English has twenty-five letters that take one syllable each to say, and one letter that needs three syllables.
Guess which one we decided to triple in web addresses.
In the early days of the worldwide web, adoption was uncertain, web servers weren’t everywhere, setting one up was somewhat more of a big deal than it is now, and, from an organizational point of view, it made sense to give your company’s web server its own prefix. So example.com would not have a web server on it, but www.example.com would. That made sense at the time.
But since the worldwide web operates on port 80, a designation that separates it from other Internet traffic that goes to the same Internet address, there’s no real reason — certainly no technical one — why it needs to be segregated.
So, as things took off, some companies saw that it made sense to allow access to port 80 without the www. prefix. They either run their web servers on both www.example.com and example.com, or they have one address re-routed to the other for port 80.
That makes it nice. You don’t have to type “www.” all the time. But even better, you don’t have to say “dub-ul-yew, dub-ul-yew, dub-ul-yew, dot” all the time! I’ve heard people try to shorten it as “dub-ya, dub-ya, dub-ya” (which now has obvious bad connections for some of us), “dub, dub, dub”, and, my least favourite, “wuh, wuh, wuh”.
Let’s try to make it a point to Just Leave It Off. When you type in domain names for web servers, leave off the www., and see if it works. 99.9% of the time, it will. When you tell people a web address, leave it off. If it doesn’t work that way, they can always stick it back on.
I do, once in a while, run into a site where the www. is required, and you can’t get there without it. Bozo web sites, those, and we ought to be complaining to their webmasters. But it happens so infrequently, these days, that it’s pretty much safe to Just Leave It Off.