The fine folks from The Office eventually get their website up and running, in the meantime this post highlights the difference a hyphen can make in a domain name.
Show & Episode:
The Office – Dunder Mifflin Infinity (S04E02)
How is Dunder-Mifflin.com used?
The visit of former temp Ryan Howard from the Dunder Mifflin corporate offices sets the Scranton branch on edge as authoritative, relationship, and generational dynamics are all brought into play. While giving a presentation on his new infrastructure and sales initiative, Dunder Mifflin Infinity, Ryan says a key aspect of the project will be a new business to business website. At which point the camera cuts away to Jim who says that Dunder Mifflin already HAS a website. He pivots his monitor to show the 5-year old (at time of air) Under Construction homepage with Dunder-Mifflin.com in the address bar.
There’s a very interesting registration history surrounding this domain with two versions – the one shown in the episode as Dunder-Mifflin.com, and DunderMifflin.com.
The WHOIS search results for the episode’s Dunder-Mifflin.com show that not only was the domain name registered to a hidden party (Domains By Proxy) a couple of years PRIOR to the episode’s initial air date, but also two weeks prior to the air date of the pilot episode on March 06, 2005.
Nearly identical WHOIS results from the domain name WITHOUT the hyphen (DunderMifflin.com) ALSO shows registration on on March 06, 2005.
Pretty normal, right? Two variations of the same domain registered during initial production, one with a hyphen and one without. A fairly common practice.
Where it gets interesting is what happens to the domains AFTER the series begins. Archive.org shows DunderMifflin.com AND Dunder-Mifflin.com both pointed to a completely unrelated Bluegrass podcast website called 5 Minutes With Wichita for the first couple of years after they were created, before diverging.
Sometime in 2007, DunderMifflin.com goes to a GoDaddy.com parking page, and in 2008 it’s redirected to the official Dunder Mifflin website maintained by NBC.
On the other hand, Dunder-Mifflin.com was listed for sale in 2007, and is still is via a GoDaddy.com parking page.
Since the registration data for both domain names is hidden, I’m not sure if we’ll ever know the complete story. Episodes involving the company website don’t appear until later in the series, so it’s entirely possible that the person(s) who registered the domains prior to the pilot asked the producers and/or network to register them for the show and was turned down before doing it themselves. And with the names not being used at the time, decided to put them to work by pointing at a podcast they liked or were otherwise affiliated with.
That doesn’t explain why DunderMifflin.com now points to the official website, and Dunder-Mifflin.com doesn’t; but at this point with The Office approaching it’s last season, we may not ever know.
On a much simpler note, I love the use of the once dreaded Under Construction image that was incredibly prevalent in the early days of web design. A web-wide symbol of content that is never completed (or in most cases even started), it’s a perfect metaphor for the dysfunction that exists at Dunder Mifflin. The final touch is the “Coming Christmas 2002” note at the bottom that caps the page and joke perfectly.
Eventually, an online backlash banished use of the Under Construction image to the realm of blink tags and framesets. But who knows, the animated GIF has made a comeback in recent years. Maybe it’s time for the humble cyber construction worker to return as well.
Related – DunderMifflinPaper.biz, DunderMifflinInfinity.com