How to switch from using naked domain to WWW

September 25, 2018 1.5k views
Apache WordPress

I set up my domains in the DNS to have www redirect to my naked domain: https://sitename.com

After doing a lot of research it seems that the better choice is to use the www. in the domain:

What do y'all suggest? I can easily tweak my DNS settings here to push naked domain to WWW. But my big concern is how to update these settings on Apache (through the one-click install that I did for Wordpress.)

I haven’t launched my site officially yet so I won’t have to deal with 301’s, but I’ve read that one would need to update the .htaccess file to do make the switch.

What else needs to be done?

Can someone outline all of the implications of making this switchover and what should be done to WP, the webserver (Apache), and also in my domains console with DO?

3 Answers

Hey friend!

I don’t think there is any benefit for you as a DigitalOcean customer. I’ll explain. The meat of it seems to be here:

When using a provider such as Heroku or Akamai to host your web site, the provider wants to be able to update DNS records in case it needs to redirect traffic from a failing server to a healthy server. This is set up using DNS CNAME records, and the naked domain cannot have a CNAME record.

The reason they’re saying this is because Heroku and Akamai provide a managed service in which they may very well have to change the IP of a server or route traffic to a different IP. You are pointing your service to a domain name of theirs, and if you pulled the IP of that domain name and used it instead of a CNAME, your application would break if they changed the IP of that domain name. At DigitalOcean, however, you manage your DNS and IP address. If you need to change IP addresses, this is going to be part of your process rather than ours. At that stage, the only difference using this methodology becomes which DNS A record you end up having to change, not whether or not you have to change one or how much downtime it causes (alias lookups are cached the same).

It would therefore be my opinion that you should then follow the traditional standard of WWW being a CNAME to the root domain, and simply ensure that the website either returns fine with WWW or that it redirects traffic to WWW to the root domain. You could reverse that all the same, if you preferred the reverse. Personally I stopped using WWW everywhere when I started in the industry and someone told me something that was so painfully obvious I had never even taken the moment to make the mental connection: That WWW is a subdomain. It’s three extra letters to no particular end.

Jarland

Thanks for the quick reply @jarland!

My concern is a little more about what I was reading on the yes-www.org site…

Another reason has to do with cookies. One common web site optimization is to serve static content from a subdomain, such as static.example.com. If you are using www, then this is no problem; your site’s cookies won’t be sent to the static subdomain (unless you explicitly set them up to do so). If you use the naked domain, the cookies get sent to all subdomains (by recent browsers that implement RFC 6265), slowing down access to static content, and possibly causing caching to not work properly.

I use Discourse as a community, which is a subdomain - community.domain_name.com

I would rather keep my site as domainname.com instead of switching it to www, but I’m concerned that because my naked domain is an LMS in wordpress and has tons of cookies, etc. I’m worried that when folks go to my community which is community.domainname.com that b/c it is a subdomain, all of the cookies from the main site will go with the user and it may slow down or degrade the performance of their Discourse community experience.

Is this correct? Any feedback on that quote above?

  • Happy to help if I can :)

    It’s theoretically valid, I’m just not certain that it actually plays out in any significant way in practice. I mean, there’s no harm in using www anyway. I’m just not really sure I agree that there is any harm in going without it. At least for me, it’s been standard practice for years and I’ve never seen performance degradation brought on by a cookie (though now I kind of want cookies and that may be degrading my own performance).

    If you want to go www the effort to do so is relative. For example, if you’re running something like Wordpress you won’t need a .htaccess redirect, you just change the site URL in it’s config to the www page and it should redirect requests there. Many other web applications work in the same way.

    Jarland

Thanks again @jarland !

Currently, I have an A Record for a subdomain “www.mysite.com” that redirects to my naked domain, and I have an A Record for my naked domain “mysite.com”.

So if I wanted to make the switch from using my naked domain to a www subdomain what would the proper steps be, in DO, and in Wordpress? Is this on track or what am I missing?

  1. Do I need to change anything in my Domains/DNS settings in my DO account? https://cloud.digitalocean.com/networking/domains/
  2. Do I just visit this page in WP: https://mysite.com/wp-admin/options-general.php and change my “Wordpress Address (URL)” and the “Site Address (URL)” from my current naked domain (https://mysite.com) to the www version ➞ https://www.mysite.com

Anything else?

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