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WWW. vs. no WWW.

What's the difference between and Use either one and you will most likely end up in the same place. But, because the way things are set up on the Internet, they are actually 2 different versions of the same site.

In the early days of the Internet, web browsers were not as sophisticated and www. was used to indicated the file being visited was a webpage. It's like when you mother called you by your full name, including your middle name, to make it 100% clear she was talking to you.

Similarly, if your name is Cassandra, people might call you Cass, for short. Which is kinda like how people began to drop the www. before website names - it was shorter. Only problem is Google, Yahoo! and the other search engines see Cassandra and Cass as two different names just as they see and as two different websites.

Two Websites More Results - Right?

While using both the www. and non-www. versions of your domain name might seem like a good idea, in reality it can cause you problems down the road.

For instance, most of the search engines are on the lookout for what is known as duplicate content. Just as it sounds, duplicate content is when two different webpages have essentially the same or identical content. When the search engines find two duplicate pages, one or both of them is hit with a "duplicate content penalty". The site flagged as the copy will sink in the search engine results and might even drop out of the listings completely.

Which site gets the duplicate content penalty? If only the site that posted the content first somehow was designated as the original it would work as it should - the copied content gets the penalty and the original is left unscathed. Problem is content is changed so frequently on the Internet that it becomes hard to tell who was actually first to publish something which can lead to the original or both sites getting penalized.

Backlinks, Search Engine Results and Google's Pagerank

Use of the www. and non-www. versions of your domain name will also diminish your rankings in the search engines and split your Google Pagerank (PR is a system Google has of awarding sites a rank from 0-10, 10 being the best score - most sites are a 3 or 4).

Backlinks, those links to your site from other sites, are counted by the search engines. The more backlinks you have, the better your site will rank in all of the search engines and the better your PR will be.

Suppose your site is linked to from 100 other sites. If half of those links are to the www. version of your domain and half are to the non-www. version of your domain, you will only recieve credit for 50 backlinks and your rankings will be lower than if all 100 went to the same place.

Which should I use?

Either will work, the key is consistency. When exchanging links with other sites consistently ask for the link to go to the www or non-www version - don't be tempted to do a little of both.

Among the webmaster community there are some who would disagree with me, but, the 'proper' way to name a webpage is to use the www version of the name. is actually more correct than I always use the www. version of my sites' names.


Once you decide which version of your name you are going to use, it is good practice to edit your .htaccess file to force everyone else to use that name too. Just to be clear, the filename is .htaccess with nothing before the period and is a simple text file. The .htaccess file is placed in the root directory, where your index.html file resides.

The .htaccess file is a file that can be used for a variety of things to control how others see your website. In this case we are simply going to rewrite the name they see in the address bar if they enter the one we are not using.

NOTE: The .htaccess file is a very powerful file. If you make a mistake, you can possibly make your site inaccessible. I encourage you to always save a copy of the file prior to making any changes; that way if something goes wrong you can simply switch the copy back.

Add the following code to your file if you wish to make the www. version of your domain name your primary address...

RewriteEngine on RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$ [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R]

Don't forget to replace with your domain name.

What's in a name?

Well, when it comes to growing and promoting websites - everything's in the name. Whether you use www. or not; do so consistently and no knicknames please.

Be sure to check out our other web programming tutorials to learn more about creating and maintaining websites.

About the Author is a website dedicated to providing free, easy to understand, online How To's for true web beginners. While the materials are not free or available for reprints, they are offered freely for individual use. Please use the contact page to let Michele know if this tutorial has been helpful or if there are any other beginner web programming or MySpace related tutorials you would like to see.