All about bare domains and our redirect service

How to configure the bare domain for forwarding and how the redirect service works

About bare domains

Bare domains are also called "naked domain", "APEX domain" or "root domain. They have no prefix and look like so: fortrabbit.com. Some think that they are aesthetically more pleasing than their subdomain counterparts. But they don't play well as with cloud services — like ours.

Bare domains should not be routed using a CNAME record; they should be routed using an A-Record. This is because of the specifications of DNS. You may want to have e-mails with your domain like info@fortrabbit.com, it is not possible to have with a CNAME record at the same time. Any domain routed to an IP is bound to that IP. This doesn't give us the flexibility to move your App around in case of incidents, for example with a DDoS attack.

Our opinion about bare domains

Yes, bare domains may look more pleasing to the eye, but don't take this too seriously. All big players, like Google, use a www. subdomain, without you noticing, and most bigger sites you'll visit do the same.

Safari and Chrome don't even show the www. prefix any more in the address bar. Firefox is greying out the protocol of this so-called trivial domain.

The www. prefix is so common, you'll hardly hardly recognize it. Is Facebook with www.? Is Google with www.? Is Wikipedia with www.? Yes, they all are and you don't care. It's just the best way to deal with DNS.

We are providing a forwarding service, so that all requests on the bare domain will get forwarded to the www. domain, even deeplinks and https links. So you can still print the bare domain on flyers or in your e-mail signature.

Sometimes we have heard that the move from bare to www. can impact SEO in a negative way. This should not be the case, if you do it properly, as all your old URLs and deeplinks should be redirected to the new ones, using a standard 301 Moved Permanently HTTP header.

So please, as long as the bare domain works and will forward all requests, don't worry too much. If your boss still says so, use an external DNS provider that supports CNAME flattening (sometimes called ANAME): here is help to do that on CloudFlare.

Practices to avoid for bare domains

You could grab the IP of your App and use that as an A-record for your domain. It's technically possible, but then your App will be offline once we move it to a another Node (which changes the IP address).

In some cases you could just use CNAME routing for your bare domain. It's theoretically possible, but not recommended by the DNS specs, and would also break any e-mail delivery for your domain.

Forwarding a bare domain to www

You should still care about your bare domain, as some users might type it in directly in the browser address bar. So you usually want to forward all requests from your bare domain to your primary canonical subdomain. That's why you'll get two routing values, the main CNAME target (for the www. domain) and an additional A-record (for the bare domain).

Example setup

HOSTNAME  TYPE       VALUE
--------------------------------------------
@         A-Record   52.18.136.112        < Only bare - IP depends on region, check Dashboard
www       CNAME      {{app-name}}.frb.io  < Only www!

Domain forwarding service explained

Optional but highly recommended: The fortrabbit domain forwarding service redirects all incoming requests on the bare domain to the www. version of the domain using 301 Moved Permanently headers. It also works for deeplinks, so http://your-domain.com/page will be forwarded to http://www.your-domain.com/page. A custom SSL cert from Let's Encrypt for each bare domain will be issued, so that ALL communication can be secure (best combined with .htaccess rules on the www. side to force https). It needs to be set up as an A-record, you can not use CNAME on a bare domain, as that would possibly break your DNS settings (especially if you want to send e-mails). The service itself is independent from the App; it's the same IP for all Apps in one region.

Recommendations for our redirect service

  • Use www.domain.tld instead of just domain.tld in all links
  • Configure your CMS to use the www. subdomain for all links (e.g. site_url)
  • Send your external traffic (e.g. advertisement clicks) to the www. domain
  • Configure your uptime checks with A URL to the the www.domain.tld/foobar
  • Setup the redirect within CloudFlare if you are using it

In general you can expect our redirect service to work. However, in case of a redirect service outage if all or your links depend on it - by pointing to http://naked.domain/foobar instead of http://www.naked.domain/foobarz - your whole website will stop working.

Even more importantly, requesting a resource via the redirect service forces an additional http-redirect making your website function slower.

For SEO purposes, keep in mind that all redirects on the redirect service are marked as 301 (moved permanently). That way search engines will pick up the www. subdomain as the primary address or URL for the website.

Alternative ways to use a bare domain

You don't have to use our free domain forwarding service, here are some alternative options:

ALIAS / ANAME routing

In the fortrabbit Dashboard you can add a bare domain. To make this work you need a domain provider that supports so called "ALIAS" or "ANAME" records. They allow you to have the functionality of CNAME routing (hostname target instead of IP). This is a list of domain / DNS providers who offer these special records:

Forwarding, using your domain provider

Some domain providers also support a simple HTTP redirect. Please see your domain provider's documentation. Here are some examples:

Using a canonical tag

In the cases above you forward all requests to the ONE main domain you are using. In some cases you might have two domains serving the same content. Now, search engines need to know which page is the one they should show the results for. To help the search bots, you can use a canonical tag.

Let's say you have the page fortrabbit.com and fort-rabbit.com registered with your fortrabbit App. And you want both to display the same content but still keep the originally entered URL. Actually, for this example you might want to create a redirect to the domain that matters most to you. Now you want the search engines to prefer and link to the first domain, so you add in the head of each HTML page delivered:

<head>
    …
    <link rel="canonical" href="https://www.fortrabbit.com">
</head>

More on canonical URLs on Google webmasters

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