If anything can be learned from Twitter, it’s that shorter is better. Okay, maybe “better” is not the right word; however, through the 140 character limit Twitter imposes, we are gearing our minds into packing the greatest punch with the least amount of room. Because of the limited amount of content space, URL shortening tools have been emerging everywhere such as bit.ly, ow.ly, is.gd, etc. The act of “shortening” seems to be the current strong and worthwhile trend. So take it a step further with your website URL.
Do you even know why the prefix “www” is used? I didn’t until I was researching this topic. I kept seeing sites like “http://twitter.com,” “http://digg.com,” and “http://friendfeed.com” that were not using the “www” prefix. At first glance those sites appeared defective or just plain weird. However, after learning that the omission of the “www” was by design, I wondered why we even used the “www” to begin with. According to Boutell.com, “there is nothing in the HTTP specification that says a website must start with www. or any other prefix. It is simply a convention that began in the early days of the web and was used to distinguish a company’s web server from its FTP server, gopher server, mail server, et cetera. But no such distinction is necessary…”
This is great news! Apparently, there aren’t technical issues prohibiting a site owner from choosing to go strictly without the “www”. However, using additional web servers may warrant using prefixes such as www2 or www3 (i.e. http://www2.panasonic.com). It might take time to accept not using “www” but I think it’s important to at least highly consider it. If you do decide to implement the non-“www” URL version, there are a few points to remember.
First, consistency is very important. Any interlinking of your website or back-linking to your website must adhere to the non-“www” version of your site URL (i.e. only linking to http://SITE.com). It is important to note that “http://www.SITE.com” is different from “http://SITE.com.” What that means from an analytics or a PageRank point-of-view is that your stats can be split rather than being counted as the same site—ultimately skewing stats and minimizing domain name strength. Hence, it is important to implement a .htaccess redirect rule on your site. A .htaccess redirect will automatically subtract (or can add) the prefix “www”. For instance, if someone types in “http://www.SITE.com,” they would automatically be redirected to “http://SITE.com.” Here’s a quick tutorial in creating a .htaccess redirect file. Also, a newer element the major search engines adopted is termed “URL canonicalization.” URL canonicalization utlizes your meta data to indicate to the search engines which version of the URL is the best. Here’s Google’s tutorial on how to use the canonical element.
In the end, it’s all preference. Whether or not you use the “www” prefix, it is important to be consistent.