“There’s more than meets the eye, don’t you know!”

Various top-level domainsThere is indeed more than meets the eye to the casual viewer when it comes to the domain name system. When used properly, there is so much information that these names hold, so much more than you’d think. Let’s take an example: The Schumin Web, at www.schuminweb.com. Here, we have three different parts to the name. We have “www”, “schuminweb”, and “com”, separated by dots. Domains are based on a hierarchy, and it reads from right to left. The “com” signifies that I registered the domain in the commercial name-space. For The Schumin Web, that’s a bit of a stretch (but I do have my online store), but .name, which is the domain for personal sites, didn’t exist yet. Then “schuminweb” is the second-level domain, which is the top of my little piece of real estate in the domain name system. The “schuminweb” name is what identifies the address as being part of The Schumin Web, which is my little space online. Finally, “www”. Lately, the “www” address at the beginning of an address is primarily convention, but in the early days, when more people used domains for more than just the Web, it identified it as being separate from other services, such as FTP. I just think it’s amazing how the system for addressing the Web is set up, making perfect sense in some places, less-than-perfect sense in others, and how some people manage to mess it up. So many top-level domains… You have .com for commercial sites, .org for miscellaneous organizations, .net for “network infrastructure providers”, .edu for educational institutions, .gov for the United States federal government, .biz for businesses, .info for informational sites, .name for individuals, countless country-code domains, and a number of others. Each has a certain purpose for existence. I particularly find .name interesting, where the structure is to make an address with firstname.lastname.name. For instance, Santa Claus would have an address of http://santa.claus.name/. Where it gets interesting is how end users manage to mess with (or more accurately, mess up) the logic of the structure. Show of hands… how many here thought that all Web addresses ended in .com and started with www? I send people to an obscure-sounding URL, and people immediately want to put “www” in front of it. I usually respond with, “did I say ‘www’ in that address?” (I didn’t!). Then of course, I find it interesting when certain organizations that should know better don’t use the system properly. Let’s use an example here at home (at least for this Web site). JMU. Now, to their credit, JMU for the most part does work the domain system how it’s supposed to work. They have their All Together Onemain site at www.jmu.edu, and a number of other subdomain sites. We have Falcon and Raven, which I describe as JMU’s “technogeek” sites (I, for one, briefly had an account on both Falcon and Raven my freshman year), the orgs server for student organizations, Ecampus for registration, and a few others, all using subdomains under their main jmu.edu domain. But then they also did some things that seem to contradict what otherwise fits their other naming methods. When JMU President Linwood Rose was inaugurated, he introduced the phrase “All Together One”. Soon thereafter, JMU set up a Web site about it. Instead of following their naming methods and using something like alltogetherone.jmu.edu, they instead registered an entirely new domain – alltogetherone.org. In addition, they also are cybersquatting on the .com and .net varieties of All Together One. Additionally, instead of sports.jmu.edu or something like that, JMU registered jmusports.com for their athletic information, but interestingly enough chose not to cybersquat the other top-level domains like they did for All Together One, which I found kind of curious. You’ve got to love the way that colleges spend your money sometimes, registering superfluous domain names, when they could easily use their existing namespace for the same purpose plus provide the public assurance that it is an official JMU Web site and not a fan site or parody site or whatever have you. Domains are indeed interesting to learn about and observe, and this quote is just scratching the surface… for more information, visit Dan Tobias’s domain name site, an incredibly useful site for those interested in domains.

Date posted: January 29, 2003