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the devil is in the details

In one of those random occurrences that are bound to happen everyday I notice there's a strange referer in my long. It looked something like this (And yes, it's not my typo):
So I think about it for a second and I realize that this is something eminently reasonable for google to do, namely, make sure that common mispellings are taken care of so that users can get to what they want instead of seeing an unnecessary error. But then I got curious.

As we all know (?), DNS resolution depends on the dots of the names to separate host name from domain from master domain (e.g., .com or .org). If the machine name isn't configured in the DNS server then it will fail. So it requires a conscious act to support multiple (apparenlty invalid) domains, such as ww or w or whatever. But how where different systems dealing with this? How pervasive was the practice?

Google, for example, supports,, but strangely, not (which seems to me to be another possible common misspelling). Microsoft, in what would have to be characterized as their (perceived) usual disregard for end-users, supports none of the variants, either for their main site or for So if you make a typing error, even a common one, such as leaving one "w", MS doesn't help you at all, you just get a browser error telling you the site doesn't exist (just like Google failing with four "w"s). Teoma supports all w, ww, www, and wwww (+1 for Teoma!).

Both Google and Teoma, however, leave you at the "wrong" address, which in my mind seems, well, wrong. Yahoo! goes one step further and redirects you to no matter what (Yahoo!, however, only supports ww, www and wwww, while sending you to an error page for only one w used). Overall, Yahoo wins in my book.

However, I wonder, is it really wrong when a user types it with one or two or four "w"s? Yahoo!'s behavior is to gently "correct you", but if you got to where you wanted, does it really matter? Hm.

Nevertheless, interesting stuff. The details, always the details...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 1 2004 at 11:31 PM

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