Enforcing www

Album Cover: Plans

"And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time."
Death Cab / What Sarah Said

Posted on July 05, 2005 1:24 AM in Web Development
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I hadn't really noticed until tonight, but up until now it was possible for anyone to view my blog by either pointing their browser to bernzilla.com, or www.bernzilla.com or even something bizarre like voteforpedro.bernzilla.com. Now, this is all fine and dandy, but the one problem this can cause is that repeat visitors who have chosen a site theme other than the default will lose their setting if they visit a different "server." So for instance, if I set the Gecko theme (see the sidebar) as my skin while visiting www.bernzilla.com, I'll still see the default Snow theme if I visit bernzilla.com.

So how is this problem solved? Very easily, thanks to a quick and easy mod_rewrite refresher lesson from Practical Applications. I say "refresher" here because we've been down this road before.

As you can see from that site, forcing the www in all visits to your domain is as simple as adding three new lines to your .htaccess file, and maybe an .htaccess file if you didn't already have one. The change I made to mine looks like the following:

# only allow requests with www in the domain
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www.bernzilla.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.bernzilla.com/$1 [R,L]

The first line (under the comment) looks for any requests in which www.bernzilla.com is not the HTTP_HOST. In matching cases, the second line applies the special rule. We fetch everything following the forward slash after the server name and tack it on to the end of the server name we want to enforce. So in the case where someone has requested something like bernzilla.com/projects.php, they will be redirected to www.bernzilla.com/projects.php.

Pretty nifty, huh?

Comments

Ryan on July 08, 2005 at 11:34 AM:

But I wanted to visit bernzilla.com, not www.bernzilla.com...

Can't we come up with a better way of preserving choice, like using all-psubdomain cookies. Accordin to the php web site entry about the setcookie() function:

"To make the cookie available on all subdomains of example.com then you'd set it to '.example.com'. The . is not required but makes it compatible with more browsers. Setting it to www.example.com will make the cookie only available in the www subdomain."

So set the skin preference this way, avoid the rewrite rule overhead, and I can visit voteforpedro.bernzilla.com to my heart's content.

Just my $0.02

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Bernie Zimmermann on July 09, 2005 at 12:31 AM:

You bring up a very good point, Ryan. There may be users who prefer bernzilla.com to www.bernzilla.com, but then again they may prefer the Gecko theme to my default Snow theme. They might prefer Arial to Verdana, too, but it's my website so I can do what I want. And then you can go write a Greasemonkey script and do what you want. Or you can write one of those funky browser hacks I'm always reading about that lets you hijack the address bar and put whatever you want there. That's much more fun, isn't it?

Seriously though, your subdomain example is a great solution for the cookie-related problem. I just happen to have a penchant for the www (call me old school) so that supercedes the cookie problem ;)

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Suzanne on July 11, 2005 at 2:07 PM:

Bernie -

Hello. I noticed you have many posts of people having problems with gmail. I have had a "Loading" message for over a week now and can't access my account. Any suggestions? I am awaiting some important messages and don't know what to do!

Thank you!
S

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