The Register started out as a UK operation with a UK addressed web site, but accidentally and against our expectations became a pretty successful international operation. In deference to marketing we should point out that in recent years the international success has been both planned and deliberate, but that certainly isn't what we were thinking about back in the mid-90s when we set up theregister.com. And that is, sort of, what we feel the need to ask you about today - the .co.uk was at first an obstacle to be overcome, then arguably became an important component of The Register's branding, but how important is it to you, and in what ways?
Question first, then the explanation, which is a little involved, and for that we apologise. Should The Register's base URL be theregister.com, or theregister.com?
Why do we need to do make this choice?
In the short term we don't, on the basis that what it says in the address bar doesn't necessarily tell you much about how the page is served or where it's hosted. We could always just carry on doing what we're doing with the main URLs of theregister.com and theregister.com, plus a small, but increasing, number of others. Technically however this means we're already having to deal with an element of duplication in development and underlying machinery, and the duplication will tend to increase in the future with the introduction of more sites and services.
Effectively, what we're doing now with .com and .co.uk works, but it's not where we'd have been if we planned it, and the potential for muddle and complexity is such that we think that if we'd don't address (sorry) the issue now, we're going to have to do it somewhere down the line, when it might turn out to be a lot harder.
How would it work?
If we changed to one or the other, Register pages would be served globally from either theregister.com or theregister.com. No links would be broken, and typing either would still work. All of the underlying machinery would still function as it has in the past, in what we pride ourselves on as a fairly quiet way that doesn't trouble the reader greatly. In the address bar, however, you'd end up seeing whichever base URL we decide on, so if there is a difficulty, that is essentially it. If we switched over to theregister.com, then UK readers wouldn't be getting theregister.com in the address bar, but uk.theregister.com.
So which one?
Or conversely, US readers would be getting us.theregister.co.uk - which, you might agree, possibly looks a little silly. Half of our problem here is that following on from the initial unavailability of theregister.com when we were starting out all those years ago, we've acquired a certain amount of branding and baggage from .co.uk that we - and we think many readers - value. And for the other half of our problem, we blame the Internet's parentage. Logically a global operation should use a global, top-level URL, but the appropriate one here, .com, is both global and national. So would a switch be a question of going international or going American? Really, we're not sure, and that's why we're asking you. Your comments are welcome, and even if you think it's no big deal, letting us know that would be helpful, too.
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