I’m just old enough to remember when all ads that contained websites started with “visit our website at dubya dubya dubya dot…”. Further, I’ve been working on creating some new websites, and I’ve been trying to answer the question “do you need www in web address?”. If yes, how to best set it up?
Can you even think of the last time someone told you a domain name and prefixed it with www? I can! For instance, while listening to a podcast during a live-reading of an ad, the host began to read the domain name “www.example.com” and the cohosts began laughing, and this began a side-conversation where hilarity ensued. Truth-be-told, this made me question what I knew about internet addresses. Can you access every website if you prefixed it with www? Which made me consider my audience, and those people of a certain age who grew up in “dubya dubya dubya dot …” generation. I’m willing to bet many people of a certain age still enter www. on the front of web addresses today. In this article we’re going to outline the two specific reasons that your website should be prefaced with http://www., and offer two good solutions to set it up properly.
Is the www. in a domain name necessary?
To be clear, having www. in your domain name is not a necessity, and your website will function just fine without it. With that said, your website should function properly with or without it. In some cases that we get into a bit later, it’s even beneficial to include www. in your domain. As I mentioned, people of a certain age still most likely type in www. to prefix most domain names. The last thing you would want is for a user to get a 404 when they were attempting to visit your website.
You should consider your target audience, and those people of a certain age who grew up in the “dubya dubya dubya dot …” generation. That generation is the generation of baby boomers and generation X. Think of anyone 40 and older, do you target these users? Most likely, since people in these generation now hold the most disposable income, you’re targeting them. If you’re trying to target these folks, it’s recommended that you include the www. in front of your web address.
The origins of www. in domains
When you enter a prefix followed by a dot, like prefix.domain.com, the
prefix annotates that you want to go to a specific subdomain. In the early days of the internet, the www. prefix was added to internet addresses to differentiate the website of a domain from other subdomains. For example, a website administrator might’ve setup a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to transfer files for one server to another easily. In the example provided this would’ve been http://ftp.domain.com. This was most often used for a new thing called electronic mail, or email as we know it today.
Why using www. used to be popular
Aside from providing the correct subdomain for end users to access, having www. prefix the domain name was mostly a public relations move. When the internet was new, there was some real concern that without prefixing domain.com with www. people would not be able to discern the word from an internet address. Imagine living in a world where you had to specify that Terminator2.com would take you to the website of the new hit movie featuring
the former governor of California superstar actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator 2: Judgement Day?! This distant place did exist when internet pioneers were trying to get users to login and interact with the information superhighway.
Redirecting your domains
Many large websites today utilize subdomains frequently to better track their users use of their websites through cookies. If you’re going to grow your website, you should include the www. subdomain so that you can easily add more subdomains in the future. Even if you’re not planning to grow your site, perhaps you just have a small blog, remember there’s a large portion of people who may still try to visit using dubya dubya dubya dot. This person might even be your mom or dad. Regardless of your desire, you should probably configure it so that http://www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com both work.
If you want to get your blog to redirect properly, the easiest way might be to add a 301 redirect. If you plan on leveraging mulitple subdomains now or in the future, you should setup an A Record. To test this, try going to http://www.yoursite.com. If it redirects, then it’s already been configured by your host provider. For example, wordpress.com already configures this for you. If you’re still asking do you need www in Web Address, the answer is unequivocally yes.
- login to godaddy.com/products.
- choose the domain you wish to add a subdomain to
- for the
- for the
Points tofield enter the IP address you want to map the subdomain to.
- for the
TTLfield you can leave it at the default
Tip: if you want it to point to the same IP as yourdomain.com, just do a DNS lookup on your domain and enter that IP.
Here’s a tutorial on how to create a subdomain on my webiste with Directnic hosting.
Many hosting companies offer the ability to add subdomains in their control panel, shown below.
Using www. for cookies
When using http://www., you can apply unique cookies to that subdomain as well as other subdomains. For example, you can apply a unique cookie to http://www.yoursite.com and blog.yoursite.com. If you wish to do this, you’ll want to set up a 301 redirect. This will allow yoursite.com to forward to http://www.yoursite.com. As a result, this will allow you to have more accurate tracking of visitors to your site.
So do you need www in web address?
Read carefully through the scenarios above to see if they apply to you and take the recommended action. Whatever situation applies to you, know that you’ll never have to say dubya dubya dubya dot mysite dot com! Thankfully, those days are behind us.