Watch out for those sample URLs

Date:July 13, 2004 / year-entry #277
Orig Link:
Comments:    29
Summary:When writing documentation, one often has need to come up with a sample URL to illustrate some point or other. When you do, make sure the sample URL is under your control. I remember a Windows beta that used the sample URL in a dialog box. You can imagine where that actually goes. This...

When writing documentation, one often has need to come up with a sample URL to illustrate some point or other. When you do, make sure the sample URL is under your control.

I remember a Windows beta that used the sample URL in a dialog box. You can imagine where that actually goes.

This web site uses as a sample URL. Perhaps they didn't realize that it's a gay porn site.

(Raymond's strange dream story: One night I dreamt that I found a web site that had a complete Dilbert archive, and for some reason the name of the site was "Wally World". In the morning, I checked out the site and was in for a big surprise...)

So play it safe. When you need a sample URL, don't just make something up. If you do, odds are good that somebody is going to rush in and register it. Make your sample URLs point back to your company's home page, or use, which the IANA has reserved for use in sample URLs. If that's too dorky, you can always go out and register the domain you want to use as your sample, so that nobody else can sneak in and steal it. (This does have the problem of incurring renewal fees.)

Comments (29)
  1. Eric Lippert says:

    Yes, you must keep on top of owning it. The script team used to use "" for our sample url, which we owned. But when the name ownership expired we didn’t jump on it fast enough and sure enough, it’s been a porn site ever since.

  2. Kim Gräsman says:

    We always used, with the effect that the actual owners of started registering all of our company name’s top-level domains (, etc).

    I changed to a while ago, so as not to make any more enemies ;)

  3. if i click


    (using firefox) goes to microsoft ;)

  4. Rob says:

    You get the same result just typing http into Firefox – it looks like typing something other than a URL into the location bar is equivalent to going to Google, typing in the search string and pressing "I’m Feeling Lucky".

  5. Roy Dictus says:

    Another good one is Try it, it works ;-)


  6. This was a problem when UBIsoft released Rainbow Six 3.

    "Texan Tony Ashcraft was one of the early buyers of the game and noted the URL as he played. Thinking the link might feature ancillary information on the game, he told me he typed it into his browser, only to find no one owned the domain. On Nov. 22, he bought it and immediately filled it with porn links. "

    See for the entire story.

  7. Yann says:

    In a typing course, my domain name was used as an example. I started to receive a dozen of e-mails to every few days, all with the same excercise text. Finally I got tired of it and asked the publisher of the course to change it to dot-nl, instead of dot-com. My mistake… I hope the owner of isnt bothered too much by it.

  8. Alex J. says:

    In the Bahamas, the Batelco used an image of a web browser on the cover of the phone book. The web browser featured the url It only came to the attention of the phone company that this was a porn site after all of the books had been distributed. The Bahamas is a religous country, at least in public, so the phone company recalled all of the phone books. The returned them to the public after having marked through all of the porn urls with a black magic marker. :)

  9. Wierd. On my machine, goes to

    "You have reached this web page by typing "", "", or "" into your web browser. These domains are reserved for documentation….."

    Maybe you typed http://

  10. Cooney says:

    Yes, you must keep on top of owning it.

    Definitely – the next time MS fails to renew hotmail or expedia or something, it might not be a nice geek that notices first. It might be that porn link guy.

  11. J. Peterson says:

    Reminds me of a corporate web site done by a consultant years ago (’96?). There were numerous places where the consultant needed dummy URLs so she filled in "http://xxx" thinking it would just produce an error. Well, it turns out the browser of that vintage "helpfully" re-wrote the URL as "" much to the dismay of her client…

  12. Christian says:

    In Germany once C&A gave away T-Shirts

    written on it. I think

    it was a marketing idea to write something

    looking like internet for the brand "canda boys" of C&A.

    Guess what * resolved to ;-)

    They recalled the free T-Shirts.

    Another thing:

    Microsoft bought,,,,,, und

    Raymond, any idea which department did that?

    marketing, developer-geeks?

    They seem to be not connected at the moment

  13. Neilcar says:

    You also have to be careful of other things. When Win2k launched, the DNS server had an event log message that used & as examples. I had a customer complain to me about the unprofessionalism of this, and I really had to agree with the point.

  14. Carmen says:

    Yes, because professionalism means no sense of humor.

  15. Jason says:

    We once had a vendor come in to install their product. After the install, he followed the instructions exactly as they were in his notes. He was surprised when http://servername didn‘t work. ;)


  16. Dan says:

    Another example: a friend of mine owns "" which was used, I believe, as the default in an old version of FrontPage. He had a revolving set of places he sent them, including some that were of an adult nature.

  17. Thierry Tremblay says:

    A coworker of mine wanted to show me the bus transit’s web site in Montreal. The company’s name used to be "C.T.C.U.M." but everyone simply called it the "C.U.M.".

    So she entered "" in the browser… I had a good laugh when I saw her reaction!

  18. Jack Tripper says:

    RFC2606 says that http://www.invalid.* is reserved.

    But none of them are. What’s up with that.

    BTW, If you own









    then you deserve the spam you get. You knew it wasn’t a valid entity name when you registered it.

    If you are Billy Bob, then you register, not or

  19. Steve Loughran says:

    I always wonder if there is a "", that being the example email address in outlook express. If there is, they must get a lot of spoofed mail.

  20. Christian says:

    somebody@microsoft should be routed to Erika Wikkers from .NET-Tv (or how is her name spelled) ;-)

  21. Jon Potter says:

    I’d like to know how much spam gets :)

  22. asdf says:

    I’d imagine a lot less than

  23. Advice from Raymond Chen: Watch out for those sample URLs Example Web Page

  24. Adam Fitzpatrick says:

    RFC 2606 says that invalid is a reserved *top level* domain. What the RFC is saying is that, for example, somethingsilly.invalid will never be available for registration.

  25. Phil says:

    Does the URL have to be real? If not, you could use

  26. Raymond Chen says:

    What makes you say it isn’t real? It works for me.

  27. There is a stock collection of fake names.

Comments are closed.

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