Itseems really simple – just three letters. But they seem to annoy some of ourusers, who have let us know: “Why do I have to type www.nasa.gov and not just nasa.gov? Don’t you people even know the basics of running aweb site?”
Theanswer goes back to the early 1990s, when the Internet existed – but the WorldWide Web did not. NASA was on the Net very early in its history, and thenasa.gov Domain Name Servers (DNS) – the Internet’s version of a phone book(OK, online directory) – handled bulletin board systems, Gopher and more. Whenthe World Wide Web came along, www.nasa.gov becamethe agency’s primary home online.
Todaythe World Wide Web is still one of the many, many networked services NASAprovides, all based on the nasa.gov domain. But along the way the web became thepublic’s most widely used aspect of the Internet, so much that the “www”became almost implicit. It started to disappear from the URLs of popularwebsites. NASA never made that switch, and our domain servers still do notforward users looking for nasa.gov to www.nasa.gov. (Though many web browsers now do that automatically once you’ve visited asite.)
Settingup our infrastructure to do that is technically straightforward: we need to addmore servers to handle a lot of additional traffic on the front end, beforepeople get to content. There are both implementation and ongoing operationalcosts to doing so, and that’s where the decision point is. Is this the best useof NASA’s resources?
Weare in the age of zero-sum budgets: when we spend money in one area, we don’tspend it on another. In the last year we’ve been improving our on-demand video capability,optimizing our mobile site and expanding the reach of our live video viaUstream and smartphones. All of those things are increasing the reach of www.nasa.gov, probably more than the DNS fixwould.
Still,we’ve got the plans and are evaluating them and the opportunity costs ofimplementing. We’ll keep you apprised.