WWW - whoops, why, what?

2 minutes 7 seconds average read (424 words)

So the World Wide Web, often  shortened to www, became a thing in 1989, and since then many people/companies/organisations have been prefixing their website URLs with www. Even though nobody ever buys www.my-website-name.com, they would purchase my-website-name.com, and the www part is a subdomain of the domain.


It is reported that the www was a mistake. It was originally meant to refer to the World Wide Web project page at CERN (Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléair) and info.cern.ch was meant to be the home page for CERN, although the DNS records were never switched. Subsequently main organisations followed suit and www became the norm.

Douglas Adams

Douglas once quipped:

The World Wide Web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form takes three times longer to say than what it’s short for

This is because World Wide Web has 3 syllables and double-u double-u double-u has 6.


So why do people/companies/organisations use www in the URL of their site, well simply because that's how the first site did it.

What, should you do?

Well, technically, really it doesn't matter.

The way I think of it is what do you say out loud when you tell someone the URL of your site, I say - letorey.co.uk (that's L E T O R E Y dot co dot uk) purely because no one can spell my name. I, personally, would never say double-u double-u double-u dot L E T O R E Y dot co dot uk.

Although saying that I do still have the www.letorey.co.uk subdomain, I just make sure that on my server (nginx) I redirect all the traffic from www.letorey.co.uk to letorey.co.uk.

server {
    server_name www.example.com;
    return 301 $scheme://example.com$request_uri;

This just says if a user enters www.example.com/whatever then direct the traffic to example.com/whatever and make it permanent redirect while you are at it.

You can totally do this the other way round, e.g. have example.com redirect to www.example.com.

How to decide?

Well if you're a company or organisation that has created loads of printed and digital materials, with either www or non-www then choose that way, the important thing to do is create the redirect on your web server.

What about my CMS?

For my site/blog I use Squiz Matrix and in this CMS like many others you can add many urls to a site, but as I'm redirecting at the server level there is absolutely no need what so ever to do so at the CMS level.