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What is the purpose of the WWW subdomain?

What is the purpose of the WWW subdomain?

What's the point of having www.? Isn't it just useless extra text? Since everyone is used to it, www.google.com looks more well-balanced than google.com, but why did it start in the first place?

Asked by: Guest | Views: 79
Total answers/comments: 2
Guest [Entry]

"Before the World Wide Web, there was still an Internet, and it was used for a variety of things: telnet, email, gopher, FTP, etc. At that time, it was traditional to assign domain name aliases to servers for common functions. So, smtp.example.com would be example.com's outbound email SMTP server, ftp.example.com would be example.com's FTP server, etc.

When the Web came along (early 1990's), it was just yet another application / protocol -- it wasn't necessarily envisioned at that time that it would be come the most popular thing to use the Internet for, next to email. So an organization's web server was assigned a domain name alias of ""www."" like any other service would have typically been assigned.

Over time many sites started dropping the ""www."", because URLs are after all often typed in by people and yes it's 4 more characters than really necessary. But, ""www."" still lingers today and it's not likely to ever completely go away."
Guest [Entry]

"No idea if this is traditionally why www. is used, but one possible reason:

Say you have a server which runs web, SMTP and IMAP servers. Users access the web server via www.example.com, SMTP via smtp.example.com and IMAP via imap.example.com

Your server becomes heavily loaded, so you want to split the web-server to a new machine. To do this, you simply change the ""www"" subdomain to point to your new web-server's IP address.

For larger internal networks, this is an easy way to move servers around.. Just change the internal SMTP server DNS entry and all clients will automatically start using the new machine. No forwarding of ports to worry about

With internet facing servers, you would probably keep both servers on the same NAT'd network, and forward port 80 to a different machine, or use a load-balancer

There are benefits to retaining the ""www."" part of the URL for purely web-servers, particularly with regards to cookies, as Andrew Moore and this blog.SO post explain.. Plus if you redirect the non-www domain, users don't have to type it (and even if you don't, most browsers will try ""www.example.com"" if ""example.com"" doesn't work)"