What’s in a name ? Domain names and website longevity
I wrote about how to make websites more archivable in a previous post. Having websites archived and making an effort to make websites “archive-friendly” are all good steps which can help increase their longevity. This blog post is about domain names, the name you use to call your website and the address which identifies it on the Web.
To obtain a domain name, you need to pay an annual fee with a registrar for the right to use it. The rented nature of domain names means that they are not permanent and the same domain name could host completely different content at different times if it changes hands.
When planning the take-down or replacement of a website, the question of what to do with the domain name requires some thought. As well as being relevant to record-keeping, it is an important part of (business) continuity.
In most cases the existing domain name is used to host the new version of the website. This is usually the right thing to do – users expect it and (if you chose the right one) a domain name often becomes a part of the identity of the website and/or the brand. Unless there are good reasons to switch to a new one, most domain names are kept when changing websites. Many websites also provide users with the option to view historical versions of the website by linking to a web archive or putting in place a landing page which points to old versions as well as new.
When a website is taken out of service, keeping the domain name and redirecting it to the archival version is also an option. This will incur a small charge in retaining the domain name; but this is much less than paying for the hosting fee and technical support to keep a website live. The advantage of this approach is seamless continuity: users are automatically referred to an archival version of the website without having to be aware of the existence of the web archive. For example, www.oneandother.co.uk, the domain name of the One and Other Project, featuring artist Antony Gormley’s commission for Trafalgar Square’s ‘empty’ fourth plinth in July 2009, points directly to the archival version in the UK Web Archive. Users can type the same web address or click on a link as they used to do and get to the website, despite the fact that it disappeared from the live web years ago.
Keeping the domain name may not be the right solution for everyone but it’s a possibility well worth considering.
[Image courtesy of Roberto Zingales, Creative Commons CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr]