Let's take for example the Blender SE site.

  • The UI makes it clear that a Meta is an accessory to the main site:

    enter image description here

    (also the word "main" makes a point on its own).

  • The "what is meta" page says:

    Meta Blender Stack Exchange is the part of the site where users discuss the workings and policies of Blender Stack Exchange rather than discussing blender itself.

However, the URL is blender.meta.stackexchange.com, which makes it look like it's "the Blender chapter of Meta.SE", rather than "the meta part of Blender.SE".

Was this just a random choice, a choice dictated by technical needs, or does it have a more profound meaning?


a choice dictated by technical needs

This is correct; it used to be different (and http://meta.blender.stackexchange.com still works), but the new situation is a by-product of the migration to HTTPS.

All *.meta.stackexchange.com sites share a single wildcard SSL certificate, as do all *.stackexchange.com sites. A site named meta.blender.stackexchange.com would either need its own SSL certificate or a wildcard *.blender.stackexchange.com certificate; Stack Overflow inc. would need to maintain ~165 separate SSL certificates for each per-site meta (excluding the ones with a special domain like Super User or Server Fault, which need their own certificate anyway).

Nick Craver wrote about this in his blog:

So what about all of our *.stackexchange.com domains? A wildcart cert, excellent we’re knocking these out like crazy. What about meta.*.stackexchange.com? [] Can’t do that. You can’t have a wildcard of that form - at least not one supported by most major browsers, which means effectively it’s not an option.

and cites some rules for the reasoning behind this. It's an interesting read if you have a few minutes.

And of course, you could think of blender.meta.stackexchange.com as 'the Blender Meta part of Stack Exchange'...

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