To www or not to www

As you can see, if you visit my website with www.eapen.in, you will be redirected to eapen.in (with a search-engine friendly 301 redirect, of course) and I really wish all websites would adopt this method instead of using the “www” since it makes more sense as it is the root domain. One of biggest annoyances is when the slow one finger typists (dad? mom?) have to type the “www” in a URL and punch in “w w w g [backspace] . g o o g l e . c o m ” instead of just typing “g o o g l e . c o m”.

The “www prefix” is just the old convention and is totally unnecessary. This saves 4 characters and for a message that includes links, this can save quite a bit of space. Twitter and other services that encourage smaller character limits, this is quite beneficial rather than having to employ a URL-shortening service. Even more useful is when users email links and when the email client hard-wraps the message at 72 characters, it often breaks the links. There is still a good chance that the link will break if your original URL had more than 76 characters. A lot of websites & webmasters do not know about canonical URLs and how search engines view a website as having duplicate content when a URL is accessible via the “www” and the “non-www” counterpart. (i.e. A search engine like Google sees http://mysite.com/buy-product1.html and http://www.mysite.com/buy-product1.html as 2 different sites with duplicate content unless you have canonical URLs entered).

As with all rules, there are always exceptions and I wouldn’t recommend this for large websites that need load balancing which are served up as www.website.com and www2.website.com although most of the bigger companies (like Google, Amazon) employ round-robin DNS to handle such traffic with just one domain and routing the requests to different servers/IPs.

One of the advantages of having the “www” is that in emails and URLs in SMSes is that it automatically hyperlinks the URL rather than using “http://” and in those cases, it actually saves a few characters. Either way, my preference for URLs now is without “www”.

tl;dr
Prefer not to use “www” in URLs Prefer to use “www” in URLs (see below)

UPDATE (12/16/2010): I just posted an update to this and now I believe it is better to use “www” in URLs