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Is it possible to set a CNAME record at the top of a domain? (i.e. @ CNAME www, @ CNAME, etc.)

My ISP says that it's only possible to use CNAME's for subdomains but I've read somewhere else that is should be possible even if not recommended.

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migrated from Sep 22 '12 at 16:56

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I want to point a top-level-domain to a amazon cloudfront distribution and they only support cnames. – Martin Sep 30 '10 at 12:13
I should point out that EVERY domain is a "subdomain". is a subdomain of com, and com is a subdomain of .. Any limitations put in place by your ISP are put in place by your ISP and perhaps the registrar, not by the underlying technology. – ghoti Sep 22 '12 at 16:26
3 is not a top level domain so your question requires a rephrasing. – bortzmeyer Sep 22 '12 at 21:47
up vote 27 down vote accepted

Not possible - this would conflict with the SOA- and NS-records at the domain root.

From RFC1912 section 2.4: "A CNAME record is not allowed to coexist with any other data."

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The quoted text doesn't say that it's not possible, only that it can't be used with other records. Your NS and SOA records would reside with the canonical name. – bukzor Aug 28 '12 at 18:11
Just a side note, RFC1912 is Informational and does not define a standard of any sort. RFC2181 has Proposed Standard status and is a better link for unambiguously forbidding this behavior. – Andrew B Aug 5 '14 at 18:33

You can setup your domain to be a CNAME to another domain, but then everything will go to that other domain -- including mail and the SOA "start-of-authority" record itself. However, you can still have separate subdomains, like "" use another mail and web server.

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If the parent zone has NS records and the child "zone" is only a CNAME then some systems will get very confused. – Alnitak Feb 7 '12 at 16:20
This is implementation specific and dangerous advice. Don't CNAME @, ever. – Andrew B Jul 8 '13 at 0:41

You can have an @ record set to a CNAME, but all other @ records (including MX) will be ignored and set to the same domain to which it points. However you can point www subdomain to a CNAME, ex.: www CNAME

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This is implementation specific and dangerous advice. Don't CNAME @, ever. – Andrew B Jul 8 '13 at 0:40

I use cloudflare to setup CNAME for root domain and it works fine.. without breaking the mail records

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No, you didn't. It doesn't work that way. – Chris S Jun 2 '14 at 14:44
@ChrisS CloudFlare has a nasty hack. It seems to work, though. – Michael Hampton Jun 2 '14 at 15:49
I don't think they even use a hack, I think they just point the domain to a common set of RRs. I do the same thing with BIND zone files (use the same zone for half of my domains). I think the only "hack" is that they use the term CNAME in there. – Chris S Jun 2 '14 at 15:56
I don't think the implementation details are relevant - the point of the answer appears to be that cloudflare allows you to define a CNAME record for the root domain, which it does, and corroborates I've read somewhere else that is should be possible (though that wouldn't have been true in 2010). – AD7six Jun 23 '14 at 17:59
@AD7six If an actual CNAME record existed at the apex, it would be a RFC2181 violation. As it stands, this is a case of confusing record synthesis that has no basis in a standard defining RFC. (the fake ANAME and ALIAS records are more honest) If I'm wrong and a standard defining RFC does define the behavior for flattening an apex CNAME I'm all ears, but I'm extremely skeptical of this given RFC2181. – Andrew B Aug 5 '14 at 18:53

protected by Chris S Jun 2 '14 at 14:47

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