Why Make Us Type WWW?

There was something on the news last night about the new postage pricing system here in the UK. They interviewed a guy from dustbag.co.uk about how it would affect them. On screen was his name and below it simply dustbag.co.uk.

Being in need of new dust bags and a filter for Henry I thought I'd take a look. So I typed in dustbag.co.uk only to be told the server didn't exist. Being used to this I added the www and hey presto it appeared, thus highlighting one of my pet peeves - websites that insist on us using the full www bit. Why?

What's worse with dustbag.co.uk is that this appears to be their company name. It's their logo too. Surely their logo should read www.dustbag.co.uk if they don't want to confuse folk. Somebody really should tell them. I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of thing lost potential customers before they even got to see the website.

Incidentally, I noticed that royalmail.co.uk is another offender.


  1. Most people have there browser set up to add www., if the pure domain is not reachable, anyway. So they probably won't note the difference.

    However, I do support {Link} .

    As always, IBM is a special case. For weeks now, the majority of there lotus.com redirections do not work occasionally. Certain sites are reachable only, if you add the right server name (e.g. www-10 for developerWorks Lotus), not www. That's even worse.

  2. Most of my domains are wildcarded. So *.anime.org.uk matches. I use it for the sub hosting. But even then I try and distuinguish between the www and non-www versions. Mainly because the load it would put on the system if Google and its other searching berethen decided to try and index ever possible combination. In fact before I blocked most of this, I was listed as a potential link farm.

    People are so ingrained about the www bit that there are some who insist that it shoud always be there. In many cases I use sub domains as places where client can view the work in progress on the various sites. Normally these don't start with www. But when I've tried telling clients the domain over the phone they always try and put a www in front. So much so that I now add both options by default.

    However I have noticed that many of these so called mistakes are actually the fault of the DNS entry done on the name server. Usually whoever sets up the domain doesn't ask for the root level option to be set. Funnily enough though, they do it by default for the MX (mail) records. Go figure. I remember I had a great deal of arguments with my Registrar about wildcarded domains, with them insisting that they couldn't be done. They couldn't with the automated interface that they had put in place to make their administration "easier". You just have to complain to get things done. But how many companies (dustbag?) actually know what is possible or should be done?

    • avatar
    • Kerr
    • Tue 22 Aug 2006 05:10 AM

    Yeah, there are a great many people who will automatically type www. In front of any address you give them. I was helping a someone set up mail over the phone and they were getting very upset that it wasn't working. We went through it a number of times until I got them to read out the settings field by field, character by character.

    me: " smtp server?"

    him: "w-w-w-.-s-m-t-p-.-f-o-o-.-c-o-m"

    me: "Where did the www bit come from. I never told you to put that in."

    him: "You have to put in www. All urls start www"

    me: "Aaarrghh!!!"

  3. I'm not a DNS guy, but since our corporate web server is hosted with an ISP and we do our own mail hosting we have to use www.comporium.com for our web site. Just going to comporium.com will not work. The ISP/DNS provider said that we have to do it this way or servers could get confused with mail delivery.

    But there has to be a better way. I just know that it works for us.

  4. I'm amazed.

    I've followed Jake's blog (and many other web design blogs) for years and I can't remember seeing anything like this before. Like Chris, I fully believed that since my site was hosted by an ISP, I couldn't omit the www. I just tried it and it worked in IE (slowly) and Firefox (quickly). I'm sure it never used to work - Is it because I recently migrated from Domino 6.5 to 7?

    @ Fabian: I have never (as far as I know) changed browser settings to add the www when the pure domain is not reachable. I've had browser upgrades at work and at home - could it be that these upgrades have handled the www prefix on my behalf?

  5. @Chris,

    No, you can set up various records for various options. The MX record controls where mail gets delivered to. The A record maps where other things point to. They can be the same server or entirely different servers. It's just a matter of getting them setup properly. You can even setup multiple addresses with differing priorities.

    Many ISPs have limited, automated systems. Helpdesk bods really only know what they see on their screens. You have to complain and get them to pull ther fingers out, as I had to do.

  6. zedzdead,

    I'm not sure since when Firefox adds the www. prefix (and .com suffix) if searching for the typed in url was not successfull. It must have been at least since 1.0 and it's enabled by default. As far as I know, there's no UI element to change this.. But it seems to be controlled by some settings in about:config:




    In IE, this behavious is controlled by setting Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced -> Search from the address bar which is set to "go to the most likely site", by default.

  7. There are good reasons why an ISP would not enable wildcard domains, especially for shared-hosting accounts.

    Hacked sites are often used for phishing and wildcard urls would allow nice urls like {Link}

    In Germany there are even lawyers that search for wildcard records, construct a link with a patent pending product and then sue the site owner.

    I use wildcard records myself but it is not without problems.

    I agree that every domain should work without www though.


    Normally all browsers behave the same but DNS queries get cached. So even if you use different browsers, the browser used second might show quicker results.

    For Domino, if you have a wildcard DNS entry, Domino takes the default configuration (if you enabled internet sites). So I do not think that migrating for 6.X to 7 would have changed anything.

  8. One more note on speed comparisions (even if not completely related): For quite some time, I wondered, why one certain web site was so much slower in Firefox than in IE. Only after a couple of weeks, I noticed, that the URL in IE always started with www, whereas it didn't in Firefox (I just started typing and picked the site from the list of previously visited sites).

    Well, it turned out, that in this case the www address pointed to a different server (or load balancer or whatever) then the non-www address. As soon, as I added the www in Firefox, the site was up to speed again.

    • avatar
    • Scott
    • Fri 1 Sep 2006 11:51 AM

    Well I made the mistake of not setting the website to be www.thebigredshark.com - so the actual web site is thebigredshark.com.

    Just to help people www.thebigredshark.com redirects to thebigredshark.com

    Thats enough plugs for my blog I think ;-)

    I think all sites should accept either www.domain.. or just the domain...


    • avatar
    • Ned
    • Wed 8 Nov 2006 04:53 AM

    Funnily enough, I came here looking for info on browser.fixup because I tried royalmail.co.uk and it failed.

    Why does browser.fixup not append the www. prefix for it, and other .co.uk sites?

    How can browser.fixup be modified so it does?

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