HopeForHaitiNow.org offers a lesson in domain names

Today's Hope for Haiti Now telethon is advising viewers to go to HopeForHaitiNow.org. Hopefully many people will.

This provides an opportunity for a quick lesson in domain names. After all, the Internet doesn't come with a User Guide.

HopeForHaitiNow.org is obviously a legitimate Web site.  

But what about HopeForHaitiNow.com?

Unless you are familiar with an Internet facility known as Whois, the correct answer is: beats me.  

Domain names are free agents. Nothing in the bureaucracy of the Internet links HopeForHaitiNow.org with HopeForHaitiNow.com. They may be registered by different people at different times for different purposes.

In this case, a Whois search shows that the .com and .org domains seem to have been registered at the same time with the same registrar (a company that registers domain names) by the same person. This is confirmed by the fact that the .com domain is auto-forwarded to the .org domain. That is, if you enter HopeForHaitiNow.com you end up at HopeForHaitiNow.org.

Likewise, the .net edition of the name also seems to have been registered along with the others and it too, auto-forwards to the .org Web site.

Not so, with HopeForHaitiNow.us. It was registered by a different person using a different registrar. It does not auto-forward to the .org site. At the moment, the domain leads to  a parked (basically a placeholder) Web page. But beware, it could, at any time, be converted to a fake HopeForHaitiNow Web site, one that mimics the real thing.

Likewise, HopeForHaitiNow.info does not appear to be related to the Hope For Haiti Now telethon at all. Neither does HopeForHaitiNow.biz.

When I first wrote about this for CNET in May 2008, I pointed out that the Wall Street Journal owned wsj.com, wsj.net and wsj.us. However, they were not associated with wsj.biz, wsj.info or wsj.org.

CAPITALIZATION

As for capitalization, it's complicated.

In the main part of the domain name, capitalization is ignored. That is,  HopeForHaitiNow.org is the same as hopehorhaitinow.org which is the same as HOPEFORHAITINOW.ORG.

After the .org however, the rules change depending on the operating system running the Web site. If the Web site is hosted on a Unix or Linux system, then case matters. On Windows servers, it does not. For example,

hopeforhaitinow.org/FAQ.ASP

and

hopeforhaitinow.org/faq.asp

point to the same Web page on Windows and to different Web pages on Linux.

HopeForHaitiNow.org is hosted on a Windows machine, so you can easily verify this. My personal Web site is hosted on a Linux machine where the About Me page is

michaelhorowitz.com/about.html

If you try to go to

michaelhorowitz.com/about.HTML

you'll get a page not found error.

Someone, somewhere, some day, has got to write a User Guide for the Internet.

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