12 January, 2008

Does your Web site work without WWW?

It wasn’t that long ago when I took part in a W3C Advisor Committee debate regarding the use of WWW in Web site addresses.

During our debate, Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the Web) made a brilliant observation which was totally marketing driven and not at all technical.

Tim Berners-Lee’s response

People are used to seeing WWW on business cards so it’s expected.

Technically, we don’t need the WWW in our Web addresses. However, many Web masters are failing to park their domains properly. Could you be turning away potential visitors?

Does your Web site work when you remove WWW from the address?

Aidan explains how to ensure your site works with and without WWW.


11 Responses to “Does your Web site work without WWW?”

  1. Michele 12 January 2008 at 2:54 pm #

    A lot of the ISPs traditionally do not create A records for domain.tld, so it will only work with the “www” part. Supposedly this is due to an old RFC

  2. Paul Walsh 12 January 2008 at 2:57 pm #

    @Michele – tell me you’re joking? I wasn’t aware of that. Can you name one or two as an example. What’s the reason for it?

  3. Michele 12 January 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    Paul – Why would I joke about it ? :)
    I can’t think of any examples offhand, as a lot of the sites I’d frequent aren’t hosted by Eircom or Esat anymore.
    The reasoning is something related to an RFC on DNS entries – I can’t remember the exact one, though I’m sure someone else might have the reference to hand


  4. Paul Walsh 12 January 2008 at 3:07 pm #

    @Michele I guess the advice to any Web master, is to ensure their Web sites work with and without WWW. This point wasn’t even raised during the W3C Advisory Committee debate.

  5. Michele 12 January 2008 at 3:11 pm #


    I had a “run in” with someone on the EI list about this a few months ago. While they had the DNS setup to handle both variations the plain domain.tld didn’t point anywhere useful, so they were probably losing business and causing confusion as a result.

    Of course from an SEO perspective it works a lot better to 301 the second record to the first

  6. Ana Nelson 12 January 2008 at 4:30 pm #

    If for some reason you were committed to using a hosting provider who didn’t provide you with a www A record then you can get around this with an independent DNS service, which is a good idea for many other reasons. I’ve just written about that here: http://url.ie/81m

    In fact an A record isn’t really what you want since for SEO reasons you don’t want both http://www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com to be indexed by search engines, as Aidan points out in his post.

  7. Michele 12 January 2008 at 6:06 pm #


    I think you misunderstood what Aidan was talking about. You need to have an A record, but you would use mod_rewrite or something similar to “push” the user to the URL you are actually using. See the link in my last comment


  8. Aidan Finn 12 January 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    Thanks for the link @Paul. There are a surprising number of sites around that still don’t set this up properly. And it’s such a basic thing. It’s one of those things that has absolutely no effect on me but still makes me irrationally annoyed every time I encounter it :)

    Re @Michele’s point about some ISPs not providing DNS records for both versions: if any of them are still doing this then it’s very bad form. If that is the case though you can use a 3rd party DNS provider. As @Ana’s linked post describes there are also several other benefits to using a 3rd party DNS service, including being able to do your redirection at the DNS level instead of using a rewrite rule on your server.

  9. Michele 12 January 2008 at 7:22 pm #


    The only thing is that DNS doesn’t handle redirection as powerfully as rewriting does. It’s very crippled :)
    (not that you’d want it to do more …)


  10. Knut Holt 29 June 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    I have never thought about this. I have three domains. I just tried them with and without www. Two of them worked with and without. The third, the one I submitted in this post did only work with www.

  11. Branson Mo 12 March 2011 at 8:56 am #

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