Sam Brown

MobileSafari drops the protocol, next squash the www

Apple’s most recent software update for the iPhone, v2.2 brought along some welcome additions and notably some nice forward thinking in the latest MobileSafari.

Mobile Safari - Remindness

This latest version squeezes both the address and search input boxes onto the screen at the same time, while I’m not a big fan of this I am happy to see that the http protocol has been dropped from the address bar and only the URL is displayed. Now if only they would get rid of the redundant www that would save even more space and allow for better display of long URLs.

Post a link to this on Twitter ↩


Tim Van Damme 24 November 2008, 03:23 #1

Don’t forget that some (less-well build) websites need the www-part in order to work. So, when will you launch Remindness? :)

Sam Brown 24 November 2008, 04:01 #2

I absolutely realise that, but do we, the end user need to see the www? If I typed in and only saw that would not only save more space but help promote the idea that it isn't needed.

Michael Mistretta 24 November 2008, 04:20 #3

I noticed this as well. It’s quite cleverly done—only displaying the http:// when you choose to edit a URL, and disappearing when it’s not needed.

Mike Robinson 24 November 2008, 04:35 #4

I completely agree with you on removing the “www.”. I am surprised they didn’t do this along with the “http://”!

Andy Pearson 24 November 2008, 04:54 #5

That is a really nice touch, thanks for pointing it out!

With regards to the no www, you can actually set up your server to redirect requests with www. to the no-www equivalent.

According to you can use the following snippet in an .htaccess file to do the redirect if you are running Apache.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.+)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

My latest site does this (try it:, and I am planning to do the same on my other domains. URLs look much cleaner without the added cruft!

Sam Brown 24 November 2008, 04:59 #6

@Andy: Absolutely agree, I wrote about it back in June of last year and am a very big supporter of completely removing www from URLs.

John Sutherland 24 November 2008, 05:08 #7

We all know that the Ws are almost entirely redundant: most people know what a URL is, how it works, and that you can usually miss off the Ws.

But the point is that it still makes a difference—some sites won’t work without it, so I suspect that hiding the Ws will confuse users, they’ll stop typing it, a handful of sites will stop working, and they’ll not understand why.

The root of the problem is, as Andy says above, is that developers should be redirected Ws to non-Ws, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion, and MobileSafari would have a little bit screen space ;)

Alexander 24 November 2008, 06:36 #8

who cares… i wanna see remindness in action :)

Mike Robinson 24 November 2008, 06:56 #9

“suspect that hiding the Ws will confuse users, they’ll stop typing it”

This stripped down URL would only be visible while the user is active on the page, appearing once more when they access the URL field to type. When they think of typing a URL, the Ws are there, and then gone when they are busying themselves with the page. I don’t think it would have such an impact :)

But yes, I agree that it is down to webmasters to sort the URLs out and set up appropriate precautions. If they insist on using www. (why?!) then they can still redirect from non-www to www. It’s not like it’s a lot of work, I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost a bit of traffic by not doing it!

Søren Hugger Møller 24 November 2008, 08:43 #10

I actually completely disagree. Because of what Tim Van Damme mentioned. I agree that www. is redundant and I wish that it would just go away, but because some sites do infact need the www. to be present to work, I think it would be a very bad idea to just ditch it from the URL bar. I think it will hurt more that it will be useful. I think it might confuse some people even more than www. does already.

Cameron 24 November 2008, 09:54 #11

First off: Sam, you tease!

Second, why exactly do some website absolutely require www? I redirect all www. requests, and it works fine. What websites can’t use that same method?

Chris 24 November 2008, 10:08 #12

In agreement with Cameron and Alexander—such a tease is hard on us. Give us a date along with the screen!

Spencer Fry 24 November 2008, 10:29 #13

I think the new mobile Safari is a big improvement. The new UI is a lot better than before. Why aren’t you a fan of the the address bar and the search bar being on the same line?

Sam Brown 24 November 2008, 11:25 #14

We should be educating users about the difference between www and non-www not sitting and waiting for server admins or site owners to make up their mind about which to use. If a site doesn’t work without the www that is a major oversight by the site developers and they should instantly be made aware of it.

@Spencer: The only thing going for the new MobileSafari is that regular users unaware now see a Google input box. Touching that zooms in the search box, or touching the URL zooms in that.

Previously you had both on the screen at the same time and if you forgot a URL for example you could quickly tap the search input box and start typing, now you have to hit Cancel and then hit the search box and start typing.

So not only is it an extra touch to switch between the two, you see even less of the URL in the address bar.

Elliot Jay Stocks 25 November 2008, 03:52 #15

This is a great move, and – as I’ve only just updated to 2.4 – one I hadn’t yet noticed. Thanks!

And yes, please can we drop the ‘www’ from all mention of URLs? The general public learned quite some time ago that they didn’t need to type ‘http://’ – there’s no reason why their use of ‘www’ shouldn’t go the same way.

Julian Schrader 27 November 2008, 08:40 #16

This is really nice — and I’d love to totally get rid of www. as well!

spencer Fry 28 November 2008, 11:26 #17


There’s the problem of PageRank, though. Linking to 2 different “main” URLs.

Jonathan 30 November 2008, 23:59 #18

the problem isn’t that “www.” is redundant. Should mail clients strip “mail.” off the front of their urls? We need to educate users about what subdomains are, not hide them. The number of otherwise-web-literate clients I have who try to visit their demo website at “*www.*” then tell me that the preview is broken is staggering.

It’s up the the admin as to what they name their web server. I’m a big believer in subdomains, and stripping “www” implies that you can only ever host one service under the domain name. Where it’s redundant, it should be explicitly redundant (via a redirect, say). Where not, whether through design or admin ignorance, the browser shouldn’t start trying to be clever.

Commenting has closed for this article. Feel free to me.

Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.