Consider Freelancing SE as a hypothetical [for now!] example. Freelancing has been in beta for 7+ years. Given its narrow scope, it doesn't get many questions each year, and that number is shrinking. It may be desirable for a site like Freelancing to expand scope; e.g. to permit self-employment or small business questions that would not previously have been considered on-topic.

I expect for an SE site to expand the scope of what's on-topic beyond what was contemplated at launch, the community would hold discussions at the community meta site and ideally achieve some kind of consensus. (I was involved as a pro-tem moderator at Money SE early on and participated in many of these kinds of discussions.)

But what about when the scope expansion contemplated by a community is significant enough to require both a new name and new URL? Using the example of Freelancing SE, what if it decided to broaden to Self Employment, or more generally, Small Business? Stack Exchange community moderators cannot effect such a change. I expect the Stack Exchange community management team would help with a change like this — but what would the SE community management team need to see from the community and moderators in order to agree to such a change and effect the actual change?

I looked for precedent elsewhere in the Stack Exchange network where a major scope change involved both a site name change and site URL change and discovered that Audio SE, while in beta, had merged with the Video and Film Production proposal.

However, that isn't a great example, for two reasons: First, the change was proposed and seconded by the founders of Stack Overflow, rather than at the grassroots level. Second, the resulting site did indeed get a new name and URL, but eventually the combined AVP SE site split into two.

Are there other Stack Exchange sites that have expanded scope significantly where a new name and URL were involved? If so, what was the process these communities followed, and has that process changed over time? If not, what would/should that process look like today?

  • 8
    Didn't Software Engineering go through this twice? Trawling their Meta may be of value (I'm not really a part of their community so I don't wish to speak on authority).
    – Makoto
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 16:57
  • 8
    @Makoto I'm not sure if the change from Programmers.SE to Software Engineering SE counts as 'expanded', it rather seems the reverse happened (narrowing down). I also know Health SE changed their name to Medical Sciences, but again these name changes mostly seem to be related to changing the name to actually reflect a narrower topic.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


Are there other Stack Exchange sites that have expanded scope significantly where a new name and URL were involved? If so, what was the process these communities followed, and has that process changed over time? If not, what would/should that process look like today?

I wasn't around back then, but apparently, Science Fiction and Fantasy used to just be Science Fiction. Following a surprisingly brief meta discussion in 2011, they determined that there was no practical way to exclude fantasy, and nobody particularly wanted to exclude it anyway. So the site was renamed. They never changed the URL, but https://fantasy.stackexchange.com was added as an alias.

However, this was extremely early in the site's history. It happened shortly after beta launch, and in fact it is the third oldest non-deleted meta question on the whole site (and the second oldest is about the same problem). I tend to imagine that the situation you describe, where a site has existed under a given scope for years, would be handled more cautiously today.

So, supposing you want to do this anyway, what are the steps? I'm not aware of any explicit, documented procedure for this. But here's how I would approach this, if I wanted to expand the scope of an existing site:

  1. Ask a question on the per-site meta, suggesting that we start allowing questions about X (for whatever value of X is appropriate). If the community agrees, great. If not, stop here, because you're obviously not going to rename a site to include X if X is not even on-topic in the first place.
  2. If the scope change was the subject of any controversy at all, I would suggest taking a short pause at this time to allow the community to get used to the idea that X is now on-topic. The exact duration of this will vary from one community to another, but in general, it should be long enough that X is no longer controversial and any moderation problems relating to X have been largely ironed out. If that never happens, then it's possible that X will eventually revert to being off-topic, so a name change is premature.
    If the scope change was entirely uncontroversial, as in the Sci-Fi & Fantasy example above, then you may not need to bother waiting.
  3. Optionally, use SEDE to gather data which demonstrates how questions about X are handled relative to other questions on the site. This is particularly helpful if the new scope is controversial or not everyone agrees that it is working. If the scope change is uncontroversial, you might skip this step.
  4. Once it's clear that the new scope works and everyone likes it (or at least, is willing to put up with it), ask another question on the per-site meta about changing the name of the site. Again, this needs the support of the local community, or else it's an obvious non-starter.
  5. Assuming the community likes the proposed name, a site moderator should (probably) reach out to the Community Management team and ask for next steps.
  6. Hopefully, the CM team agrees that renaming the site is the right thing to do, and just does it for you. If not, then you may need to have further discussions with them about site-specific issues, and possibly another round of meta debate.

Information Security Stack Exchange used to just be IT Security Stack Exchange, focusing on, well, IT Security.

As most professionals in the field work on the broader topic of information security, we went through a consultancy period on our meta site to define the new scope - what was in, what was out through various posts like this one - and eventually culminating in a name change, supported by SE.

Basically the same process Kevin described (without step 3 - I don't think we really knew about SEDE back then)


Medical Sciences.SE used to be Health.SE (and health redirects to medicalsciences)

A few years ago, when Health.SE was young, there was a large disparity between what the users felt it was for and what the superuser/moderators thought it should be for. A lot of questions and answers were closed down for lack of quality.

Since then, it's been repurposed to remove any ambiguity in terms of what's expected of the site and users.

So, Health is a good example where the site has expanded (or more correctly tightened) scope and changed it's name and URL accordingly.

Meta Discussion - Refocusing from Health to Medical Sciences

The process Health.SE followed was fairly basic - a conflict fuelled by confusion over the true meaning of the site that necessitated more focus and direction. SE admin staff looked at the tangled Meta discussions and then sought input from moderators/superusers about what the site should be called and what it should be used for.

So now MedicalSciences.SE is a lot more structured and professional in content/quality, and general "go see your doctor about that boil" type content belong off-site.


Programmers.SE changed to SoftwareEngineering.SE

It's official! Programmers is now Software Engineering Stack Exchange


Meta thread - (4 years later) Dear Stack Exchange: can we change our site name?

It took us a good while, but the Community Team has circled up and here's where we stand on your request to change Programmers.SE's name.

We agree that renaming this site is a good idea.
"Programmers" is an affinity group, whereas "Software Architecture" (for example) is an action and a discipline. It is entirely possible that changing the site's name will send clearer signals and prime new users to ask questions more consistently in line with what y'all would be proud to see and answer, particularly given where this site’s scope has solidified over the past few years.

So yes, we're open to proceeding with a name change. That said, we'll need to make sure the change makes the kind of difference you want it to, because we can't repeat this process again several years down the line. We gotta get it right this time. Last time the site was renamed, the scope was very much still in flux; by now, hopefully you can identify much more precisely what this site is about and commit to both a name and description and introductory materials that communicate this body of knowledge clearly and succinctly.

Here's what the Community Team needs before we can move forward:

  1. Tell us what you're proposing as the new site name.
  • "Software Engineering" and "Software Architecture" both look like good options from where I stand. Let’s not turn this into a bikeshed discussion; we need well-considered options here, not a popularity contest - Coffee McWhiskeyface is right out. The ideal name will suggest at a glance what this site is about, without suggesting that it might be “fix my code” even a little bit.
  1. Lay out what the new site scope will be.
  • Above all else, the scope needs to be simple. Seriously. No more than four bullets, no multi-line comma-separated lists, no gerrymandering - it needs to be easy for any new visitor who bothers to read and even mildly pays attention to what they're reading to know what they can and cannot ask about here. Eliminate ambiguity for a first time poster once and for all.

Let's talk again in a month.

Note: It took four years for this to happen.

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