Re: What is the "www" part of a domain name?

by "Abhay S. Kushwaha" <abhay(at)>

 Date:  Sun, 19 Sep 1999 00:50:25 +0530
 To:  "Basics [HWG]" <hwg-basics(at)>
 References:  co
  todo: View Thread, Original
Hi Peter/List

What you're referring to has a long history and has a lot to do with
how the Net came into the form that we know of today.

Let's take the domain-name issue first. You might already know that
the Net was initially a US Govt. project -- strictly for military use?
Anyway, things happened (that we needn't go into), that led the US
Govt. to take off the military part of the Net off the wider public
Net and things happened (that we needn't go into again) that led the
US Govt. to set up the now quite infamous InterNIC as the "global"
scale of the Net was evolving. (Okay, the US Govt. didn't really "set
it up" but pass me on this one okay?)

Now, if you know your networking, you know that all computers on the
Net have numbers and you very well know it's easier to remember names
than it is to remember phone numbers, right? So, the funda was that
every "server" be given a name that would associate it to a particular
"number" (The domain name & IP address, respectively) It was also
decided that sites be classified by their content (The .com, .edu,
.org, et al). So came into being the Top Level Domains (TLD) of .COM
(for commercial sites), .ORG (for organisations), .EDU (for
educational institutions offering degree courses or higher), .MIL
(military sites), .GOV (Government offices' sites). I think 5 is the
number? When you type in, your browser connects
to a "DOMAIN NAME SERVER" (DNS) from where it gets the machine number
at which the actual site is stored. You might have seen in the status
bar of your browser: Looking up Site found... Contacting Site contacted, waiting for reply.... Opening etc. The "" is the IP number or the
"number of the machine on the Net" at which your computer needs to
connect to, to retrieve the information requested by you.

Anyway, what you book for yourself is a SECOND LEVEL DOMAIN (SLD). So,
your site's name is really of the type:

SLD.TLD              eg:

Since the above mentioned were so popular, it was later decided to
make them "global" and give America the TLD of "US". You might have
come across a few sites with .CO.US ? Similarly, other countries were
given their own TLDs based on ISO list. Eg: Britain has .UK, France
has .FR and India has .IN. In these cases, you have the SLD of .CO,
.ORG, .AC, etc. and you book the third level domain so your site's
name is:

yourname.SLD.TLD     eg:

Some registries also allow direct

yourname.TLD         eg:

Anyway, IIRC, long long back, when the World Wide Web was coming up,
it was so that all the sites were required to start off with WWW so
that the servers could recognise that the incoming request was for a
web-page. That usage has stuck though it is now not necessary to put
the WWW. There is a protocol on the net now called HTTP (Hyper Text
Transfer Protocol) which identifies that the interaction to be done is
to be done through a particular protocol which has a default port
number on which it contacts the webserver machine. When you use
"http://" you are telling your browser to connect to a site using the
"HTTP" protocol. Similarly, there is a protocol called "File Transfer
Protocol" for the FTP. Again the default port number funda kicks in
here. So, now you know why gets you different thing
than :)

Now, when you register your domain and you are given "",
then you own this domain and all sub-domains, eg: or

Get the idea? :)

Okay, now all that remains is to know why, when you type "yourname" in
your browser, when all is said and done, your browser displays
"" in the 'address' bar. This is a browser feature
actually. Those who've used LYNX till recently will tell you that they
need to type in everything. :) Anyway, when you type in yourname, your
browser automatically checks for the and if it doesn't
find it, for and before displaying the
server not found error. If it finds any registered domain in this
"domain scouting" (which can be configured by the way in v5 of IE), it
will take you to the site. Why the "http"? Well, the first browser was
developed to make navigation on the then-new WWW and you'll remember
from above, that for navigating the web, you need the http. So, by
default, your browser will try to contact the server using HTTP. On
successful retrieval of data, the browser will display the "full
qualified URL" of the page/site being displayed to you in the "Address

I think that explains it? :)

I believe I got most of the stuff in there right. Since I just wrote
from memory, there could be some errors. If anybody knows better,
please point out the mistakes. :)


----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Newton <c-newton(at)>
Subject: What is the "www" part of a domain name?

> Does anyone know what the story is on the www ( I know it stands
> for World  Wide Web) part of a website address?
> I need to be able to identify particular wesite adresses ie
> but am a little confused concerning the www.
> for example sometimes I can call a site up without using the www
> ie are these 2 sites identical url's or not.
> Also If I setup a domain name of will I
> also have rights to and vica versa.

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