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Doug Rathbone is a software architect working in Ad land. He is passionate about software design and automation, and regularly contributes to a number of industry sites on these topics. Douglas is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 60 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Configure Your Next Website’s Signal to Noise Ratio Today – Install a www. Filter

05.24.2012
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The "www." prefix in a website's address was originally thought up by Tim Berners-Lee (The creator of the interwebs) to help us differentiate between a website’s address and that of a mail server, FTP, or Gopher server (remember those kiddies?).  The world has moved on from gopher servers and the like, but for different reasons has continued using this prefix without much purpose or reason. In the last few years many people have commented on their religious decision either way to support or ditch it. I put it to you: do you www. or not?

Why does it even exist

Originally when Tim Berners-Lee was dreaming up the internet and associated awesomeness, the world was a slightly different place, and the technology was slightly less evolved. People used to think of the “www.” prefix as an indication that a DNS hostname was that of a website and not some other form of resource.

This is no longer the case. If you hear about cocacola.com you don’t think “this mustn’t be a website”. User behaviour has moved on since this indicative addressing was first created.

Why it’s OK to let go

Removing the www. from a website’s URL is not a new thing. Jeff Atwood posted about it 4 years ago, a number of start ups that launched in recent years such as twitter and StackOverflow have ‘rolled’ without the dubs since day 1. There are a number of reasons either way, but I make my facebook www. status as Sans-Dubs. I had a few thoughts on why this was.

Mobile is huge.

Virtual keyboards suck. If you’ve ever tried to enter trololololololololololo.com into a smart phone’s web browser you’ll know first hand that adding www. to the beginning of this would not make your day (or your search for trolololololo’s) any easier.

Recent stats from Pingdom show that mobile traffic accounts for 10% of the world’s internet usage. Take a minute to think of your visitors and the amount of keystrokes they have left… divide that by a number greater than 2, for the pain of mobile keyboard usage, and you see how valuable removing the www from an address can be.

Higher Signal to noise ratio

Think about a domain name:

www.AwesomeWidgets.com

If you are selling widgets, and your brand or business was all about selling the most awesome, “you win the internet” kind of widgets which address do you think talks more to this:

www.AwesomeWidgets.com

or

AwesomeWidgets.com

It’s all about signal to noise ratio (SN/R). Cut out the noise. Get your brand/business/blog name up front in the domain name stakes.

The web doesn't need a prefix

A huge amount of people only ever use a web browser to experience the web everyday. The www. in an address stands for “world wide web”.

When was the last time you said to a friend “world wide web dot gee oh oh gee el ee dot com” ? It’s “google.com”.

What you need to do to free yourself from the tyranny

You are the master of our internet destiny, the time to strike is now!

If there is one thing you take away from this post let it be this:

The “www.” is a solution without a problem, and the only way to remove it from the internet moving forward is to remove it from your new website’s addresses.

Start Today!

I’m not asking you to change your current website’s addresses. That would be crazy and in some instances might be tantamount to SEO suicide – don’t do it if you care about such things.

My recommended steps to rid the world of Dubya-Dubya-Dubya-Dot:

Don’t do it for sites that already have a considerable history
If your website already receives a lot of search engine traffic, has a lot of incoming back links from other sites, or has pages with considerably high PageRank, leave them “as is”. Setting up a site without www. works best for brand new sites – if you build one tomorrow, go Sans-www. to save tomorrows children.

I am not removing mine for this very reason. I can’t get enough of my pageviews-per-day-porn. Hell I even wrote an app for Windows phone that does this for me without opening the app… thanks Windows Phone!

Ensure that your website supports both with and without the dubs

For a long time search engines would consider the www and non-www website with the same domain name as different websites, despite the content being the same. This would lead to duplicate content penalties, and/or the value of each site being diluted somewhat, especially if some websites linked to your site with the www prefix and others did not use it.

Whether you choose to use www. or go without for your next website, ensure that you support both, and redirect to only one. This means that if you launch without www. ensure that your site is still accessible by www. and redirects to the root domain. A lot of people still assume that this is what they need to type, so catering for these people will ensure that you don’t break anyone’s experience.

This redirect should be a 301 redirect (meaning “moved permanently”) so that any search engine traffic of backlinks will be reflected in the main site.

You can do this simply with something like Microsoft’s IIS rewrite plugin for IIS and by inserting the following in your web.config:

<rule name="Redirect www. to non-www." >
<match url="(.*)" ignoreCase="true" />
<conditions>
<add input="{HTTP_HOST}" pattern="^www\.(.*)" />
</conditions>
<action type="Redirect" url="http://mydomainname.com/{R:1}"
    redirectType="Permanent" />
</rule>

Make sure all your comms are a single, unified voice

If you have a business card you list a single website address on it. If you put out a poster or banner ad, use the same address.

Ensure that every piece of communications you have includes this single website address. Not half with www. and half without.

In the past  a business had a phone number. If you had multiple phone numbers, and one was longer than the other it would change the way your customers interacted with you. It would negatively affect how easy it was for them to think of the main way to get in contact with you.

When this applied to website addresses:

Which number would they remember?

Every time you speak about your site, make sure you are telling the same story. Use a single address.

I hate you Doug, you’re against my www. religion!

Some people are quite aggressive in their support of the “semantic” nature of a www. address. I disagree. I’ve moved on.

In 10 years time, let’s meet up and chat about it. For now, I love being Sans-www.

Published at DZone with permission of Douglas Rathbone, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)