Why Do You Have to Type out ‘www’ to Get to our Website?

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.

8 thoughts on “Why Do You Have to Type out ‘www’ to Get to our Website?”

  1. “Technically straight forward” is an understatement. A new CNAME in your DNS records should take minutes. If you’ve got a load balancer point the www CNAME to your load balancers A Record. As a network engineer of 7+ years I can’t imagine a topology that would justify the idea of “ongoing operation costs” to implement a subdomain.

    With all the amazing things that NASA does getting your DNS sorted out should be trivial, inexpensive, and a no-brainer! Not even worth this blog post and comment IMHO.

  2. huh? in apache its just modifying a line in a file to redirect traffic from nasa.gov to http://www.nasa.gov... I cant see the demand for the extra hardware, even worst case you use some very obscure technical http server that doesnt support such features. well then use a virtual machine.. but going off of info that nasa has a computer running fedora core in its mist, I’m assuming apache maybe already playing in the background here.. Lazy government employees

  3. i know the time who everybody in television wants to say something about internet. And then they say wait a moment, you only have to put http double trobel ähhhh slash point and the heck slash gizmo and the rest. Then after a wihle the only said www.(dot)namedot.org or com or so. This was the time i say hey why is it now so. And my humble opinion is, when you have an app that say ever you should write www, you can type in code. say k. return and the app can make it . And when theres www and it must type in there is more. What i dont know.
    In a book i read i can read science articles with xxx sciencewebsite.com. Nobody have shown my such posibilitys.

  4. You guys are getting totally trashed at Nasawatch about this post. Your answer shows you do not know what you are talking about. Go check out their comments on how to get it done for free in five minutes. Sigh, come on NASA…

  5. “we need to add more servers to handle a lot of additional traffic on the front end, before people get to content.”

    Why would you need more servers? You’d just take the servers you have now and change a single configuration setting so they’d do a single thing slightly differently.

    Simply putting in a redirect to http://www.nasa.gov from nasa.gov in your DNS would take less time than you took to write this blog post. In other words, in this “age of zero-sum budgets”, you just took away more money from some other useful project than if you had simply made the change.

  6. Some people are so stupid. Just type the “w w w” or bookmark the site (duh). Some people will never be happy and will always find something to complain about–something where you supposedly fall short or “could” have done a, b, and c to please them but didn’t. Best to ignore them and get on with things that really matter.

  7. welcome
    Very good article,I have also had this experience,Very similar to the,But I think my experience to the more colorful.
    So I am all share in this——–

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    Thank you

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