How Internet URL Addresses Work

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Part 1) 20 Years of URLs, and Already There Are Billions.

October, 2015

URL's are computer addresses on the internet. The intent behind URL's is to make it easier to type the location of a particular web page or computing device.  Because there so many millions of pages and devices on the internet, URL's can become quite long, and are usually best typed through copy-pasting.

Here are six examples of the most-common URL appearances:

Example: telnet://
Example: gopher://

Where Did URL's Come From?

In 1995, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, implemented a standard of "URIs" (Uniform Resource Identifiers), sometimes called Universal Resource Identifiers. The name later changed to "URL's" for Uniform Resource Locators. The intent was to take the idea of telephone numbers, and apply them to addressing millions of web pages and machines.

Today, an estimated 120+ billion public web pages are addressed using URL names.

This may sound cryptic and complex at first, but once you get past the strange acronyms, URL's are really no more complex than an international long-distance telephone number with a country code, area code, and the phone number itself.

You'll find that URL's actually make a lot of sense.  Next are several URL examples, where we will disassemble the URL's into their component parts...

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Part 2) A URL Spelling Lesson

Here are some simplified rules to start your URL habits right:

a. A URL is synonymous with "internet address". Feel free to interchange those words in conversation, although URL makes you sound more high-tech!

b. A URL never has any spaces in it.
c. A URL, for the most part, is all lower case.
d. A URL is NOT the same as an email address.

e. A URL always starts with a protocol prefix like "http://", but most browsers will type those characters for you. Nerdy point to note: some other common Internet protocols are ftp://, gopher://, telnet://, and irc://. Explanations of these protocols follow later in another tutorial.
f. A URL uses forward slashes (/) and dots to separate its parts.
g. A URL is usually in some kind of English, but numbers are also allowed.

Some examples for you:

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