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Yesterday I realised that commonly used abbreviations for our site -- TCS.SE, cstheory.SE -- fit the .se top level domain perfectly. I consider registering one and configuring it as alias for the somewhat lengthy cstheory.stackexchange.com.

I do not fear the expense but I would like to avoid it to be useless. Imho, a shorter URL implies the following advantages:

  • Easier to integrate in logos and (shirt|cup|button|flyer) designs
  • Easier to say
  • Easier to memorise
  • Faster to type
  • More recognisable

All of which might result in more people wandering by.

So what do you think, would it be worthwhile to do this?

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    $\begingroup$ Oh, no. Let’s not waste time by repeating domain name discussions again. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 15 '11 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi, it doesn't seem to me that this about the official name/url of the site (if it is then I agree with you), but it seems to me that it is about registering another domain which will redirect to the site, and I like the idea of having cstheory.se or tcs.se redirecting to the site. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Mar 16 '11 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: I do not see why whether it is official or unofficial makes any difference. But if you want to discuss, go ahead. I will not participate in this discussion anyway. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 16 '11 at 3:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi, e.g. take a look at cstheory.com. It is just a shorter link that redirects to the site, more or less like links provided by bit.ly or similar url shortening services. I would prefer to type tcs.se or cstheory.se in place of the full address in the address bar. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Mar 16 '11 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: That is exactly the kind of discussion that I definitely would like to avoid. Anyway, this is my last comment on this thread. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 16 '11 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ This is intended exactly like Kaveh says, as an alias you can or can not use. Note that you can not prevent people from setting up such aliases, anyway. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mar 16 '11 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ A real life example: Mail addresses at my department used to be user@informatik.domain.de. Some years ago they enabled the alias user@cs.domain.de but encouraged people to use the "official" form. Most people I know share the short form anyway, presumably since it is easier to type/say. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mar 16 '11 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ An "official" alternative serving the same purpose would be to ask the StackExchange guys to buy the somain se.com. Then, cstheory.se.com would be equivalent yo our current address on all levels. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mar 16 '11 at 11:58
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The question is, does it really matter? I am talking from personal experience so perhaps my conclusions differ a lot from others' . I feel that a website's URL is only an entry point and not really not important in the long run.

I have noticed that people don't exchange URLs anymore in conversations (I remember that being the case when the Internet was younger). People will usually discuss a site and when asked for instructions will say "Search for this term on your favourite search engine". On social media and blogs that are maintained by computer scientists, the link itself doesn't really matter, since people will just click on it and need not memorize it. It is not uncommon for the URL to be hidden behind a descriptive name, especially in blogs. If there is a problem with length, let each user deal with the url shortener services (e.g. for twitter).

After people have discovered the site and if they are really interested, they will make sure that they can come back. Personally, I used a bookmark in the early days, but usually I just type "cst" on my browser address bar and let my surf history take care of the rest. It happened that at times I completely forgot the URL after deleting my history, I simply searched for "cstheory" or "cs stack exchange" on my favourite search engine and there I was.

Perhaps we would see a better ROI if we tried search engine optimization, of course by benevolent techniques. In a real world example, it's more important for a customer to know how to get to a store, rather than knowing its address. An obscure address name does not matter, if the store itself is easy to find.

This could also help see what search terms are related to this site, how easy is to find this site and other data that complement SE data. This data can prove very useful in deciding our further strategy, possible target audiences, how successful we have been and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this: Optimizing URLs is less valuable overall than SEO or other tools to attract an audience. And given our specialized nature, I'd say that either of these is less valuable than actual proselytizing in forums like FCRC etc $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Mar 16 '11 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it is probably not a big thing and we should focus on ideas for FCRC (and yes that is a really big thing with a very large audience), but I don't think it will cause any problem. So if Raphael or someone else wants to register one of those short domain names and redirect to the site, they can do it, it won't take much time or effort. It might not have a big impact but it still can have a positive one. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Mar 16 '11 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ "The question is, does it really matter?" well said -- we found that obsessing over domain names was a huge distraction from the mission. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Mar 16 '11 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ chazisop, your observations might be true. It is certainly the case that typing "cstheory" in my address bar forwards me here immediately (FF uses google, afaik). What do you think about using a shorter alias in graphical ads? Would it help or can it diffuse the "brand"? My main point is not that we need a shorter URL to be found, but we need a shorter URL to represent us visually. Or do you want to have "Google for cstheory" on a shirt? (note how this is longer than 'cstheory.se'). However, if the community would not use an alias for that purpose, there is little use in registering it. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mar 16 '11 at 11:51

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