Those of us who build a lot of web pages occasionally need to use domain names to illustrate an example, particularly when writing tutorial materials. We might choose a fictitious domain name, even taking the trouble to check that it hasn’t actually been registered by anyone before using it in our example. The problem with that approach is that at a later date, someone might come along and register the domain — however bizarre and unlikely the name you chose to use. There’s no shortage of bizarre and unlikely domain names in use on the Web!
I ran into precisely this problem after writing an article some time ago, on how to prevent “spambots” scraping your e-mail address from web pages. I picked what I thought was a fictitious domain name to use throughout my example e-mail addresses, but which later turned out to be registered to a real business. My particular embarrassment in this case is that spambots would have been able to extract this domain name from my article page, possibly resulting in spam being sent to the registrants of the domain. Not clever, given the topic and aim of the article!
The solution revealed
I’m indebted to Lode Vermeiren for pointing out the error of my ways, and directing me to the solution. Yes, there is a “right” way to do it…
If you need a “fictitious” domain name to use in examples, then use
example.net. Though not actually fictitious, these domain names have been reserved by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) especially for this purpose, and are not associated with any other individual or organisation. You will cause grief to no-one by using them. (Check this out by visiting www.example.com, for instance.)
The advice above comes straight from an RFC that had been completely unknown to me before Lode contacted me, specifically RFC 2606 published by the Internet Society.
RFCs are technical and organisational notes about the internet. Memos in the RFC series discuss many aspects of computer networking, including protocols, procedures, programs, and concepts. RFCs are an important part of the process of drafting internet standards, published by the Internet Engineering Task Force. You can find more information on RFCs at the RFC Editor site.This page was last modified on Thursday, February 26, 2009