out.
Anyone who types the http:// is weird.
Now you just have to practice what you preach and pick one URL for your fakeplasticrock site as neither the www or non-www version redirect to the other!
Back when my DNS server and my web server were administered by different people, the fact that example.com had to be an A record (but www.example.com could be a CNAME) complicated matters.
(These days, I use a single dedicated service for both.)
Anyone who doesn't use the dubja-dubja-dubja part of the URl isn't anal enough to use a computer. :P
For those that don't want to type http:// how do you deal with SSL in that world?
Should it be example.com for nonsecure and https://example.com for secure? Should it be shortened to www.example.com and sss.example.com to remove the http:// stuff?
Would sss.example.com freak anybody out? I'm sure it'd be easier than getting someone with bad eyesight from noticing a single s in the https:// construct.
We could always use BushBushBush.
We in the UK had it right in the first place then ...
Historically we used JANET NRS (Name Registration Scheme) and it was reversed as Tim Berners-Lee wants now ....
....Then we changed to the standard DNS system ... but we still use .uk addresses (as per JANET) rather than .gb as the ISO thinks we should ....
The one that really bugs me is the printing of websites or e-mails as all lowercase on adverts.
Which is more catchy/memorable on an advert?
or the obvious
The same applies to websites, and I always publish my e-mail address in CamelCase. Just a few sites have problems with this, but not many.
Jason: How do you know it's a website?
Melissa: Because you say dot com.
Awesome! I have to laugh at that because the company I work for has multiple websites (with one main site), but whenever the director of advertising asks me to add content to the main website, he says "put this on dot com." He not only skips the dub dub dub part, but also the domain name. Maybe that's just funny to me, but I thought I would share anyways.
Does nobody simply type in "codinghorror" and press Control-Enter? In IE and FF, that adds the "www." prefix and ".com" suffix. Great unless you frequent some filthy non .com site (joking).
i cant believe you quoted my favorite show. i always felt like no one else watched it, but it is full of gems like this. anyone who is unfamiliar with the show should go watch every episode.
you should be far more concerned about the content behind that URL
than the URL itself.
Quite right. Most users (myself included) will find your website through either a link or a search engine anyway. There are just too many typo-squatters out there for me to risk typing it in myself.
"Does nobody simply type in "codinghorror" and press Control-Enter? In IE and FF, that adds the "www." prefix and ".com" suffix. Great unless you frequent some filthy non .com site (joking)"
So should your new website be stackoverflow.ny.us ?
one of the reasons i use slimbrowser for surfing is no need to type www or press ctrl+enter ,just type site's name and enter
Phil, I have a worse one that incorporates hiptytipty:
"hiptytipty colon whack whack dub dub dub dot domain"
I liked to died. It gave him an obvious rush when I asked what the ring-tailed hell he was talking about.
I always say "wibble", like they say in Blackadder Goes Forth. wibble.whatever.com.
But you don't send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You send it to email@example.com. There's just no point. It's all very 1997.
Are we only talking about putting the URL in a web browser here?
Back in "the day" it wasn't just assumed that the web would take over as completely as it did. For all we knew back in the 90s, gopher would take over and codinghorror.com would redirect to gopher.codinghorror.com
I agree that in IE and FireFox the www and http:// should just be assumed. How much guessing should the browser do? Replace \\ with //? Put in // if it's just http:?
Outside of a web browser what is the convention?
If you hit Start \ Run, here are the results:
www.codinghorror.com - Launches browser
codinghorror.com - Error
http://codinghorror.com - Launches browser
\\codinghorror.com - The network path was not found
//codinghorror.com - Error
http:/codinghorror.com - Launches browser, can't load page
http:codinghorror.com - Launches browser, can't load page
http//codinghorror.com - Error
http:\\codinghorror.com - Launches browser
Heh- The link to the description of a bikeshed discussion reminded me of when Fizzbuzz exploded on the internet. Everyone had to one-up the clever...
Personally I dont care which you (or I) use, both should always link to the other. Nothing drives me more crazy than typing in website.com only to get a 404. I understand the pagerank problems and such, and for that I personally prefer the shorthand, it sure doesnt hurt anything, and its a few less pizels that need to be drawn for each web address. Not a lot the 3 w's on one page, but multiplied around the internet, who knows, might save a few gallons of oil over ten or twenty years...
On the other hand you can just type the site name without the www or the .com/.org/.net and then press the appropriate keys at which point firefox prepends http://www. and appends .com/.org/.net
Of course IE can't manage this simple task. It appears to only understand .com.
I second Julian etc. The www prefix is definitely something average users are used to seeing - in their minds, it's not a website without the www, and the regular removal of it only brings confusion. Nevertheless, it's good to bring it back to the fact that you need to "just choose one and stick with it."
And I also am shocked at how many sites don't work without the www.
When I first read "dub dub dub" at the title, I didn't quite understood it. Then I read "nobody says the dub-dub-dub any more" and couldn't stop laughing for at least 10 minutes!!!
"hippity-tippity dub-dub-dub" also killed me. And I thought that http://httpcolonforwardslashforwardslashwwwdotjenniferdanieldotcom.com/ was a joke! (notice that the actual http://www.jeniferdaniel.com/ is a different site!)
Since this is my first comment, I'd like to also congratulate you for your blog. Always waiting for the next post.
P.S. "The worst part is that saying "double u double u double u" takes 9 syllables while saying "world wide web" takes 3. How many acronyms are three times longer than what they stand for?" by Neil
www.codinghorror.com - Launches browser
I never knew you could do that. In Vista you just hit the windows key, type a domain name with the www and it launches right into it.
That's pretty cool!
The www is generally redundant, but also needed for those odd browsers that don't assume the prefix. I would put as the same accommodation made for anyone who does not have a touch-tone phone. The minute the accommodation goes away, these folks complain.
As far assuming a .com suffix, that's bad. Typing ussticonderoga.com takes me to one web site, ussticonderoga.org to another, and ussticonderoga.net gets a server not found. This doesn't include .uk, .ca, .nl, .de, etc,.
I've heard 3-dub dot [domain]
HA, now the rest of society can enjoy terminology wars and not just us I.T. g33ks.
Double U Double U Double You ...
I pronounce it Wibble ....(From Blackadder ...)
... People do assume www. and it is hard to get them to type anything else ... "it's mail.xxx, no not www.mail.xxx just mail.xxx !!"
You know what the funyn thing is:
"World wide web" is spoken faster than "double-u double-u doublu".
That's why here in Germany we don't have this problem so much. "www" is pronounced "v v v", quick and easy. Of course it is omitted quite often anyway, but there is not really any discussion about it.
"But if I mistype a URL into the address bar there is no telling what I might find. People go out of their way to buy domain names that are common typo's of popular names."
A sad truth is that usually you end on a dummy page full of advertizing. I remember the old days, where you were automatically redirected to a list of search results when instead of "www.codinghorror.com" you mistyped "www.codinghoror.com" and probably the site you were looking for was among the first results. It was something a browser could easily do on a 404. Nowadays I experience almost no 404-errors anymore, they have been replaced by incredibly stupid advertizing pages (who on Earth would ever follow any of the ads there?). :(
We can place the blame for this squarely on Netscape Navigator's shoulders. They were the first to implement the feature whereby if you simply entered a word in the address bar it would try likely FQDN permutations for you.
For example: if you entered pizza, it woudl try www.pizza.com, then www.pizza.org, then www.pizza.net.
This is also a large part of the reason for the dot-com land grab, and why the army has goarmy.com and such domains as westchestercountygov.com also exist.
Also, let's recall that in the early days of the web, most servers that were operating the A-record FQDN (e.g. example.com) was typically the mail server, (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) so as folks started fielding web servers, they added the www.example.com alias so that if they wanted to move the new web server thing off of the main box, onto another, they only had to change the CNAME record for www.example.com.
In many cases, example.com == www.example.com, but that is not a universal truth.
and we should have kiboshed 'www' for 'web' early on. But again, the browser auto-prepending www to a 'bare' domain name made that counterproductive.
However, I think we can all agree that there is no such thing as a "forward slash", nor a "backward slash".
Only *slash* and *backslash*.
I have seen 'sextupleyou' in the past. (www - 3 double u's - 3*2*u - 6*u - sextupleyou) it was not a dirty site, but it did get stuck on the web filter.
I hardly ever type the www, but then when I'm stuck with IE, I find that it doesn't recognise all the uk's subdomains, so things like *.nhs.uk and maybe even *.ac.uk get redirected to a search page if you don't type the www in first. Which is a pain. And yes, most NHS sites won't let you use anything but IE, for obvious standardisation reasons.
Like in Germany, in Italy we use another letter instead of "w". We say "vvv" (pronounced "vu vu vu"), and we usually omit the first dot (typing a dot after "www", has become common for everyone). So "www.google.com" becomes "vu vu vu google punto com" ("punto" being "dot").
Saying "www" ("doppia vu doppia vu doppia vu") would really be too long and tedious :-)
I've used the triple-dub as the sub-domain that it is for purposes of anything from port-forwarding to specific web-app "redirection". So, sometimes if it seems to break, it could just be a sysadmin that isn't too worried about it :) - I do agree though, it is nearly ubiquitous.
Forget the WWW part, I always cracked up when I saw HTTP:// on the back of a truck or on some billboard back in the .com days... heck, even now. C'mon people, you're not showing your technical prowess by showing HTTP:// ... 95% of the real world (or as I call them. The Others) couldn't tell you what it stands for.
None of my websites have the dub-dub-dub before it, but all of them work even if you do put it. Every visitor to www.aalaap.com gets redirected to aalaap.com and so on.
Dreamhost makes this very easy - there's a section for the dub-dub-dub setting with three option: always use www, use both www and just the domain, or remove the www and just domain. I use the last one.