Get domain from URL

How to get the domain from the URL? It depends!

Lately i’ve spent some time trying to figure out the best way to solve this problem.

Scenario: a website reachable through two different second-level domains (and a bunch of third-level domains). No redirects from a domain to the other, or from the third-level domains to the second-level (and this behaviour couldn’t be changed). The two SLD have their own virtual host configured on Apache (this detail is very important, as you will see).

Please note: the following possible solutions consider PHP, but i guess that, apart from the different syntax, the logic would be the same with any other language). I’m not a programmer anyway, so won’t put much code here (feel free to add it in the comments, if you want).

One possible solution is to get the server name:


and then take the last two strings starting (separated by a dot) from the end.

So, if SERVER_NAME is www.mydomain.tld, you would get mydomain.tld, which is the second level domain.

This solution can be good enough if you know in advance you are not going to use it with domains including a dot, like, or, just to name a few.

But if you have the website accessible through and (the first example coming to my mind, i wonder why), this kind of solution would return and Not exactly what you’d want.

A more sophisticated solution would be to check the TLD against a list (there is one here but it’s not complete). If you have a complete list of TLD, you can get the SERVER_NAME, check what TLD is in it, and pick up the part of the hostname before the TLD (plus the TLD itself, of course).

For both the solutions above, you can find a lot of code snippets on Google.

But my favourite solution is the third! In fact, you can set in the virtual host (in the two virtual hosts, in my case) on Apache a variable defining the domain:

ServerName www.domain1.tld
SetEnv MY_DOMAIN domain1.tld

ServerName www.domain2.tld
SetEnv MY_DOMAIN domain2.tld

This way it’s Apache defining the exact domain value, and at this point you can get the variable in php with a simple


For the record, i needed to use the variable to create a cookie valid for the second level domain and any subdomain of it. So, once defined the variable in the virtualhost, all i had to do was something like this:

$domain = $_SERVER[‘MY_DOMAIN’];
if(isset($_GET[‘parameter’])) {
$variable = htmlentities($_GET[‘parameter’]);
setcookie(“mycookie”, $variable, time()+(60*60*24*7), “/”, $domain);

In case you will find yourself in the same situation, hope this saves you some time.

P.s. as you see now, being able to edit the virtual host is essential to use this solution.

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