If you’re a computer engineer, chances are you already know everything about the workings of a website URL. However, the rest of us common folk have no idea about the many elements it consists of.
It’s something we’ve heard over and over again yet know nothing about. We’ve all heard the term web URL being used in relation to a website’s address. However, that’s the extent of our knowledge regarding the subject.
We can use our common sense and denote that a URL is part of a web address, but there’s obviously more to it. For example, did you know that there are actually three different parts of a URL?
This article will reveal everything there is to know about URL addresses in the simplest and most tangible way. We will explain everything from why we need URLs to what it stands for and what it’s made of. So put on your thinking hats; it’s going to get technical!
Why do we need a website URL?
The first thing to understand here is how the internet finds a specific item of resource for the purpose of display. Let’s face it; the internet is filled with billions of pages scattered across the world wide web. It is essentially a virtual world of its own filled with infinite elements and particles.
So how does one find anything in this infinite world of objects? It would be like trying to find a needle in a chaotic desert, which, as we know, is next to impossible.
Luckily for us, the internet has a systematic way of doing things, and it’s no different in this case. But before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s ask ourselves how we find anything in reality?
We aren’t talking about finding a minuscule object like a pen hidden somewhere in your room. Doing that would be easy for the most part and only requires the use of your eyes and common sense. Finding a particular building or street somewhere in your city is simple as well; all we need is the correct address.
But what if we raise the stakes and try to pinpoint a location in a remote uninhabited wasteland without any form of civilization? In this situation, we can find the location using coordinates!
As you can see, there is a systematic approach to finding every location possible. A similar approach is taken for the internet with the use of URLs.
What is a URL?
A URL is a series of characters that inform the browser where to go and what to display when entered. It is essentially a group of coordinates fed to the browser that directs it to the desired location. So in simple words, a URL is the website address or website link which actually takes us to the particular webpage.
The full form of a URL is Uniform Resource Locater. Take a look at the URL example below to understand further.
When you enter this set of characters into the browser, you will automatically be directed to wikipedia.org. Therefore, we can say that a URL works as a set of coordinates that helps the browser track down and locate the web page that you want to visit.
What are the three different parts of a Web Address or URL?
It is important to note that there are several parts of a URL, each carrying its own unique role in the equation. We will briefly go over each of these steps to have a better understanding of how everything works.
The initial Protocol
The protocol is the first and foremost detail while entering any URL. This element informs your browser exactly how to communicate with the world wide web.
Let us take a look at the example of Wikipedia’s website address.
The protocol here would be the initial portion of the URL, which is https://. This is the very element that allows the website to connect to your browser in the first place.
Usually, the protocol of a website is http, which stands for Hyper text transfer protocol. Https is a more secure version of the former and stands for Hyper text transfer protocol secure.
Fortunately for us, we don’t necessarily have to enter the protocol again once we have visited a site. Your browser should be able to store that information, eliminating the need for you to type the whole thing.
The middle portion; Domain name
The domain name is the website’s actual name, which is entered after the protocol. In this case, the domain name for Wikipedia would be wikipedia.org, which is the identifying element for the website.
Additionally, there is a secondary part to the domain name called Top-Level Domain. This refers to the type of designation for the particular website. In this example, the Top-Level Domain (TLD) would be .org, whereas it is .com in most cases.
The final portion; the Path
Generally speaking, the protocol and domain are the only requirements to navigate yourself to a particular website. However, as we all know, a website comprises multiple pages other than the home page. This is where the actual path of the website comes into play.
The Path is the element of a URL that directs the browser to a specific page on the same website. You can think of it as the subaddress within the location.
Looking at the above example, we can determine that the URL path is the end portion of the address. Notice how it says ‘Main page’? That’s because the current URL will lead us to the home page of the Wikipedia website.
However, if we were to look up the word ‘Cinema’ in the Wiki database, it would take us to the page dedicated to the topic of Cinema. This would change the URL to the example given below.
Therefore, we can understand that the URL path determines the exact web page that we want to navigate to.