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Do I Have to Type in the HTTP and WWW in the Address Field of my Web Browser?

Most browsers don't require you to type in http, but you might need www.
When a web surfer clicks on a hyperlink, it connects to the DNS database to look up the relevant DNS record.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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Current versions of the most popular Web browsers do not require http:// to be entered in the address field when surfing the Internet. However, whether or not a website will require www. is not dependent on the browser, but on the Domain Name System (DNS) record for that domain.

Web surfing is made possible by a massive cooperative effort based upon a common language or set of protocols. All computers connected to the Internet follow these protocols in order to be able to communicate with one another. When a surfer clicks on a hyperlink or manually enters an address in his or her browser, it connects to the DNS database to look up the relevant DNS record. The record contains the name of the website, such as www.wisegeek.com, and the corresponding numerical address, known as the Internet Protocol (IP) address. Every computer on the Internet must have a unique IP address so that pages can be sent by Web servers and received by surfers.

Some DNS records only contain one version of the domain name. For instance, a DNS record might only contain www.example.com, and not example.com. In this case if a surfer enters the latter, no match will be found and the browser will hang or come back with an error message. If the surfer amends the address to www.example.com, the DNS record will be found. Now the browser will obtain the IP address and connect to the host server to request the desired webpage.

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Many domains today are created without “www.” preceding the address, negating the need to enter it into the browser. The DNS record for such a site will list the domain name as, example.com. Nevertheless, some surfers will add the “www” prefix out of sheer habit. To route this traffic as well, the DNS records of these sites commonly include an extra entry called CNAME. This tag allows one to map an alias to the main domain name. The alias, in this case, would be the longer, “www.example.com.” With this type of DNS record, a surfer reaches the site whether or not “www.” is entered.

DNS records can be amended to include a mapped alias. If the site was created as a subdomain on a host server named "www" it may only contain www.example.com in the DNS record. If you would like to amend the DNS record to catch all intended traffic, contact your domain registrar.

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Discuss this Article

cloudel
Post 9

I always type them in, but I think it's more of a habit than anything else. I realize that it isn't usually necessary, but by the time I've thought of this, I've already typed them in.

wavy58
Post 8

@golf07 – That's what I do, too. After all, it's easier to start without it and see what happens first.

I use free browsers, but as far as I can tell, they aren't any different from any other kind. Some sites do require the characters, and some do not. Trial and error is the only way to tell.

golf07
Post 7

If I type in a web address without the www. and nothing comes up, then I will try using the full address.

Usually it hasn't come up because I have misspelled a word and has nothing to do with requiring the www.

With my browser all I have to do is type in a few letters, and if it is a website I have been to before, it automatically brings it up.

LisaLou
Post 6

I am not too computer savvy, but know that it is much quicker typing in an address when you don't have to worry typing in the http://. Not only was this time consuming, but I constantly typed it wrong and had to do it over.

I know some people will still give the whole web address when they are giving you their website information, but I have found it isn't really necessary anymore.

anon58210
Post 5

In most browsers you don’t have to type the www and as technology get smarter you will not have to type the dot com either.

Some browsers already default to the dot com, but there will be a better way by 2011. After all, there are some great web sites on .net, .org, .us, and so on.

anon25647
Post 4

If you type any word in IE's address bar, then hit CTRL-Enter, you'll find the "www" and the ".com"

magically appear and get you to the page!

anon3372
Post 2

Internet Explorer is still lagging behind. Version 6 (haven't used 7, I prefer Firefox) required the www. before your site, if it wasn't there, it thought it was a search and returned results. Firefox on the other hand will find either the site you wanted, or its next best match going from what you gave.

anon2070
Post 1

none of our computers require typing www. before address on browser line except one computer - so i don't think it's a domain name issue - more like something not right in "internet options - advanced" perhaps??

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