Domains and URLs for McGill websites

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but what about domain names? 

McGill’s branded domain name, mcgill.ca, implies authenticity and reliability. It’s something that visitors from around the world can trust when they’re applying for their education or for work, seeking information and news about the institution, or just checking up on events and important dates. This is why McGill manages its domain, the use of the name McGill in other domains, and URLs carefully. Here are a few things you should know...

What's in a name?

Domains are an important part of our online brand. Visitors who arrive on a site with a domain name or URL that includes 'mcgill' (for example, mcgill.ca, community.mcgill.ca, juncker.lab.mcgill.ca, or mcgillatheletics.ca) expect they are visiting an official McGill website that complies with our standards, and policies. However, McGill also allows some non-official, but associated groups, such as student organizations and special outreach projects, to use McGill’s domain.

For this reason, approval must be obtained from the appropriate authorities when registering a new domain name or requesting a new URL that includes 'mcgill.' 

Obtaining approval for new domain names or URLs

For standard domain names and URLs (sites on McGill-managed web platforms, such as WMS websites, blogs.mcgill.ca websites and virtual host websites like juncker.lab.mcgill.ca), approval must be obtained from IT Services' Web Service Group. Submitting a request for a new site on one of these platforms will initiate the approval process.

Approval for all non-standard domain names that include the word McGill (for example, mcgillathletics.ca) must be obtained from Communications and External Relations (CER). Departments and individuals are responsible for web.communications [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Request%20concerning%20a%20McGill%20domain%20or%20URL) (contacting CER) to request approval before moving forward with registering new domain names. We usually discourage using this type of domain name because anyone could register a domain like “mymcgillsite.com” and use it to claim to be a legitimate McGill entity. If we allow this practice, we make it hard for to users to distinguish legitimate sites from phishing schemes.

Top-level domain names that purport to be representative of or associated with McGill e.g. mcgill.edu, mcgill.info, etc., must be approved CER and registered by McGill ITS. 

Things to consider when choosing a new domain or URL

Here are a few important questions to ask when choosing your new domain or URL.

Is the domain name or URL already in use?

The first thing to check is whether the domain name or URL is already in use. You can do this by simply typing the domain name or URL into your browser.

Is the choice of URL too general?

Although the use of some URLs, e.g. www.mcgill.ca/welcome/ may seem important for a special event or message organized by an individual unit, the URL implies that this site is a representative and inclusive 'welcome' from the entire institution. URLs that are general in nature are reserved for use by CER and its partners. Any other URL must be a sub-directory and adjoined specifically to a unit or department URL, e.g. www.mcgill.ca/sitename/welcome.

Are there any negative implications to consider?

Does your domain name or URL have any negative implications? Is this negativity desired or on purpose (e.g. related to a controversial topic)?

Additional caution is recommended when using abbreviations and acronyms as these may have unintended negative associations. Do an online search of your abbreviation or acronym to find out if there are any related associations to take into consideration.

Is the domain name or URL an appropriate reflection of your department's purview?

Consider the broad scope implied by your domain name or URL. Could it suggest a breadth of expertise beyond your department's purview? For example, a domain name like medical.research.mcgill.ca might seem like an appropriate choice for a research lab in the Faculty of Medicine, but this domain may imply to some that the site contains details about everything related to medical research at McGill, which is likely not accurate.

When in doubt…

Sometimes the answer to what is appropriate or what can be approved isn’t obvious. Please feel free to reach out with questions about the use of domain names and URLs.

  • karl.jarosiewicz [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Question%20concerning%20McGill%20domain%20names%20and%20URLs) (IT Communications — WSG)
  • web.communications [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Question%20concerning%20McGill%20domain%20names%20and%20URLs) (Digital Communications, CER)
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