What is a URL?

What does U.R.L. stand for?

U.R.L. is an acronym that stands for "Uniform Resource Locator".  It is also sometimes said to stand for "Universal Resource Locator". That probably doesn’t help you understand what one actually is, though, so let's get into what "U.R.L." actually means.

What is the definition of U.R.L.?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "U.R.L." as:

"The address of a resource (as in a document or website) on the Internet that consists of a communications protocol followed by the name or address of a computer on the network, and that often includes additional locating information (such as directory and file names)".

Think of a U.R.L. as a mailing address for the Internet.  In real life, you use your mailing address to make sure that your mail gets sent to you and nobody else, or to make sure that someone gets to your house and not somebody else's when you're trying to give them directions.  A U.R.L. works in much the same way: its job is to give something on the Internet a unique identity, so that you can find it without winding up somewhere else, or in multiple places at once.

What does a U.R.L. mean?

A U.R.L. is composed of three major parts: the protocol, the domain, and the path.  Let's look at a sample Internet address and break down what each part is, and what it means.

Protocol

The protocol declares how you're going to connect to what you're looking for on the Internet.  In terms of a real-life parallel, when you want to talk to someone, do you see them in person, send them a letter or email, or phone them?  These are all different "protocols" for communicating with that person.  A common protocol is "HTTP", which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol.  This is a standard protocol for connecting to web pages on the World Wide Web. 

Another common protocol you may see is "HTTPS", which is basically "HTTP" with extra security functions built in.  It's generally used when dealing with banking or other personal information exchanges, in order to keep your information hidden from those who might steal it and use it for malicious purposes.  However, many websites that store user information are beginning to use it by default now.  And, as you can see from our example, Techboomers is one of them!  After all, we want you to feel as safe as possible when using our site, as well as the Internet at large.

Domain

The domain declares where you're trying to connect to.  Again, for a real life example, if you were trying to send a letter to me, a domain would represent the mailing address of my house.

A domain is usually split into three parts: type, name, and designation.

  • Type is the general technical specification of the server you're connecting to.  The most common one you'll see is the one in our example, "www".  This means that you're trying to connect to a general page on the World Wide Web.  Some other types you may see are "mail" if you're using an email client, or "support" or "help" if you're visiting a website's help section.

  • Name is an identifying part given to something on the Internet by the people who run it.  Our domain name is "techboomers" because that's who we are: Techboomers.  However, some others have to get creative with their domain names in order to not overlap with other, possibly similar places.  For example, the music group known as "Magic!" has their domain name as "ournameismagic" to differentiate it from the trading card game "Magic: The Gathering" (magic.wizards) or the online delivery request application called "Magic" (getmagicnow).

  • Designation, also known as "top-level domain", is an indicator of the specific purpose of the domain that you're connecting to.  Ours is ".com", because we're a business (though many other websites use ".com" as their designation, even if they aren't actually businesses).  Other common designations include ".org" (for non-profit organizations), ".net" (networks that connect people or provide information), ".edu" (for American colleges and universities), and ".gov" (for the American government).  There are also country-based designations, such as ".ca" for Canada, ".uk" for the United Kingdom, and ".ru" for Russia.

Path

The path declares exactly what you are looking for in the domain that you're connecting to.  In the case of a website, the "path" is the specific web page on that website that you're trying to get to.  To continue our parallel with traditional mail, the "path" part would be you writing my name at the top of your letter to me, or at least somewhere on the envelope.  This is so that, even though there are multiple people living at the address that you're sending the letter to, it is clear that your letter is intended to be read specifically by me.

In our example, the path is "/t/what-is-a-url".  The "/t" part tells you that this web page is part of our "Tutorials" section, and the "/what-is-a-url" part tells you the specific name of the web page that you're trying to get to out of all the ones we have marked as "tutorials".  In this case, it's "What is a U.R.L.?"

Extra tip!

Since "HTTP" is the most common protocol and "www" is the most common domain type on the World Wide Web, you can usually get away with not typing one or the other (or perhaps both) into your web browser's address bar when you're trying to get to a specific website.  Instead, you can just type in the website's domain name and designation (and maybe a path, if you're trying to get to a specific web page). 

For example, if you're trying to get to our home page, instead of typing "https://www.techboomers.com" into your web browser's address bar, you can just type in "techboomers.com", and your web browser will fill in the missing parts for you automatically.  In fact, you'll notice that many of our links on the website will use this shortcut as well, in that they omit the domain type (so instead of "https://www.techboomers.com", they're just "https://techboomers.com").

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