Related StackOverflow Blog post:

Domain Names: The Wrong Question

Nothing to Install is a fine name, probably one of the best in the network. Yet, it's confusing to have half the people talking about Webapps and half Nothing To Install.


  1. Naming (domain name selection) is really hard.

    Not all communities seem able to do it, as in they can't even agree on which is the "least worst" (literally) of their choices.

  2. Many names, much confusion

    When users see a Wikipedia link in their search results, they know what to expect. Hopefully when users see a stackexchange.com link they would also know to expect high quality Q&A. But what can they expect when they see nothingtoinstall.com or one of 25+ other domains? Unknown. Additionally, Google traffic makes up a HUGE percentage of our traffic and it hurts our Google ranking by breaking up into a series of top-level domains. That means less eyeballs, and ultimately less Q&A.

  3. Web Apps is also Nothing To Install

    The confusion that some people are talking about Web Apps while others are talking about "Nothing to Install". That will pass but become a bigger, more confusing problem as the network grows and we have (currently) 25+ different pairs of domain names to refer to!

What do you think about each site maintaining their sitename.stackexchange.com (webapps.stackexchange.com) name?

It has been requested on a large number of meta sites in the up-and-coming Stack Exchange communities?

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    This is entirely the wrong place to ask a question that will affect 2 dozen other sites. – hobodave Oct 1 '10 at 23:57
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    If this discussion is ongoing, why the heck has our domain been taken away? – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 2 '10 at 0:18
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    Wow, you already rolled it back? So this entire "discussion" was basically nothing more than window-dressing. I can only speak to myself, but I think you're going to lose a lot of goodwill with this kind of stunt. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 2:20
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    I agree with @Aaronaught -- why was the name already taken away?? That seems very hasty! – Josh Oct 2 '10 at 2:57
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    Is this all or nothing? Perhaps each site could decide for themselves what is best with a list of benefits and possible down sides for NOT choosing the *.stackexchange domain. Server fault for example wouldn't be as cool if it was named servers.stackexchange.com. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 2 '10 at 4:08
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    Marco Arment linked to this site as "Nothing to Install". marco.org/1223864297. – Sathyajith Bhat Mod Oct 2 '10 at 5:29
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    Vote to Close: belongs on meta.stackoverflow.com (or should that be meta.programming.stackexchange.com ... or engine-discussions.stackexchange.com) ;) – alexanderpas Oct 2 '10 at 17:17
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    Oh wow, it is a bulletted list with items in bold it surely must be a great idea! – badp Oct 2 '10 at 17:28
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    @Alex you forget there is just one 3k user without a diamond here :) – badp Oct 2 '10 at 17:43
  • For the linked bar – badp Oct 2 '10 at 18:35
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    If this question is meant to feel out how webapps feels about this, please rewrite to say so. If not, I agree, that this belongs on meta. As it is, the question is unclear, where it was posted alone contradicts some of the text in the question. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 2 '10 at 18:39
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    Regarding any intentional or unintentional implied SEO benefit, if anyone is interested I asked about it here: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/3494/… – Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 23:58
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    @Brian, great idea to use the community like this! – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 4 '10 at 0:16

26 Answers 26


I'm just going to take this straight from the horse's mouth:

American audiences, generally, don’t trust series. They tend to believe that they want the best baking book, period, not whatever baking book comes in yellow. When they see a shelf full of yellow dummy books, they mostly say, “yeah, a bunch of second-best books.”


Influenced by Ries and Trout, we decided that individually-branded sites felt more authentic and trustworthy. We thought that letting every Stack Exchange site have its own domain name, visual identity, logo, and brand would help the community feel more coherent. After all, nobody wants to say that they live in Housing Block 2938TC. They want to live in Colonial Manor. Never mind the connotation of, well, colonies.

But I digress. We’re building best of breed Q&A sites for the new Stack Exchange Network 2.0, and we would rather have a team of individual sites rather than a bunch of subdomains that remind you of nothing more than the chart you saw when you went to the library that one time in college, with the Dewey Decimal system explained. 100 Philosophy. 200 Religion. 300 Social Sciences. 400 Language and pornographic magazines. BORING.

Yes, that's right. Joel Spolsky wrote that about Stack Exchange.

And I agree with every word of it. The .stackexchange.com domain might work for some communities (particularly the very technology-oriented ones) but is terrible marketing for most sites.

Give me The Joy of Cooking or Larousse Gastronomique, not Cooking for Dummies.

Give me Code Complete or The Mythical Man-Month, not Programming for Dummies.

Give me Stack Overflow, not Programming Stack Exchange.

Give us proper domain names. Give us identities.

Naming isn't as hard as you make it out to be - many communities have already settled on them; the confusion will pass very quickly while the site is still small but it will be much harder to make the switch when the site is large; and the 25+ domain names is something that only the team is going to care about, not the users, and even that won't take long to adjust to (you still have to memorize all the subdomain names under the current system).

And while there might be some highly-dubious argument that putting everything under stackexchange.com might be marginally better for the googlejuice, what's really good for googlejuice is building a brand and brand loyalty and getting lots and lots of activity, and that's not going to come with a stuffy name like stackexchange.com and a bunch of subdomains. It just isn't. I can see the lights go off whenever I talk about our cooking site and utter the words "Stack Exchange" - these days I try to avoid saying it at all, waiting for the day when we finally get our own domain.

Now you're suggesting that day isn't going to come? Well, forget about promotion then, because it'll be almost impossible to do. We'll be the big yellow "for dummies" of the web.

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    @Robert: When do you hear anyone other than programmers talking at all about Stack Exchange? That's what's at stake here. If you already had the mindshare, you could stand on that, but you don't. You're branching out to non-programming audiences; even this site might have programmers as contributors but is likely to have ordinary Joe Sixpacks as people asking or searching for questions. These people don't equate "Stack Exchange" to "Quality Q&A", they equate "Stack Exchange" to "Huh?" – Aaronaught Oct 1 '10 at 23:40
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    By the way @Robert, O'Reilly books do have relatively distinct branding and clearly have distinct titles. They're just a bit similar and have the O'Reilly logo on the bottom - much like the general layout of an SE site and the ubiquitous Stack Exchange dropdown at the top of our screens right now. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 0:00
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    Slapping "Stack Exchange" in the name of everything is exactly what the dummies series is doing. O'Reilly surreptitiously includes their logo on their books. They also use a consistent design and look/feel. They dont however name their books with any reference to O'Reilly. – hobodave Oct 2 '10 at 0:02
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    Joel has pretty much come back around to, and I quote "y'know, the dummies series .. it kinda works." – Jeff Atwood Oct 2 '10 at 0:23
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    @Aaronaught: What? I thought I was agreeing with you but now you are losing me. If your argument is "Stack Exchange = Huh?", how in the world is changing every single site to have a different name going to help increase anyone's brand recognition? Your argument about "ignore branding at peril" would seem in support of Stack Exchange naming. I.e., Concentrate on creating one focused brand rather than creating hundreds of little disparate ones. – Robert Cartaino Oct 2 '10 at 1:42
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    @Robert: The concept of branding has to be applied to a specific target audience. Your audience can't be "Everyone on the whole entire internet." That's Yahoo Answers territory, and you and Jeff know it's a losing strategy to be unfocused. You want specific sites marketed toward specific audiences. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 2:23
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    And @Jeff, when did Joel come back around to that and why? I have almost never seen the team backpedal so dramatically; where did this come from? – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 2:24
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    @Robert, everyone here is right. There are advantages to having individual branding and benefits to having network branding. I think it's possible for you to have your cake and eat it too. Draw people in with individual good sites, wait for them to think "Man, I wish there was a Nothing to Install for [some other topic]" and then let them realize "hey, this is a network of sites, there is a Nothing to Install for [some other topic]!" – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 18:06
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    @Jeff: You can't just expect traffic by throwing a bunch of SEO nonsense at the wall. There has to be something to draw in the readers and that's not going to happen until you at least have some sort of a community. A handful of programmers from the Stack sites is not a healthy community without some kind of expansion and communities simply can't promote themselves and expand without an identity. You're getting way, way ahead of yourself. Word of mouth is going to be a lot more effective than Google traffic in the initial stages of a live site. Have you seen the analytics? – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 4:58
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    @Brian: I'm not buying it. It just doesn't jibe with Jeff's "vanity domains are for heavy-hitting sites" sentiment. It's even harder to agree on a name when you're that big, and even if "Nothing to install" is not the best choice, names like "Stack Overflow" and "Super User" aren't exactly dazzling either. No, I think some SEO nut got involved in the discussion somehow and the VCs are forcing them to follow all of his advice. Either that or the entire team suffered massive brain injuries. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 5:08
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    @Jeff, what do you think a blog mention is? That's word of mouth, and that's where 90% of your initial traffic is going to come from. Hell, that's where Stack Overflow's initial traffic all came from. Most of us have been purposely waiting trying to contact bloggers because of the dorky name and beta theme. We want to have something that looks like a finished product to promote. None of this guarantees that we'll succeed if we get a domain name, but it does virtually guarantee that we'll fail without one. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 13:34
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    @Jeff, a domain name isn't a "vanity" option, it's the identity of that community. Rules like these just make it all the more obvious that this is increasingly becoming about click-farming and not communities. No single community will be able to promote itself and grow as large as you ask without a proper name, so you've created a very obvious chicken-and-egg problem here. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 16:01
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    @Jeff: So, as community opposition to this decision grows more and more obvious, you're taking an even more hardline stance? All the top answers are against your stance, and everywhere you've commented, all the dissenting comments have been upvoted highly. You know this won't be liked, which is why you haven't put a post on the SO blog about it. – Macha Oct 3 '10 at 16:40
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    @Jonathan: That's all well and good, but the time to raise such objections would have been a month ago, or more. This is more of an issue of having a unique domain vs. being joined at the hip with the entire Stack Exchange family than it is about nothingtoinstall.com vs. other domain names. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 20:38
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    @Jonathan, I don't even know where to begin deconstructing that argument. Connecting Stack Exchange with Stack Overflow is "common sense" only to somebody who has used the latter, and is only relevant to programmers. Why should a cook care about a site run by successful geeks? Separately, the fact that Stack Exchange is just "one" domain does not give it any better chance of becoming widely known, because each individual subdomain is still targeting the exact same demographic as a named domain would be. It's just not marketing itself as effectively. – Aaronaught Oct 4 '10 at 19:15

"Web Applications" is a topic, not a name.

When I refreshed the main page and saw the new logo — for those who don't know, it's just "Web Applications" in plain black text — I thought it looked like a sub-page of a much larger website. If I visited hp.com and searched for the latest drivers for my laptop, I would expect to see "Pavilion dm3t" in that same font and location.

When I visit facebook, I don't want the title bar to read "Friends." When I visit Chowhound, I don't want the logo at the top of the page to say "Food discussion." When I visit hulu, I don't want the logos to say "Assorted videos." You get the point. Our sites need real names and identities.

Besides, if we stick with webapps.stackexchange.com, are we going to change Stack Overflow to programming.stackexchange.com? *.stackexchange.com is okay in beta, when we're still feeling out the boundaries and spitballing ideas, but that's it. Real names maintain consistency.

Also, specific response to point #3: if the name is Nothing to Install, then call it Nothing to Install. Having this nebulously defined hybrid naming thing is just about the only thing worse than sticking with Web Applications.

Yes, naming is hard. Most things worth doing are hard. And people don't like change; that's just how we're wired. But you don't see facebook losing all of its members whenever it rolls out a redesign, even though people get up in arms about it every time. Eventually people will get used to it and we'll be wondering how we ever got along without things being the way they are.

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    I think the naming confusion of WA vs NTI was only because it had barely been 24 hours. The transition of what people think isn't going to be instant, but they'll acclimate to change. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 2 '10 at 17:59
  • @rchern I hope you're right. – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 18:27
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    When you reach Server Fault levels of traffic, you can graduate to a vanity domain -- that's still an option that is open, if you make it to the major leagues. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:07
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    @Jeff, really? In <random time frame>, you'd randomly say ok, we've been using servers.stackexchange.com for <random time frame>, but tomorrow, that's no more! we're serverfault.com now!? – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:17
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    @Jeff, will there be a blog post explaining this mess? I'm interested in how we went from NTI gets grandfathered in since they've already got a domain to let's get the community's input to nah, let's just change it without the community discussion? – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:19
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    If anything, you're going the wrong direction. Want people to think of Stack Exchange as a place for experts? Start sites off with the vanity name, and only deign to consider granting admission to *.stackexchange.com-land if they're good enough. – Pops Oct 3 '10 at 4:20
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    @rchern tellingly, your example uses SERVERS in both cases, which actually is a decent name -- it's a "site about servers". Now compare webapps.se to nothingtoinstall.com. Which one is about what topic, again? – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:29
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    @lord based on 12+ sites so far, domain naming is not something the community can realistically do. It's incredibly difficult, like nobel laureate difficult. And there's just no way in hell the community could name a site from the beginning. That's flat-out crazy talk. Maybe after a year.. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:31
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    @Jeff, so use SuperUser as the example then. Regardless, a name isn't a topic. Changing the name of an established site? That really gonna go well? – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:32
  • @Jeff, I actually dislike the idea of starting off with the vanity name. It just seems to make more sense than making SF the cutoff value. – Pops Oct 3 '10 at 4:47
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    @Jeff: A "vanity domain?" Honestly, that sounds like management telling programmers that private offices are for executives only. What a load of crap. This isn't about "vanity", it's about being able to promote the site. The only thing that's "flat-out crazy talk" is spouting a bunch of SEO gibberish when you barely have anything that people want to search for yet. If you don't think the community is capable of coming up with its own name then hire a professional to do it. Almost anything is better than "blah.stackexchange.com." – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 5:02
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    @aaron you promote the site by ranking high in search results. period. Beyond that, sharing links to individually great Q&A is always a good idea, of course -- and you want the site name to be prosaic, simple, and "looks like what it is". (as an aside you keep saying "anything is better than..", which is a bit like what Steve Yegge called "shit's easy syndrome" -- if naming is so easy, astound us with examples of these mythical better names.) – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 5:27
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    What does "google" mean now? What did it mean on day one? – Dennis Williamson Oct 3 '10 at 7:17
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    @Jeff: No, ranking high in search results doesn't promote the site when people aren't searching for things that already exist on the site. And I never said naming was easy; like this very answer states, most things worth doing are hard. Crowdsourcing is great for evaluative and informational purposes but might not be so great for creative ones; that said, if a name resonated well with over 50 of the maybe 100 active meta users, perhaps it's actually catchy enough and you're the ones with the problem? And if you're still not convinced, then like I said, hire a professional. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 13:44
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    @aaron we'll just have to agree to disagree, then. And even a so called "professional" couldn't come up with 25 great names for 25 different sites (and increasing every day). It's simply impossible, it doesn't scale, it's materially WORSE in 99% of cases -- and there's a simpler, straightforward solution. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 14:49

If you want to look at network branding, take a gander at the Gawker spread of sites. Kotaku, Jezebel, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and io9. All with their own names, URLs and communities.

They're for different audiences and marketed to them specifically. Not as generic, lump-based chunks of a whole. But all recognizable as part of the larger Gawker umbrella.

It's not ProductivityPorn.Gawker, it's Lifehacker.

Rely on quality results being returned in searches. Not on lazy brand marketing.

If you can't work out a good name, just don't graduate the site outside of its beta period.

Don't make people think it's full-fledged by leaving the non-sketchy design in place. No matter how nice it looks, giving an SE site its own look but denying the community to champion it with a distinct, non-subdomained name (however bad) is being two minds of branding and building.

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    Now THIS is a good perspective to paint this issue in! Well said, well done. Can I donate rep to you? – VxJasonxV Oct 2 '10 at 22:56
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    Indeed, that was the plan -- but the new plan is that you must be quite large, Server Fault large, to earn the right to play in the major leagues and have your own domain name. Bottom line, nothingtoinstall.com was a very, very bad name and materially worse than webapps.stackexchange.com. Even worse, every other proposed name in the network (except cooking) is various shades of "we hate it a tiny bit less than the other suggestions." – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:13
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    Don't discount the speed of social between a name that the community can call its own over one that is just a sub-domain. @jef – Eight Days of Malaise Oct 3 '10 at 5:24
  • @eight I would rather have a healthy child named John than a sickly, anemic child named Yossarian. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 5:40
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    But the parents and the village (as in "it takes a") need to be excited about the child. Neglect leads to calls to CPS. – Dennis Williamson Oct 3 '10 at 7:26
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    another key difference -- we have 25 (and counting) sites. These networks have about 8-10 total. To go this route strictly limits the # of sites we can have. Like I've been saying: this per-site domain stuff simply doesn't scale... at all. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 16:10
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    Nothingtoinstall.com is "materially worse" than webapps.stackexchange.com? Hah, tell me another! I think I'd rather visit pusandmucus.com, given the choice. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 16:43
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    Jeff, how did you quantify how bad the name was, and how you simply couldn't go on using NIT.com? I visited this site all of once under NIT, came back and it was WebApps and I was thoroughly confused. Where's all the detail on the order of events/thoughts/feelings from those 24 hours or so? – VxJasonxV Oct 3 '10 at 17:40

_____.stackexchange.com? Yuck.

'nuf said.

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    -1 for "'nuf said." You haven't said enough until you've provided a reason. – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 16:55
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    @LordTorgamus I said Yuck. I have a visceral feeling of distaste or disgust. Visceral meaning "Relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect." If somebody gave you a pie made of excrement to taste, I wouldn't expect a treatise on why it "tastes like shit." :-) – Chris W. Rea Oct 2 '10 at 17:23
  • @Chris, but I would expect an explanation of why you didn't like it. Specifically: "it tastes like excrement." I didn't say it had to be a long reason. – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 17:27
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    @Lord Torgamus, The fact that @Chris had a visceral reaction to the name (and got >= three upvotes agreeing with him) should say something all on its own. Many users may not be able to articulate why they don't like a name. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 2 '10 at 18:34
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    I'm actually okay with "visceral reaction" as a reason. But as far as I'm concerned, the word "yuck" alone doesn't unambiguously mean "I had a visceral reaction to this." The first time I read this answer -- in other words, before this whole comment thread started -- I thought "yuck" just meant "I disagree with this." – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 18:47
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    If only you could have seen the look on my face when I first read this thread. Then, you would have understood my Yuck. :-) – Chris W. Rea Oct 2 '10 at 22:59
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    @Chris, heh, you should've attached a photo, then we could've avoided all this unpleasantness! – Pops Oct 3 '10 at 21:56

I find this silly for a variety of reasons, and also mildly offensive (not unlike some other questions we saw at meta.Gaming.SE) given the amount of effort that communities are still pouring into getting good domain names in the justifiably tight restraints given.

I'm going to assume those questions really are "toughballs" aimed to test the solidity of the choices and the communities behind them, however.

The choice here is between site branding and engine branding.

On the one side we have stackoverflow.com, on the other we have programming.stackexchange.com.

On the one side we have the community side of NTI, on the other the corporate side of StackOverflow Internet Services, Inc.

On the one side we have the community SO, Inc. wants to sell ads to, on the other side we have the Q&A engine SO, Inc. gave up on selling.

On the one side we have all the added value of Area51's terraforming service, on the other side we have an excellent web service with a few competitors, some of them FOSS.

I really think this should be a no brainer. The real added value SO, Inc. brings to the table comes from the community, not the web service.

Trying to brand the engine, rather than the community, really is a non sequitur.

I don't like the idea of me telling you how to make your business -- I really have no place to. This is just my humble, non-advertiser non-entrepreneur non-paying non-paid opinion. I just can't help but feel this really is a no-brainer. Here, have a grain of salt to go with it.

Bonus content: feelings on chat.meta.programming.stackexchange.com chat.meta.stackoverflow.com about this surreptitious change.

  • +1 for "terraforming", +1 for "The real added value" – Dennis Williamson Oct 2 '10 at 17:13
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    you're arguing for splitting wikipedia into 1,000 different top level domains -- how would that help users realize that they are on wikipedia? The real value is in the wikipedia community, but how do you even know you're there? – Jeff Atwood Oct 2 '10 at 19:14
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    @Jeff do users need to realize they are on the great big Stack Exchange? Why? Why not let them become familiar with one site first, possibly become power users on it? Subsequently discovering that there are more sites powered by the same great engine is something that will come automatically, unavoidably for anybody spending some time around. – Pekka Oct 2 '10 at 19:31
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    @jeff, Wikipedia already is one top level domain of many. Wikipedia : NothingToInstall = Wikimedia : StackExchange. Also, Wikipedia's Mediawiki button is much less prominent than the StackExchange™ Multicollider Superdropdown™. Try again :) – badp Oct 2 '10 at 19:31
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    @badp I guess the root issue then, is that these names are so bad. pauseforhelp.com -- awful. nothingtoinstall.com? terrible. Cooking is the only site that came up with something decent, across ALL the sites that are attempting to name themselves (seasonedadvice). Why would we trade one OK-ish name (stackexchange.com) with a clear meaning (webapps, gaming, cooking) for ~25 even worse names, where it's unclear what they even mean? Naming: not only does it not scale, it makes everything WORSE. – Jeff Atwood Oct 2 '10 at 19:44
  • @Jeff, I see what you are saying. Unfortunately, reserving domain names is so easy and cheap it isn't even funny. – badp Oct 2 '10 at 20:07
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    @Jeff: If you don't like the names that the community is coming up with, why don't you name them? I'm honestly a lot more OK with you overriding the specific name (with a better name) than with you deciding that the sites won't get a name at all. I don't love either idea but the former is far more palatable. Surely somebody can come up with a name that just works. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 20:08
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    @Jeff maybe the communities are too small to come up with enough good suggestions. But that would deserve a separate discussion, wouldn't it? Although it stands to reason that "Stack Overflow" isn't that great a name, either - and it still managed to get where it is today. As a side note: From what little experience I have working in advertising agencies, spending man-weeks on creating names and slogans that "work" is why they charge outrageous amounts for seemingly simple results. Maybe worth an experiment – Pekka Oct 2 '10 at 20:10
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    By the way, in this case, I think the real root problem, @jeff, is that it took you guys 93 days to decide NothingToInstall.com was too bad to be usable. :) – badp Oct 2 '10 at 20:37
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    @badp You'e right of course. I think seeing it on a real live site brought it into focus for us -- along with the idea of 24 other terrible, "what the hell does that even mean?" names being wrought upon the web. New plan: you get to Server Fault levels of traffic, you have earned the right to come up with a vanity domain. So if you want the name that bad, well, work on your traffic. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:10
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    @Jeff but that will lead even more to people talking about "the web apps site" for years and years to come while it already has an official domain. How about driving new energy into the finding of better domain names instead? Changing the rules so that, say, 50 upvotes are required for a suggestion to even be considered? And maybe tapping into the community as a whole for the name finding process, instead of "just" the community that is building the site? – Pekka Oct 3 '10 at 8:46
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    @Pekka, have you actually seen how these threads develop? Asking for a +50 score is kinda Utopian. I believe the very idea of choosing a domain name via a poll question on the SE engine to be deeply flawed. It would be more productive to have a hour long brainstorming session with the team where every person brings the top three domain names they came up with, so that much needed "OMG THIS IS HORRIBLE" feedback can be had on faster terms than 70 or 94 days. – badp Oct 3 '10 at 13:17
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    @badp you have a utopian idea of how naming works; even with very talented creative people in a room, the odds of success are low. Add to that, "what names are available?" and "how much do they want for that name?" and you have a recipe for unending, interminable failure. Bottom line: naming is impossibly hard. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 14:52
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    @pekka "Two-letter domain names are also reserved to prevent confusion with country-codes." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-letter_second-level_domain yet another example of Steve Yegge's "shit's easy syndrome" :P – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 16:24
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    I just noticed that the webapps.se.com abbreviation that gets used sometimes actually resolves to a website. (As do other versions of that abbreviation for Stack Exchange domains.) – moberley Oct 3 '10 at 22:57

Sitting firmly on the fence I can see merits in both types of domain name, however having a sub-domain does give the impression that the site is somehow 2nd class when compared to Stack Overflow or Super User.

Additionally I think part of the problem stems from the relatively long public beta with the "temporary" name. If the name had been chosen early on then all the references would have been to "NothingToInstall.com" (or whatever had been chosen), rather than "WebApps.StackExchange.com". It also didn't help that there was relatively little publicity of the impending name change.

Not sure what the answer is.

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    Choosing the name during commitment stage? – Gelatin Oct 2 '10 at 15:30
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    @Simon, searching for a solution to the "too many sites in beta" problem, are we? – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 18:29
  • @Simon - I was going to update the answer with that idea - but having 20+ sites already in beta with *.stackexchange names might make this idea a non starter. – ChrisF Mod Oct 2 '10 at 20:15

Think of this, would this ever happended if the site was called servers.stackexchange.com?

This Rules

Source: The Official Server Fault Blog

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    as we've said, once you get to at least the size of Server Fault, custom naming is an option that is open to you. But we're not going to launch 25 different sites with 25 different (and 99% bad) names. That's actively harmful to "what is this site?" as well as google pagerank -- essentially it is the kiss of death. – Jeff Atwood Oct 2 '10 at 19:51
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    "Once you get to at least the size of Server Fault, custom naming is an option that is open to you." - By then problem #3 listed above is much more significant. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 2 '10 at 21:42
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    @brian with proper 301 redirects it's actually not that bad -- all pagerank is retained. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:11
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    @Jeff: I'm aware of that, but in light of that opinion issue #3 raised in the question is irrelevant. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 4:43
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    I think if the the site was called Nothing to Install for 90 days, the name would've been picked up, and the webapps temporary name would've been buried. It is only around the days of switching that confusion arises, which will settle over time. Also, the confusion will be less when there are less users at the time of the switching, Not to mention, Once you get to the size of Server Fault, you need to have a settled and well known custom name, as proved by the book! – alexanderpas Oct 3 '10 at 13:47
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    @Jeff, but Server Fault didn't get to the size of Server Fault before it got it's name, did it? Perhaps the problem is trying to launch 25 sites at once. Perhaps Area51 should have a rule that limits the number of launches? Perhaps, instead of all that, what you should do is say "If you get a good name, then you launch on that good name; if you haven't settled on one yet, then you launch on *.stackexchange.com and then we'll switch if and when a good name gets invented." – Richard Gadsden Oct 5 '10 at 19:16

non-tech users do not "understand" subdomains. non-tech users do not care about where the stuff "is", they "google" it. they open a new firefox window and type what they want into the largest text-field they can identify and then just hit "enter". that text-field is most likely the "window to a search engine". and thats it.

whatever pops up in the first 2 - 5 results is where they are going to click. "hey, i want to go to my gmail ... i type in gmail in the big text-field over there and enter .. then i click there and then i read my mail". (thats real, i ve seen people doing that).

the only "reputation" you need to worry about is the ranking in the search engine. if you want to trick google into "ranking a certain site into the top 10 results" then you have to build up some kind of fake reputation by setting up lots of small sattelite websites which are all "relevant" to the topic / theme of the site you want to promote and then let "page rank" do the rest.

luckily for the whole stackexchange.com group you already have satellites. and you have very very relevant BIG sites with lots of relevant content. and these satellites are all interconnected (and increase the reputation and the relevance (page rank) of each site).

if you combine these satellites into one big (death) star, what will be the result? you might have one big very well ranked site with lots and lots and lots of content. if the more relevant stuff people are pointing to is in (lets say) sub_cooking.stackexchange.com and only a few folks link to the (relativly) weak material in sub_potatoes.stackexchange.com .. is it better for the end-user that this weak material pops up "eventually" (depending on the ranking algorithm) before good material from other sites?

as i said in the beginning: the domain is completely irrelevant for the non-tech user.

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    Google hits are only going to make a difference when a large amount of content is indexed. Before most sites can rest on their laurels, they'll need to go through a marketing period and that marketing is mostly going to be word-of-mouth. That's when subdomains matter, especially when the parent domain is "stackexchange.com". I can't speak for every site, but ours only gets 38% of the hits from search engines and the keywords usually have some form of "stack exchange" in them - meaning they were already looking for that specific site and probably just forgot the subdomain name. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 14:53
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    i really doubt that my mum will ever use "stack exchange" as a prefix to the search term :) and the "experts" building up the site will remember the "domain" anyway, may that be "stack exchange" or "superuser" (just to name one of the original trinity) – akira Oct 2 '10 at 16:13
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    The engine is so good for google, that we had the question on the site popping up as the first result in google, while researching the answer, 5 minutes after the question was asked. – alexanderpas Oct 2 '10 at 19:09
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    @alexanderpas correct, and nothing will destroy that search ranking faster than splitting pagerank across 25+ unique domain names. – Jeff Atwood Oct 2 '10 at 19:17
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    @akira, you're reiterating my point - the majority of people finding Stack Exchange sites via Google, today, are people who are actually searching for Stack Exchange. I just don't think that Google trumps all other concerns, at this stage of the game - and besides which, I reject the premise that having all the sites under one domain is significantly going to improve the rank, because all of the sites are on completely different topics and are not going to share that many keywords/queries. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 20:04
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    @aaron Google is 90% of our traffic on every mature site we have. Your opinions are fascinating, but the data simply doesn't support them. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:11
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    @Jeff, for the last time we aren't talking about mature sites. When you have thousands of pages of content indexed you can expect most of your traffic to come from Google. That's never how it works on a site that's 3 months old, especially when content is being generated on-demand. Look at the analytics for the betas - they do not have 90% of the traffic coming from Google, or even anything close to that, and as I've stated above, most of what is coming in from Google is just people who couldn't remember the friggin' generic SE subdomain. – Aaronaught Oct 3 '10 at 5:04
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    @aaron it takes about a year for Google to trust you; all betas are on track for correct ramp. See codinghorror.com/blog/2009/02/… and seomoz.org/blog/… – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 5:24
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    @Jeff No, they will inherit the pagerank of the beta site with proper redirects, and with good content, they will retain their pagerank. Seperate Domains will protect individual sites from bad beta sites, or bad influences from other sites. – alexanderpas Oct 3 '10 at 13:59
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    @JeffAtwood BasicallyMoney.com launched Oct. 5 2009 (almost exactly a year ago) but had a Google PageRank of 4 after only 4-6 months, and got incredible search traffic leading up to and during summer. I'd suggest it's feasible to get established in Google in less than a year. Perhaps the Yahoo! directory listing and a few inbound links helped. – Chris W. Rea Oct 3 '10 at 14:12
  • "non-tech users do not 'understand' subdomains". Many don't understand domains either. I have a friend I've only ever met online who I had to explain URLs and the address bar to. She was happily browsing messageboards, blogs, and Facebook without ever typing anything into the address bar. – TRiG Dec 5 '10 at 0:24

I'm absolutely in favour of nothingtoinstall.com. Who cares about Stack Exchange as an engine except for us enthusiasts / fans / SOFU power users? More importantly, should others care? Is that a priority for a new site to succeed?

To make an impression on outsiders, professionals, experts in the field of a SE site, the site needs to develop a strong brand in its area of interest, not the network. Each site, while based on the same generic principles, will have their own spirit, community, communication style, moderation style, and varying boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn't.

The fact that there is a network of similar sites should be totally secondary.

In fact, I tend to believe that introducing new users to too many sites in the network at once is already doing more harm than good. There is so much interesting stuff that at least I feel a tendency of diffusion of energy and time, instead of concentrating on becoming a power user on one site. Oh, there's a bicycling SE! Need to get into that, and collect some reputation so people will take me seriously and so I can ask the occasional question. Oh and arts! And language! And translation! And drawing comics! And camping & survival! And web applications!... and so on and so on. Let's not strengthen this trend further by stressing the network aspect even more.

Let each site grow in its own way, with its own domain name and branding.

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    which would be fine, if 99% of the names being generated weren't materially worse than their topic.se.com equivalents (see:pauseforhelp.com and nothingtoinstall.com). Remember, these are the best names we could come up with! Basically, the difference between theory and reality. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 16:02
  • @Jeff several ideas come to mind that could give stronger traction to the domain name finding process. 1. Search for domain names among the whole of the SE community, not only the sub-community it is meant for. 2. Make it a SE/Meta.SO-wide competition with prizes for the top voted domain names, just as you did with the API. Introduce a huge vote threshold so only really good names can make it. 3. Give a shot to hiring external name-finding advice. 4. Run a competition on a site like the one you got the Stack Overflow logo on (I forgot its name, you know which one I mean). – Pekka Oct 3 '10 at 16:10
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    @Jeff: There is a large difference between topic.se.com (tolerable, there are longer domains for countries, e.g. .org.uk ) to topic.stackexchange.com (reads as part of a single large site). – Macha Oct 3 '10 at 16:45
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    @Jeff, you know what's a really crappy and unimaginative name? mathoverflow. Didn't hurt, though, did it? – Zac Thompson Oct 3 '10 at 23:42
  • @Zac - ... but at it has Math in the name, and its about math. Its certainly unimaginative, but its still better than NothingToInstall. – Kevin Montrose Oct 4 '10 at 8:25

The aim of the SE sites is of course to attract the experts on each topic to answer questions. As Yahoo Answers shows, the way to do this is not to have one gigantic brand. While Yahoo Answers doesn't limit its scope, there are many questions you simply cannot get answers to, because the people doing the answering don't have any benefits from going there.

Generalising, experts need a community (of experts) to attract them. If they can't get answers from other experts for the hardest questions, there is no reason for them to be there.

Having an individualised name, design, etc. lead to increasing that sense of community. SE as a whole is too big to have a single community, so branding them all as ___.stackexchange.com will not attract more experts. It may increase awareness of the SE brand, as opposed to the NothingToInstall brand, but, the experts won't see a community. They will see a company expanding into an area. Is there much of a community for the Maths section in Yahoo Answers? Let's have a look. Nope. There is a bunch of high school students trying to get others to do their homework for them.

At the end of the day, a name like Stack Overflow is more appealing to the experts than programming.stackexchange.com. And you know it too. There is no chance of SO accepting that name change. So why force it on other communities?

In general, Yahoo Answers is to StackExchange, what Experts Exchange was to Stack Overflow. And trying to brand all the areas into one is very much a step closer to a Yahoo Answers style site, rather than the collection of expert communities that is the StackExchange ideal.

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    I agree. Sites versus tags is something that has been discussed before. I think subdomains is closer to the tags end of the spectrum. Identity is part of what defines community and separate domains define identity better that subdomains. – Dennis Williamson Oct 2 '10 at 20:18

You're hurting the individual sites by tying all their fates together like this. You're trying to make it sound like having a distinct name for a site (any name) doesn't matter. You're wrong. I understand that the decision is made, but I'm predicting it will prove to be a mistake. I guess time will tell.

Seems like all you care about is the Google ranking of all the sites collectively, not whether an individual site can stand on its own feet. But over time, Google will learn that ".stackexchange.com" doesn't really mean very much after all, since it has 100 subdomains. What amount of weight do you think Google is giving to ".co.uk"? I know Google drives your traffic; my point is that over time the SE subdomain will mean less and less to Google, and it will put more and more weight behind the quality of the content (or lack thereof). You're trying to game the system, and that is only ever a temporary measure with Google.

Now you've made it so that there's no difference between the name of a site that's in beta and a site that's not. In other words, when I see "stackexchange.com" in search results, I'm going to think "oh well, who knows if that site will even be around in 6 months."

Let me ask you this: is the site ready to stand alone or not? 'webapps.stackexchange.com' is not out of beta, regardless of what the design is or whether it says BETA on it. You're taking the stance that since it doesn't have enough traffic to satisfy you, it's only Beta level 2. You still don't think it's good enough to stand alone.

Only when it manages to get over the "you must be this tall to enter" line will you allow it to try standing alone, but by that time all the links all over the web (and there will be plenty, because you waited so long) will be to the old name, so you'll punish the site for changing its name.

They're all going to go down together if you do this. Just change the name of the group from stackexchange to about.com and be done with it. That's the direction this "network effect" is headed.

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    a) 90% of our traffic on all mature sites is from Google b) you'll know a site is launched because it will have a unique design and it won't have our standard Sketchy beta theme, nor will it say BETA in red letters at the top. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:15
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    @Jeff, I was talking about the name of the site. I've updated my post in an attempt to clarify what I was trying to say. By the way, I understand that none of this is likely to change the decision; I appreciate you guys continuing to respond to the objections in spite of that. – Zac Thompson Oct 3 '10 at 23:39

The company goal went from building great communities, to building a great network of unrelated sites. Although this change will help the name stackexchange it will hurt the individual communities.

Yes naming is hard, and it isn't needed for all communities. But by taking away the name, you're taking the "cool" and hence some of the excitement out of the community...

  • Google's name is not "Search Engine" that wouldn't be cool.
  • Apple's name is not "Phone, hardware and operating systems" that wouldn't be cool.
  • Microsoft's name isn't "Operating systems and software"
  • stackoverlfow's name isn't "Coding questions"
  • ...

See my inline comments below which address each of your concerns.

Not all communities seem able to do it, as in they can't even agree on which is the "least worst" (literally) of their choices.

The community should have the decision to keep their name as webapps.stackexchange.com. If you simply provide a list of reasons why this is good for the community I'm sure most communities would make that decision.

When users see a Wikipedia link in their search results, they know what to expect. Hopefully when users see a stackexchange.com link they would also know to expect high quality Q&A. But what can they expect when they see nothingtoinstall.com or one of 25+ other domains? Unknown.

Wikipedia is one community, the whole idea of stackexchange is to have a bunch of focused communities. If you wanted one community you'd have Yahoo! answers all over again. If you are designing for first rate communities then your members will be overall disjoint. If you are designing for second rate communities filled with only programmers then seeing .stackexchange.com is useful.

Also no one would need to remember 25+ domain names. If a member wanted to be part of every one of those communities they would be a pretty useless member to each of those communities. People only need to remember the 1, 2 or 3 communities they are a part of.

Additionally, Google traffic makes up a HUGE percentage of our traffic and it hurts our Google ranking by breaking up into a series of top-level domains. That means less eyeballs, and ultimately less Q&A.

If this is really about page rank then wouldn't rolling stackoverflow into a .stackexchange.com really help out the page rank? Ditto serverfault and superuser? Wouldn't that also help build the "This is quality content" thought? Since those communities are good and do provide quality content?

I'm not saying here that I think we should change to stackoverflow.stackexchange.com but I am saying the above because it proves that the concern isn't as big as you make it out to be.

The confusion that some people are talking about Web Apps while others are talking about "Nothing to Install".

Jeff posted a comment on an answer to this question which says that after a community gets to the size of serverfault then they will consider giving a name to that community. If you guys really had a concern here that comment shouldn't have been posted.

That will pass but become a bigger, more confusing problem as the network grows and we have (currently) 25+ different pairs of domain names to refer to!

Again you're trying to build a network when you should be trying to build great communities.

Are you losing hype for your community?

I think you probably will in the end. For example I would blog about a topic that interests me when a new site is launched but I wouldn't blog that a new subdomain was created to an existing network. The second boom in people blogging and talking about your site really helps the community growth.

http://twitter.com/#search?q=nothingtoinstall right now has a ton of entries referring to nothingtoinstall going live.

  • all the nti.com links will properly 301 redirect to webapps.se.com for the next year or so. The reality is that nothingtoinstall.com was the best name we came up with, and it sucked. As in, it is far, far worse than webapps.se.com. I simply can't support replacing something decent with something awful -- and repeating that across every site in our network. None of the names we've come up with are good, they're all various shades of "I hate that one the least.." – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:17
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    @Jeff, NTI is worse than Webapps.SE? I disagree. Webapps.SE is in no way catchy. It isn't something you'd toss on a sticker and hand out at a conference. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:25
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    @rchern catchy is irrelevant; what matters is simple and understandable. I asked my wife what she thought "Nothing To Install" would be about and I just got a blank look. Also see.. twitter.com/#!/davidsavagejr/status/26016270755 (in reference to a user visiting nothingtoinstall.com) – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:28
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    @Jeff: Does your wife know what a stack overflow is though? Most non techies would have no idea but programmers know it quite well. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 4:33
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    @Jeff: About the twitter comment, I think regardless of the site name there are independent things you can do to improve that situation. For example a slogan or first time user popup. Not sure what is best here but the point is that can be improved. A simple line of text under the logo "A place to ask questions relating to web applications" would improve it. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 4:35
  • @Brian - who on earth knows what a "nothing to install" is? At least the target audience of SO might (and arguably, should) know what a stack overflow is. – Kevin Montrose Oct 4 '10 at 8:26
  • @Kevin: I'm not very pro-choice for that name, but pro-choice for a good name without restrictions, see my other answer where I expand on this. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 4 '10 at 13:13

Just my experience of this:

I had been using webapps for months, really getting a lot out of it, then someone tweeted about nothingtoinstall, I went there, wasn't logged in, I thought it was a stackechange clone and so I left. It wasn't until after a couple days when Jeff Atwood tweeted about it that I went back and realized the name had changed and signed back in and started using it again.

So two suggestions:

  1. at the beginning, have a banner that says, "(old site) was renamed to (new site)".
  2. plus permanently, have an icon on the site that clearly identifies the new site as a bonafide member of the stackexchange community which, to me, insures that (a) there is the proper critical mass of people behind it to make it useful, and (b) it will stick around for the long run
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    Upper left, above the site name, there is a StackExchange logo and the inbox. The footer also lists SE information. These have been there for some time. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 2 '10 at 2:31
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    There was also a banner prior to the move stating the site would be renamed. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 2 '10 at 2:41
  • @rchem - by the banner, do you mean the SE menu in the upper left? I've frankly already learned to disragard that unless there's a number telling me there's stuff in my inbox. Invisible to regular users, perhaps useful for those not used to the site yet. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 2 '10 at 18:37
  • @neilfein, no, see the message about the chat at gaming.stackexchange.com. We've had system messages also, and in the couple days leading up to our graduation, it was about the site name. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 3:29

Smoke and mirrors:

I feel like this whole process was smoke and mirrors so that the portion of the community which was against this change would be happy that you asked first. There may be some assumptions below, but I'm sure most of the community feels this way and so that is why I am taking the time to write this message.

The feedback wanted email which was sent to members:

Sending out an email blast to be sure everyone would see it, and within a few hours reverting the site before enough feedback could be given. Surely the decision was already made. Why was the email blast needed? I'm not sure but maybe you wanted to make the change within a few hours, you had to make sure people seen it quick.

The quick reversal back to webapps.stackexchange.com:

There are a lot of changes made since the original post.

Most if not all of this as accomplished within a few short hours of posting the question itself.

Network wide decision at the site level:

Another problem I have is that this network wide decision was made at the site level instead of in a meta where everyone can participate.

The problem was somewhat disguised slightly giving the impression that this change was about only this site but really it was about every site in the network. I know you mention other sites in the body of the question, but the question title itself is very misleading for one of the biggest decisions made in months which affects the entire network (Webapps.stackexchange.com versus Nothingtoinstall.com)

A company is allowed to make its own decisions:

I have no problem with a company taking charge and making decisions on their own, but I do have a problem when a company pretends that its members are in charge and deliberately puts on a show to trick the community into thinking they are in charge. In other words don't waste my time by asking me to answer if your mind is already made up.

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    Hmm... "Independent status" (i.e. 25+ top-level domain names, and counting) will hurt more as the network gets bigger. We can't fully capitalize on the increased Google ranking from the HUGE, but broken-up-into-tiny-sub-pieces, network traffic. In time, Google will account for 90-95% of your incoming traffic and, to sacrifice a percentage of that for vanity naming... I'm just not sure it's worth it. That's why I asked. – Robert Cartaino Oct 1 '10 at 22:32
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    No doubt the site will be great either way. But all things being equal questions from a "smaller site" (with less traffic and less overall linkbacks as far as Google is concerned) will have a lower Google ranking than if the site is "seen" as part of a huge network (made up of all the SE sites combined) with ONE top-level domain. Is it worth it? – Robert Cartaino Oct 1 '10 at 22:46
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    Speaking of all the things that have been reverted, I notice that the ads running on SO still say "nothingtoinstall.com". – Dennis Williamson Oct 3 '10 at 7:43

Regarding naming:

All names communities have come up with suck... this may be true, but it's because of the restrictions that were imposed on the community and not because of an inability of a community to execute.

I have a feeling that the real heart of the issue is that everyone thinks naming is hard. That's not completely true, the truth is finding a .com domain name for a matching good name is hard.

Other than naming, the rest of the arguments in the question can be ignored based on the justification given in my previous answer.

Since finding a .com domain naming for a matching site name is so hard, perhaps the community should come up with a good name and then consider which types of domain names they can get for that name. Two distinct things, not one.

Don't sacrifice the name, sacrifice the TLD or use an abbreviation:

For example a .org for some communities may work. A .net for some other communities may work. I think something like (Web Addict, webaddict.net) or (Web Geek, webgeek.org) is better than (Nothing to install, nothingtoinstall.com) and (WebApps, webapps.stackexchange.com).

A short form domain of the full name may also be acceptable for some sites. An example of this is my own company, our name is VisionWorks Solutions, and our domain for the past 6 years has been vwsolutions.com, it has served us well. Another example Hewlett-Packard -> hp.com, the site is known to most even know it is a short for for the full name.

In conclusion, split it up:

Perhaps the whole problem is tying domain name with naming together in one. We would then have the 7 essential questions of every public beta turn into 8.

  • What should our name and domain be?
  • What should our name be?
  • What should our domain be?
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    web addict? so it's about .. drugs? I'm just done with naming. It's impossible, it's the part of this process that most makes me want to slit my own throat (by a very, very wide margin), and we have a simple, better solution -- webapps.se.com. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 14:55
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    that said, I do like your idea of breaking "what should we be named?" apart from "what domains can we obtain?" since that helps reduce the size of the problem space. So kudos for that, it's a good idea. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 14:56
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    I'm not necessarily trying to sell webaddict.net. I'm just saying naming becomes a TON easier without the restrictions imposed. I would love to be part of a community with a cool name like webgeek.org (which is avail). It's not so exciting to be part of a portion of a huge network which doesn't have its own identity. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 15:03
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    I am now thinking "come up with a good tagline!" is far more productive and useful. And might lead to domains of some kind.. but puts the ideas in the correct order. – Jeff Atwood Oct 4 '10 at 8:37
  • @Jeff: Well even with _.stackexchange.com, I think that there should still be 1) Come up with a name (or keep the one you have), 2) Come up with a tagline that explains what the site is about. That way your logo and name can still have an identity and without the .com restriction you will find people come up with much better ideas for names. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 4 '10 at 13:15
  • Can the community change webapps.stackexchange.com to something else .stackexchange.com? At least that gets you out of the whole problem of trying to buy a .com. – Richard Gadsden Oct 5 '10 at 20:01

If there are compelling practical reasons for not using individual domains - after reading the whole discussion thrice, I'm ready to accept that there may be - how about building a middle ground: Having a better top domain than stackexchange.com?

This would not mean renaming the Stack Exchange project as a whole. Just shorten the parent domain the sites are a child of.


  • I think se.com would be really great, but it's in commercial use as a sub-domain service so you'd have to lease whichever names you need. Maybe it's worth asking them anyway. Maybe the whole sub-domain business isn't working out for them and they're open for a sale or long-term lease of the whole domain? You never know.

  • qa.org currently looks like a crappy ad honeypot and might be up for sale - for how much, I have no idea of course.

  • se.org seems to belong to a swedish company, but is not in use. See the whois records for details

  • questions.org forwards to the site of a Christian ministry, but is not used to host a site or brand.

  • stack.org is in use by Tucows as a domain for personalized E-Mail and thus probably out of the question; maybe still worth asking

  • www.com is probably too expensive, but you'll never know until you ask: They're showing crappy ads right now. cooking.www.com is memorable and unique. It will confuse normal users, though, who are used to putting www. in front - some clever marketing ruse would have to make this a feature rather than a bug.

  • exchange.org might be for sale - it features a Sedo parking page. Would make a nice umbrella brand for the network, nicer than "stackexchange" anyway. This is my favourite so far: It makes sense (a busy place that connects people), it is easy to memorize, the .org TLD underlines the open, community-oriented character, and it also works over the phone: cooking dot exchange dot org will work even for our moms.

  • ex.com is a crappy parking page.

  • Find some other short, related domain name that can be purchased

I realize these are options that would strain the budget, but it would be a one-time hassle instead of dozens of fruitless sales negotiations.

I'm sure there is some short and sweet domain name that can be used for this that is better than stackexchange.com that the community may be able to settle on. The main advantage - not having to go through dozens of sales negotiations for expensive domains - might make it worth it.

  • 3
    I disagree with this, but it's certainly a different idea. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 3 '10 at 18:10
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    We're definitely open to better names for the network, for sure. Naming is really, really had and we've been beating this around for over a year. I don't know the specifics of the examples you mentioned but suggest away. – Robert Cartaino Oct 3 '10 at 22:27
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    8 hours after my comment above, this suggestion is looking more attractive. "Stack Exchange" isn't a name that rolls off the tongue, definitely in the context of cooking, bicycling, photography, language... anything not a computer-centric topic. cooking.stack.com or photo.stack.com would actually be pretty cool, but stack.com is taken. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 4 '10 at 2:29
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    @Robert I added some new suggestions to my answer – Pekka Oct 4 '10 at 9:13
  • stax.com would also be interesting, but is also in use. Interesting in the "web startup" sense of being short and mostly meaningless in context. – moberley Oct 5 '10 at 6:41
  • Assuming that Stack Overflow is actually the brand with the most power in the company stable, maybe something like overflow.com has value. Unfortunately, that particular name is registered. – moberley Oct 5 '10 at 6:48
  • @Robert added two more – Pekka Oct 5 '10 at 15:28
  • also suggest xstax.com, stackx.com or staxch.com – An̲̳̳drew Oct 6 '10 at 2:25
  • awesomequestions.com, rankedanswers.com, askplanet.com, stackqa.com, stackask.com and askstack.com are also available – An̲̳̳drew Oct 6 '10 at 2:33

I think #2 is the most important point. When I see the domain stackexchange.com, I know that I can usually find my answer on the site. If I had to remember a list of 25+ domains I can trust, it would become tedious.

The only drawback I see, as @phwd noted, is the longer name.

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    Do you avoid other sites because they are not stack exchange sites? – Joe Phillips Oct 2 '10 at 2:55
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    @Joe: Well here's an example, when I'm looking for a programming related question, if I see results from SO, I'll go to those first, since I know that I can expect a pretty good answer. So yes, I will avoid other sites in the results, at first at least. – Senseful Oct 2 '10 at 2:58
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    Right... but Stackoverflow.com does not even have Stackexchange.com in it. A site can brand itself. – Joe Phillips Oct 2 '10 at 2:59
  • However, as @Aaronaught points out, I am by no means an average user, so we must decide on a solution that works for everyone. – Senseful Oct 2 '10 at 2:59
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    @Joe: that's where the remembering 25+ domains argument comes in. I can remember 4 (SO, SF, SU, SE), once you expand to N, it becomes difficult. – Senseful Oct 2 '10 at 2:59
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    @Senseful I think the majority of people will only use 1 or 2 sites. And they probably don't even understand subdomains – Joe Phillips Oct 2 '10 at 3:01
  • @Joe: That could probably be the case, I just wanted to present my point of view. Others don't have to agree with it, and in fact I would like to hear the other side of this issue. – Senseful Oct 2 '10 at 3:03
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    I think that having a domain like nothingtoinstall.com would help create/retain an original brand name. Much like stackoverflow/Super user! I agree with Joe, that a site can brand itself. Its the community which decides the quality of a Q&A and not just the stack exchange brand value. – thunderror Oct 2 '10 at 13:20

So a piece of this argument is more on the hypothetical level:
topic.stackexchange.com vs awesomeurl.com
and related stuff (corporate branding, the For Dummies analogy, etc.)

But in the case of NothingToInstall.com, it sounds like that's not the primary issue:

I guess the root issue then, is that these names are so bad. pauseforhelp.com -- awful. nothingtoinstall.com? terrible. Cooking is the only site that came up with something decent, across ALL the sites that are attempting to name themselves (seasonedadvice). Why would we trade one OK-ish name (stackexchange.com) with a clear meaning (webapps, gaming, cooking) for ~25 even worse names, where it's unclear what they even mean? Naming: not only does it not scale, it makes everything WORSE


Bottom line, nothingtoinstall.com was a very, very bad name and materially worse than webapps.stackexchange.com. Even worse, every other proposed name in the network (except cooking) is various shades of "we hate it a tiny bit less than the other suggestions."

(Jeff Atwood, in comments on other posts on this page).

I'm not saying I necessarily disagree, but I'm interested to hear other opinions: are these names really that bad? Are they too long? To ambiguous? What?

So we can really see them in the same place, I went through the other public beta meta sites to pull out their leading site name candidates. (I deliberately removed all camel-casing, just to see how the names looked at first glance):

  • gaming.stackoverflow.com vs pauseforhelp.com
  • programmers.stackoverflow.com vs outofscope.com
  • answers.onstartups.com (keeping SE 1.0 site branding and URL)
  • webapps.stackoverflow.com vs nothingtoinstall.com
  • cooking.stackoverflow.com vs seasonedadvice.com
  • math.stackexchange.com vs mathexchange.com (2nd place was HilbertsHotel.com??)
  • ubuntu.stackexchange.com vs ask.ubuntu.com or askubuntu.com
  • gamedev.stackexchange.com vs beyondpolygons.com
  • webmasters.stackexchange.com vs webmasteranswers.com
  • tex.stackexchange.com vs texnique.com
  • electronics.stackexchange.com vs chiphacker.com (which was its SE 1.0 name)
  • cstheory.stackexchange.com vs cstheory.org
  • unix.stackexchange.com vs kernelpanic.com
  • stats.stackexchange.com vs confidenceregion.com
  • photo.stackexchange.com vs depthoffield.com
  • money.stackexchange.com vs basicallymoney.com (the SE 1.0 name)
  • english.stackexchange.com vs lexicalia.com
  • apple.stackexchange.com vs askdifferent.com
  • ui.stackexchange.com vs happyuser.com
  • wordpress.stackexchange.com vs queryposts.com
  • gis.stackexchange.com vs invalidgeometry.com
  • rpg.stackexchange.com vs askthetable.com or stackofdice.com (tie)
  • android.stackexchange.com vs androidexchange.org (.com and .net unavailable)
  • diy.stackexchange.com vs twicemeasured.com
  • bicycles.stackexchange.com vs cyclequery.com

Are these really that horrible? Why? What's your objective measure of a good vs bad domain name?


Regardless of whether subdomains of stackexchange.com or individual domain names are used, I think http://stackexchange.com needs to become a landing page that promotes and identifies the various sites and the subjects they cover, with the question sampler taking a secondary role.

I do think there should be something that ties the sites together. I think the Stack Exchange widget at the top left plus the footer information is a good way to do that.

Ultimately, I lean toward the individual domain approach, but I don't want that to overshadow the point I'm making in the first paragraph.


Right now, stackexchange.com features a mixed sampling of questions sorted by "hotness". There's a sidebar with a bare list of site names (with a short description in a tooltip). I'm proposing that the sites should be what is the featured element on the page with a logo and full description directly visible. A small sampling (two or three) questions could be featured under each site so they're organized by topic. The sites themselves could be organized by more general groupings (e.g. Computers, Personal, etc.). Doing this will build brand identity.


Site Name 1
Site Description - Lorem ipsum ...
Popular tags - [tag1] [tag2] ... [tagN]
Sample Question 1
Sample Question 2
Featured User - Featured User Quote or Fun Fact

Site Name 2
. . .

  • 3
    " I think stackexchange.com needs to become a landing page that promotes and identifies the various sites " - It does already. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 2 '10 at 4:29
  • @Brian: Not anywhere near to the extent that I mean. – Dennis Williamson Oct 2 '10 at 5:39
  • @Dennis: Please expand then on what it's missing. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 2 '10 at 14:29
  • @Brian: see my edit. – Dennis Williamson Oct 2 '10 at 15:29
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    Even though I'm not against what you say, -1 for being off-topic. There's more than enough text on this page already without tangent/sister proposals coming up. – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 16:33
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    @Lord: That's fine. The reason I posted this is because this discussion is about branding and the role of stackexchange.com in that as a domain name for subdomains versus individual domains. The content of the page at stackexchange.com plays a role in that branding process. My post may not directly address the question, but it's directly related and should be considered along with the direct options. – Dennis Williamson Oct 2 '10 at 17:09
  • +1 although not as relevant to the naming discussion, having "hot" questions grouped under their exchanges would be much more useful than the ungainly list of questions all mixed together at present on stackexchange.com. – Petrus Theron Oct 6 '10 at 1:12

Why not have something of a mixture of what WillfulWizard and Brian R. Bondy proposed, .

We keep the webapps.se.com domain (I have to agree with Jeff here, NTI just sucks), but when you come to the page instead of seeing a big "Web Apps" name ( I agree with Lord Torgamus, it kind of sucks to go to a page and not have a name but a "section", sort of the going to facebook and seeing "friends" example), we see some sort of tagline, phrase or name, something that is free of the finding a domain restrictions (available, price, etc).

I guess that way the community can feel like they have an identity, and business wise, the page will still be a full *.stackexchange.com page. Plus, I think that that would make it a lot easier for when/if the page "graduates" to a ServerFault size and gets its own domain (it could be similar to the tagline, since exact domain name would be hard to find.. although if the page is as big SO, SF or SU, then that alone may justify expending big bucks on buying "ThePage'sTagLine".com


This probably won't get read much, but just another point to throw into the blender:

This makes it really hard to justify promoting places like Homebrew.Stackexchange over existing StackExchange 1.0 sites like BrewAdvice.com.

  • There's an answer to a similar question on Cooking's Meta - meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/824/… - that implies if there's a good name (possibly like BrewAdvice) it will get a redirect so you can use it, though the site would still be branded as "homebrew". – ChrisF Mod Oct 4 '10 at 21:15

As it is now, SE is excellent. It provides a place and format to create a community that is self-regulated. Taking away the ability to name ourselves seems counter-intuitive to the idea of these sites being user-driven.

I feel quite strongly that this decision should be dealt with in a much more democratic manner.


I totally agree with the second point. Having Stackexchange in the domain name would be a plus, because a possible user that find a result in Google Search knowns immediatly what to expect if he/she clicks the link: high quality answers.

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    Only if that possible user already knows what Stack Exchange is, and domain names, much like company names, are conceived to be catchy and easy to remember for those who don't. Everybody is speaking from the perspective of an insider; nobody is paying attention to the fact that insiders compose less than 1% of the actual demographic needed for any of these sites to survive. – Aaronaught Oct 2 '10 at 2:21
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    @Aaaronaught Yes, you are right. But from the moment you know one Stackexchange site and you find it valid and useful, probably you will trust immediately all others 25 or more SE sites. – Drake Oct 2 '10 at 6:14
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    I wouldn't trust it any more because it has it in its name as opposed to it having the official logo in the upper left. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 2 '10 at 17:55
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    you don't see the logo in a search result page, you do see the domain. – Kevin Montrose Oct 3 '10 at 6:56

This question is about domain name selection and I sense that the decision has already been made on that front. I don't know very much about search engines and domain names, but the arguments made on that point seem persuasive. In the end, the staff of Stack Overflow Internet Services must do what is the best interests of the whole network.

However, it occurred to me that maybe the topic that should be discussed is not the "domain name" but rather just the site name. Is there a possibility that the site name and the domain name don't need to be an exact match?

In the current context, this is already the case: the site name spells "applications" in full but the domain does not; maybe the name in the banner could just be "Web Apps". Looking more widely at the other beta sites, I see there are some beta sites with rather long names that might be better off with a more succinct choice (even if it's isn't something clever like Stack Overflow, Server Fault, or Super User).

And, it seems like a waste for "Food and Cooking" to not end up being called Seasoned Advice (regardless of what the domain name actually is).


Can we have our cake and eat it too?

I know this will sound weird coming from someone who's primary account is on the nameless gaming but...

Could we go with something like this for the network:


Nothing To Install

Welcome to the Stack Exchange Q&A for power users of web applications

And of course, have both webapps.stackexchange.com and www.nothingtoinsta.com redirect there.

I believe this would let everyone get to the site by whatever address, whatever identity, they best remember/understand. And you'd be recognizing that the Stack Exchange network is a network of individual communities, but still a network.

And for those communities that have not settled on a name, let them stay at topic.stackexchanged.com, until such time that they come up with a name, if they ever do.

Would the communities accept this? Would this work for the brand?

  • 1
    I don't know much about all the search engine ranking but is there a particular reason the site name and the address have to match? There is something really bland about just having a topic in large letters at the top. And, it seems like a waste when the company is employing someone to make custom tailored templates for each site. – moberley Oct 2 '10 at 23:48
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    we considered this, but it is the worst of both worlds: the terrible name "nothingtoinstall" (what does it even mean? can you tell me what the topic is?) combined with no vanity top level domain change. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:19
  • @Jeff, what does SuperUser mean to someone who doesn't know the site? – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:26
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    @rchern well, a "super" "user" -- and note that domain cost $10k. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:32
  • @Jeff, user of what? SuperUser.com tells me nothing about what the site is. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:37
  • Was the $10k well spent? Was it worth it? I think so. – Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 4:44
  • 1
    @rchern see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superuser – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 4:46
  • 1
    @Jeff, I'm talking about someone who might google this question (picked at random) and saw SuperUser.com in the results. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 3 '10 at 4:51
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    @Jeff - nothingtoinstall may not clearly tell you what the site is, but it is memorable and gives the site an identity apart from SE, which, I think, is the point. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 3 '10 at 18:12

The following is my personal opinion talking about point 1. not point 2 or 3.

If person X from SO Team chimes on the naming of the site during the beta period where all the experimentation and discussion really occurred,to me it is understood that this was the position moving forward.

Domain names were reserved.
I guess I was mistaken. I understand the google ranking point but I really thought you (the SO team) took the sacrifice of the ranking when this question was created and progressed.

The change has already taken place I do not see the need for take backs. Sure some people say the name is horrible. That is great for them. It is just a name. A name and service cannot be linked like that. If the service is good the name becomes just something to call it.

In terms of length... well it is shorter, a very minor plus.


The community ... those who actually participate, voiced their concerns when the time came. Why should someone over at SO or news.ycombinator or anywhere for that matter says what they think it should be when they have not even participated in the discussion when the time came ? If they had something to say it should have been said up to 85 days ago when we started at Public Beta.

Maybe have all big references to webapps.stackexchange.com updated to nothingtoinstall e.g.

  • joelonsoftware.com
  • codinghorror.com

Well the domain has been reverted to webapps.stackexchange so yeah I am not sure what to say.

I also see users quoting Guy Y only to be countered by the same Guy words at a next time. I do not hold any benefits from the stack overflow internet services, inc. This is a business decision that I really thought was made months ago, I am just an ordinary person helping a community. I hope this can be resolved promptly.

Also now that is reverted would it not look unstable if we even agreed to go back to nothingtoinstall ?

I cannot say for other stackexchange communities because I think they have different dynamics. It seems this has turned into a network wide stackexchange discussion so they are here to have their say.

  • 2
    Is it worth sacrificing the network effect of being on the Stack Exchange Network AND the lower Google ranking on every question (smaller sites will have lower rankings than a large network) to have the independent domain name? That's what I am asking. – Robert Cartaino Oct 1 '10 at 22:42
  • @Robert well when you put it that way then no it is not worth it. If this is about the rank then obviously it should have stayed. In the long run, if the community puts in the work, it would be worth it. In the short term, no it is not. I was mainly talking about 1. I thought point 2 was understood by all as agreeable. – phwd Oct 1 '10 at 22:50
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    @Robert, if the sites link to each other (as they do in the footer), there is still PageRank benefit. Besides, should we really be planning the naming around a proprietary ranking algorithm which is subject to change (and has in the past?) While SEO is great (I practice myself) I wouldn't let it affect something as fundamental as branding. So, Google aside, is this new network-oriented branding where everything is clearly stamped StackExchange still good, or only because Google's current pratices make it good? – Chris W. Rea Oct 3 '10 at 14:05
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    @Robert Any chance you could get somebody from Google to go on-the-record and state that ___.stackexchange.com com is the right approach to optimize PageRank? Nah, didn't think so ;-) – Chris W. Rea Oct 3 '10 at 14:27
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    @chris Speaking of branding, if we want to be the wikipedia of Q&A, we need a reasonably standard name. On top of that, personally I am ready to slit my own throat rather than go through another round of ABYSMAL, far-worse-than-the-subdomain rounds of naming suggestions. It takes ridiculous amounts of effort, and at the end of it the best you can hope for is stuff like pauseforhelp.com and nothingtoinstall.com. It's a losing proposition, through and through. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 15:01
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    @JeffAtwood Perhaps community-sourced names aren't the best approach, then. Aren't there experts out there (for hire) that can help dream up names and brands that work? Whether you go with one name or many, perhaps some of that VC investment could be used to consult with the real brand experts. I'm curious what they'd say about "StackExchange". IMHO, as a software platform that wasn't a terrible name, but for "best answers out there" web sites, sorry, it don't hold a candle to Wikipedia. – Chris W. Rea Oct 3 '10 at 16:01
  • @JeffAtwood If this issue is really that important you may owe it to your investors to seek such an expert opinion on the branding. If I were ponying up $ I'd be concerned about this flip-flop without some better theory to back it up, other than Google voodoo. – Chris W. Rea Oct 3 '10 at 16:08
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    @chris we have consulted experts; that's a big part of why this is being changed. – Jeff Atwood Oct 3 '10 at 16:15
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    @JeffAtwood I'll trust they were brand experts, not SEO voodoo experts ;-) – Chris W. Rea Oct 3 '10 at 16:36
  • @Jeff @Chris ok not sure how this discussion had to continue on this post. Anyway the decision is done and from it appears you want you (and by that I mean @Robert and the SO Team) want high traffic on what basis ? the Trilogy ? So is the current position for us to forget about the domain name and just concentrate on getting questions lots of views? This question was going somewhere but the same points are repeating over and over. As a person who just wants to help, just tell me what are we doing now. – phwd Oct 3 '10 at 17:53
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    @phwd site naming is a huge timesink / distraction, and a big part of the reason we're trying to do away with it. Just focus on great questions getting great answers.. same as every other day. – Jeff Atwood Oct 4 '10 at 8:16

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