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"www" might be a very special case, but there are lots of times where "this.domain.com" is completely unrelated to "that.domain.com".

Many sites, for example give users their own "name.whatever.com" subdomain. In those cases treating the sites as the same doesn't make any sense.

True, but I think that is just the special case being asked about. Would it make sense to have an exception for “www”?

That's true, but the www/no-www/http/https cases are very likely to refer to exactly the same site. Besides, Google's algos, through crawling, should know that it is the same site. It seems unfair to punish the site for this.

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