October 1, 2022


Your Partner in The Digital Era

Household to the Internet’s shortest URLs

You could be common with some of the shortest online domains made use of by main businesses, these types of as m.me and fb.me from Fb (Meta) and Twitter’s t.co URL shortener.

But, it really is probable for reside area names to be even shorter than these choices—and have no dots.

Dotless domains, you say?

London-centered software package engineer James Williams has steered everyone’s attention in the direction of domains that are even shorter than the widely known g.co or m.me.

Whilst the wide the greater part of internet domains include TLDs divided by 1 or more dots, turns out it is not a ought to for a domain.

In principle, for case in point, it would be probable for internet regulatory authorities to help leading-amount domains (TLDs) like com to be a valid domain by alone and have valid DNS documents resolving to a server. Had that been the scenario, navigating to http://com/ would existing the consumer with a net website page.

“You will find nothing at all halting TLD registry operators [from] serving A information at the apexes of their TLD zones,” explains Williams in a succinct blog put up from final thirty day period.

“For instance, if Verisign (the operator of the com TLD registry) wished, they could incorporate an A file at the apex of the com TLD zone – com would then resolve to that IP, and your browser would hook up to that IP when you visited https://com.”

“Does any registry operator in fact do this however? Surprisingly, the response is sure.”

Williams gathered a listing of TLDs that have legitimate DNS A documents. Though not all TLDs may perhaps display a website web page when entered in a world wide web browser, some of them do.

In tests by BleepingComputer, visiting http://ai/ in Google Chrome on macOS offered a legitimate webpage, that can or else also be arrived at at: http://offshore.ai/

As for Vince Cate, the cryptographer and computer software developer who owns and operates the offshore.ai area, there is a little background lesson on his website.

Formerly an American citizen, Cate states that in 1994 he relocated to Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory that holds the rights to the ai TLD domain which Cate is associated in managing [1, 2].

Navigating to ai TLD shows a valid web page
Navigating to http://ai in a website browser shows a dwell webpage (BleepingComputer)

Of study course, the ai TLD in fact has legitimate DNS A records generating the magic feasible:

ai dns response
DNS A data for ai TLD (BleepingComputer)

Also, the http://pn/ TLD displays the server’s default webpage reading “It functions!” 

pn domain in web browser
Navigating to http://pn on Chrome internet browser (BleepingComputer)

It should be noted, that our assessments did not do well with all ISPs, DNS providers and equipment, and varied by the option of web browser even when on the identical device with DNS settings unchanged.

For instance, visiting ai/ throughout our tests on a macOS, making use of the ISP’s default DNS company productively showed the webpage in Chrome and Firefox, but not Safari web browser. Nevertheless, the pn/ domain resolved seamlessly across all internet browsers and equipment.

Safari did not load ai domain
Safari on macOS does not realize the http://ai web site (BleepingComputer)

On Home windows, our makes an attempt to access pn/ and ai/ using a range of web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and Brave) did not generally do well, when tested with both equally ISP’s DNS options as very well as DNS services from Cloudflare ( and Google (

On a Samsung smartphone, using Chrome for Android and the mobile community operator’s DNS settings posed no troubles when browsing both area. But, on iOS our check failed for ai/.

Why are not able to all TLDs be like that?

In internal networks usually implemented by enterprises, it is just not unusual to have dotless domains reachable from in the firm. For example, heading about to http://intranet/ or http://firm/ may well current legitimate websites—viewable by only team and buyers on the corporate network.

But, when it arrives to the earth extensive internet, this follow is neither widely prevalent nor inspired.

In 2013, the web regulatory authority ICANN adopted a resolution banning dotless area names and stating that their use could be hazardous as these kinds of domains are usually expected to resolve in a community context (i.e. a corporate community).

“Dotless names would need the inclusion of, for case in point, an A, AAAA, or MX, document in the apex of a TLD zone in the DNS (i.e., the report relates to the TLD-string itself),” states ICANN’s older announcement.

“Dotless domains would not be universally reachable and encouraged strongly against their use. As a outcome, the SSAC recommended that the use of DNS useful resource data these kinds of as A, AAAA, and MX in the apex of a Major-Level Area (TLD) ought to be contractually prohibited the place correct, and strongly discouraged in all conditions.”

But that has however not stopped directors of all TLDs, like ai, from breaking the norm.

A YCombinator Hacker Information reader chimed in saying that typing ai/protection, shorthand for http://offshore.ai/protection/, in a web browser felt “very cyberpunk.”

It is quietly a person of most loved things on the world wide web that I can get to a hacker webpage by typing in “ai/stability”. That is, like, far better than “ai.stability” or comparable for the reason that it totally does away with standard TLD conventions (“civil disobedience”!). It also transpires to flip the namespacing close to in a way that is kinda extra human (“stability in the context of AI”), which is meta in its individual way specified the context is about individuals vs machines.
Quite cyberpunk.

(And I checked ai.safety is parked. Pretty amusing.)

And, that’s not it. It is really feasible for ‘blank’ domains to exist, at the very least in principle.

“Reward simple fact: there’s also almost nothing halting ICANN [from] incorporating an A record to the apex of the root zone, which would theoretically make the empty hostname resolvable,” points out Williams.

“I imagine most browsers etc. would take into consideration a URL with an vacant hostname invalid – Chrome considers both of those http:// and http://. invalid, at least.”

Check out for you on different devices and browsers—do either ai/ or pn/ resolve for you?