Watch out for those sample URLs


When writing documentation, one often has need to come up with a sample URL to illustrate some point or other. When you do, make sure the sample URL is under your control.

I remember a Windows beta that used the sample URL http://www.xxxxx.com/ in a dialog box. You can imagine where that actually goes.

This web site uses www.wallyworld.com as a sample URL. Perhaps they didn't realize that it's a gay porn site.

(Raymond's strange dream story: One night I dreamt that I found a web site that had a complete Dilbert archive, and for some reason the name of the site was "Wally World". In the morning, I checked out the site and was in for a big surprise...)

So play it safe. When you need a sample URL, don't just make something up. If you do, odds are good that somebody is going to rush in and register it. Make your sample URLs point back to your company's home page, or use http://www.example.com, which the IANA has reserved for use in sample URLs. If that's too dorky, you can always go out and register the domain you want to use as your sample, so that nobody else can sneak in and steal it. (This does have the problem of incurring renewal fees.)

Comments (29)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you must keep on top of owning it. The script team used to use "scripthappens.com" for our sample url, which we owned. But when the name ownership expired we didn’t jump on it fast enough and sure enough, it’s been a porn site ever since.

  2. Anonymous says:

    We always used mydomain.com, with the effect that the actual owners of mydomain.com started registering all of our company name’s top-level domains (.co.uk, etc).

    I changed to example.com a while ago, so as not to make any more enemies ;)

  3. Anonymous says:

    if i click

    http://http://www.example.com/

    (using firefox) goes to microsoft ;)

  4. Anonymous says:

    You get the same result just typing http into Firefox – it looks like typing something other than a URL into the location bar is equivalent to going to Google, typing in the search string and pressing "I’m Feeling Lucky".

  5. Anonymous says:

    Another good one is http://www.something.com. Try it, it works ;-)

    Roy

  6. Anonymous says:

    This was a problem when UBIsoft released Rainbow Six 3.

    "Texan Tony Ashcraft was one of the early buyers of the game and noted the URL as he played. Thinking the link might feature ancillary information on the game, he told me he typed it into his browser, only to find no one owned the domain. On Nov. 22, he bought it and immediately filled it with porn links. "

    See http://money.cnn.com/2004/01/05/commentary/game_over/column_gaming/ for the entire story.

  7. Anonymous says:

    In a typing course, my domain name qwerty.nl was used as an example. I started to receive a dozen of e-mails to someuser@qwerty.nl every few days, all with the same excercise text. Finally I got tired of it and asked the publisher of the course to change it to example.nl. dot-nl, instead of dot-com. My mistake… I hope the owner of example.nl isnt bothered too much by it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In the Bahamas, the Batelco used an image of a web browser on the cover of the phone book. The web browser featured the url http://www.xxx.com. It only came to the attention of the phone company that this was a porn site after all of the books had been distributed. The Bahamas is a religous country, at least in public, so the phone company recalled all of the phone books. The returned them to the public after having marked through all of the porn urls with a black magic marker. :)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wierd. On my machine, http://www.example.com goes to

    "You have reached this web page by typing "example.com", "example.net", or "example.org" into your web browser. These domains are reserved for documentation….."

    Maybe you typed http://http://www.example.com?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you must keep on top of owning it.

    Definitely – the next time MS fails to renew hotmail or expedia or something, it might not be a nice geek that notices first. It might be that porn link guy.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Reminds me of a corporate web site done by a consultant years ago (’96?). There were numerous places where the consultant needed dummy URLs so she filled in "http://xxx" thinking it would just produce an error. Well, it turns out the browser of that vintage "helpfully" re-wrote the URL as "http://www.xxx.com/" much to the dismay of her client…

  12. Anonymous says:

    In Germany once C&A gave away T-Shirts

    written canda.boys.com on it. I think

    it was a marketing idea to write something

    looking like internet for the brand "canda boys" of C&A.

    Guess what *.boys.com resolved to ;-)

    They recalled the free T-Shirts.

    Another thing:

    http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/10224

    Microsoft bought

    Dot-in-the-dot.com, dot-in-the-dot-com.org, dot-in-the-dot-com.net, dot-in-the-dot-com.com, dot-in-the-dot.net, dot-in-the-dot.org, dot-truth.org und dot-truth.net.

    Raymond, any idea which department did that?

    marketing, developer-geeks?

    They seem to be not connected at the moment

  13. Anonymous says:

    You also have to be careful of other things. When Win2k launched, the DNS server had an event log message that used bar.com & foo.bar.com as examples. I had a customer complain to me about the unprofessionalism of this, and I really had to agree with the point.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Yes, because professionalism means no sense of humor.

  15. Anonymous says:

    We once had a vendor come in to install their product. After the install, he followed the instructions exactly as they were in his notes. He was surprised when http://servername didn‘t work. ;)

    –jason

  16. Anonymous says:

    Another example: a friend of mine owns "corp.com" which was used, I believe, as the default in an old version of FrontPage. He had a revolving set of places he sent them, including some that were of an adult nature.

  17. Anonymous says:

    A coworker of mine wanted to show me the bus transit’s web site in Montreal. The company’s name used to be "C.T.C.U.M." but everyone simply called it the "C.U.M.".

    So she entered "www.cum.com" in the browser… I had a good laugh when I saw her reaction!

  18. Anonymous says:

    RFC2606 says that http://www.invalid.* is reserved.

    But none of them are. What’s up with that.

    BTW, If you own

    .spam

    .qwerty

    .servername

    .nowhere

    .nobody

    .qwerty

    .foo

    etc

    then you deserve the spam you get. You knew it wasn’t a valid entity name when you registered it.

    If you are Billy Bob, then you register BillyBob.com, not foobar.com or haha.com

  19. Anonymous says:

    I always wonder if there is a "somebody@microsoft.com", that being the example email address in outlook express. If there is, they must get a lot of spoofed mail.

  20. Anonymous says:

    somebody@microsoft should be routed to Erika Wikkers from .NET-Tv (or how is her name spelled) ;-)

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to know how much spam billg@microsoft.com gets :)

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’d imagine a lot less than asdf@asdf.com

  23. Anonymous says:

    Advice from Raymond Chen: Watch out for those sample URLs Example Web Page

  24. Anonymous says:

    RFC 2606 says that invalid is a reserved *top level* domain. What the RFC is saying is that, for example, somethingsilly.invalid will never be available for registration.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Does the URL have to be real? If not, you could use http://tempuri.org.

  26. Anonymous says:

    What makes you say it isn’t real? It works for me.

  27. Anonymous says:

    There is a stock collection of fake names.

Comments are closed.