I keep reading in places that, if the S3 bucket name is identical to the domain name, you can do this without using hosted zones. Is this correct?
That's not generally correct. CNAME records must be contained within some DNS zone on some nameservers (ie a hosted zone in Route 53). If you're not owning a DNS zone somewhere, you'd have to be putting your CNAME in the parent domain's DNS zone. DNS Registries do not generally allow that - they only delegate to your DNS zone's nameservers. it's conceivable that the owner of some domain, e.g. example.com might let you put a CNAME in there called e.g. foo.example.com or foo.bar.example.com, but that's really just someone else owning the zone.
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