Do you still need a w-w-w-dot before typing a web address in a browser? One answer: Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
A better answer: In general, no — but it can depend on the site.
If a website is specifically configured to require the www (or has a very old setup), you may need to type the old dubya dubya dubya dot first — otherwise, the (bare) domain name alone should get you where you want to go.
A little more explanation
CNAME: Canonical Name
DNS: Domain Name System
http: Hyper Text Transfer Protocol
IMAP: Internet Message Access Protocol
IP Number: Internet Protocol Number
ISPL: Internet Service Provider
SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
SSL: Secure Socket Layer
TLD: Top Level Domain
URI: Uniform Resource Identifier
URL: Uniform Resource Locator
Domain mapping is the process of a making a web address (generally the name-dot-extension URL) you type into your browser’s address bar lead to the appropriate IP address on a server, which then displays the website.
Originally, the www meant that an internet destination was a website (www stands for World Wide Web, after all) — as opposed to, say, a FTP site (File Transfer Protocol — a way to upload/download files from a server), a mail server, etc. On the early web, www became standard by default.
But along with text-only browsers and animated gif graphics like the one at right (which shows a very loose interpretation of how to send an email message), www is old news. The internet has grown up, and no longer do we need to be reminded that typing a domain name into a browser will take you to a Web site.
So do website addresses still need www or not?
In most cases, the www prefix is largely outmoded and unnecessary, in the same way that we no longer have to tell people to put http:// on the front of every URL. Most sites will automatically redirect you to the top level domain (TLD) name and prefix of their choice, whether or not you type in www or not.
As for company owners including the www when promoting their online presence, the fact that you’re referring to a website is generally implied by the .com, .edu, .org or other web suffix. When used on business cards and the like, it just adds more visual clutter. (Can you gather that we personally hate it?)
Run a website?
Unless you want to use the www to help differentiate between subdomains (like talk.myria.com is an offshoot subdomain of the domain myria.com) for the purpose of managing internet traffic or balancing server loads — or even just to more accurately break down visitor access statistics across several sites under one TLD — it absolutely simplifies typing and saying your domain name to leave it out.
The caveat: You need to be sure that both with and without the www will work for your site visitors. (It’s a pretty easy thing to fix. Your web host should be able to help you out with it.)
Check out some of the information at no-www.org for tips and support of the concept of a shortened URL without those extra four pesky characters. Go www free!