How do I distinguish with one word between and
August 23, 2006 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Is there a special term that describes a subset of a website; aka: how do I distinguish with one word between and

Ok, I know this may seem ridiculous, but let me explain. I'm trying to settle a question plaguing a co-worker which is mainly a question of semantics.

Let's say, for example, that is the main page that I am concerned with. An argument has been made that is a separate entity from Articles are being written in a different place, it is run by different people, etc. My friend is trying to make the arguement that is simply a branch of, and should be viewed as part and parcel. Without getting into the details of who is right and who is wrong, I'm trying to find a single word that can describe as a site that is under the control of, so she doesn't have to use a phrase to distinguish them over and over again.

Please throw out any and all suggestions - I'll keep checking in to help clairfy what I know must be a confusing question. Thanks!
posted by evadery to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is no term of art for this because YYYY, in your case, is just a directory sitting on a webserver. There is nothing at all special about it.

If your *particular* site has discrete subsites under the root-level directory, I'd refer to them as such: subsites. But remember that this won't apply to all such cases. is not a "subsite" of
posted by jammer at 9:01 AM on August 23, 2006

'Subsite' appears to be the preferred term... probably because it sounds like 'subset'.
posted by holgate at 9:02 AM on August 23, 2006

Subsite? Tho that's more of a technical term than relating to the content... and it would really depend on the context.

Someone may host someone else and have absolutely no link with them contentwise, in which case I wouldn't call it a subsite, but a separate site on the same domain.

[on preview... what people have said]
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:04 AM on August 23, 2006

Really? Subsite? I would have thought "subdirectory" would be more appropriate - because it really is.

Anything hosted at, even if in a different subdirectory, has to go through to gain permission to use that directory. Even if is a hosting site and is an online company or personal home page, whoever manages bar had to have permission from to use that space.

Now, and are two different things in my book: the first implies that bar is run or managed directly by foo as a subsite, while the second is a subdirectory that may be only associated with through purchase of access.

For a good example, take pretty much any university website, where is the main site. Students are granted subdirectories for personal use at Departments are given subsites - officially authorized and endorsed by the university - at

Students must follow general guidelines in the subdirectories but the content is not managed by the university (exceptions for removal of sites that do not follow policy). Department subsites are not necessarily run by the university itself (may be run from within the department) but have a higher level of responsibility with respect to content and guidelines.

In such a scenario I think that "subsite" imples direct endorsement by the root domain while "subdirectory" simply states that the site is hosted by a specific domain but is not necessarily associated with it.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2006

If the YYYY has nothing conceptually to do with, I'd call it a hosted site.
posted by breath at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2006

I think directory/subdirectory isn't really such a great term since it implies a particular implementation, and in this era of semantic urls, /YYYY doesn't have to be a directory. It could just be a proxy for a completely different server, rewritten to someplace else like, or a web application that makes calls to a database in another country, etc.

The presence of /YYYY in's url scheme does imply that endorses/supports/tolerates YYYY in some way, though.
posted by breath at 9:20 AM on August 23, 2006

Really? Subsite? I would have thought "subdirectory" would be more appropriate - because it really is.

But it can be both. I think the content (and its relation to whatever's in the root directory of the domain) determines whether it is or not. isn't a subsite, but a subdirectory may be a subsite of my own site (if I host the friend) would be a different site altogether

So not everything in a subdirectory is a subsite (otherwise would be a subsubsubsubsite) - but the OP was asking something more specific here, IMO.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:22 AM on August 23, 2006

I'm trying to settle a question plaguing a co-worker which is mainly a question of semantics.

The answer is that web addresses are arbitrary and the choice of formatting doesn't say a thing about the actual relationship between the different areas.

(beyond the minimal amount of technical cooperation required to say, share a domain name)
posted by cillit bang at 10:01 AM on August 23, 2006

These are the terms I've learned for ... Web site
     /y/z/ ... path
     w.htm ... document
posted by davcoo at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2006

evadery, to answer the underlying question -- which many others have done here, but humor me! -- there's no specific "rule" that says whether a given URL is managed/governed/written by the same entity as its parent. That is to say: this and this are certainly part of the same website, governed by the same entity, and produced as part of the same "work".

A middle ground might be SourceForge, where there's the master website, but there are also subdomains that all represent individual projects, and all "belong" to different entities (e.g., this and this, two random examples).

Most universities let students and faculty set up personal web space, which is the farthest example -- it'd typically live at the URL of the university plus a subdomain. Two (again random) examples at Columbia are here (awful page!) and here. A lot of broadband providers likewise let their users do this, and it's the perfect example of how the URL doesn't say anything specific about who's behind the content.

Finally, note that not even the base of the hostname means much -- for example, there are a million sites, all maintained by different people.
posted by delfuego at 10:37 AM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thanks gang - I think we've decided to go with Subsite for YYYY and host for XXXX. Whether we're right or not is an entirely different issue, but those words make sense at least for the argument.
posted by evadery at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2006

In information architecture terms, YYYY would usually be considered a section of the site. Here are a couple of specific examples from the New York Times site:
Business section*
Health section
Technology section
On an old-school web site, this would mean that there would be a "pages" directory at the root level of the site, and there would be "business," "health," and "technology" subdirectories inside the "pages" directory. On modern sites, as breath points out, the URL pieces are probably more likely to be interpreted by the CMS and load content from a database than they are to represent actual directories.

The Autos, Job Market, and Real Estate areas of the New York Times site are more like what I'd consider subsites (especially Jobs):
Autos subsite
Job Market subsite
Real Estate subsite
They're different than the site's sections because the sections are focused on presenting content, and the subsites are focused on adding, editing, and searching information. The graphic design of the subsites are different from one another and from the rest of the site, while the graphic designs of the sections are similar. The subsites are also treated differently in the navigation, with a different typeface and a light blue background. (The Jobs area also has a more-subsite-like URL, but this is probably a reflection of them using a different CMS for it than for the rest of the site than it is an information architecture decision.)

* The "pages" part of the URL is probably used by their CMS, and ideally it wouldn't be used. Oddly, the URLs work if you take "pages/" out, so I'm not sure why they don't use the shorter URLs in their navigation code.

On preview: Aww, crap. A day late and a dollar short.

posted by kirkaracha at 11:04 AM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Now, to give you some fodder for the actual argument: whether it's reasonable to describe some extended URL as a 'subsite' depends entirely on the content you see when you go there.

So, no, it's not *generically* correct to say that is a 'subsite' of, for precisely the MeFi example reason mentioned above.

So yeah, roughly what kirkaracha said. ;-) (And, Kirk? No, not really; as an asker, I find that even if three people give the same answer phrased in slightly different ways, I get more out of it that just "3 of the same answer"...)
posted by baylink at 2:31 PM on August 23, 2006

Went back to the main page, had a flash:

Yes, there is a word that describes a subset of a site.

Your 'aka', though, implies that this has anything to *do* with the shape of the URL's in question, which is not a valid assumption or premise.

Does that help?
posted by baylink at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2006

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