What Are the Components of a Web Address?by Naomi BoltonUpdated September 01, 2017
In order to access content on the internet, a uniform resource locator, or URL, is required, which is also known as a web address. The web address specifies the protocol for accessing the page, the domain on which it resides as well as the path for folders and files on the site.
The first component of a web address is the protocol, which is also known as the scheme. The protocol defines how your browser handles the data and what type of connection is established. Common protocols include Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) for accessing web pages or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which is a secure version commonly used on sites that perform e-commerce or require people log in with a username and password. Other protocols include the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) used for transferring files and mailto used for sending emails. The protocol is separated from the rest of the web address by a colon. Some browsers such as Chrome or Firefox do not display the protocol in the address bar while others like Opera do so only when you click the address bar. In the web address "http://www.fbi.gov/about-us" for example, the protocol is the "http" part.
The domain name part of the web address is the unique identifier for the website on the internet. It is usually made up of the name of the website in order to make it easy for visitors to remember. Domain names can be typed in upper or lowercase as they are not case significant. Your browser uses the domain name to look up the IP address of the website, which is then used to make the connection. In the web address "http://www.fbi.gov/about-us" for example, the domain name is the "fbi.gov" part.
The domain extension follows the domain name and is used to denote what type of website it is. This makes it easier to evaluate what type of site it is but since any organization can use any extension this is more of a common practice than hard rule. For example, a government website ends in the extension ".gov" while an education website might end in ".edu." The ".com" extension used to denote a commercial website is one of the most common, but there are also non-profit organizations that use the ".org" extension. The extension is also used to indicate the location of the website such as ".uk" for the United Kingdom and ".fr" for France. This would indicate that an ".org.uk" site is a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom while ".info.ca" is an information site in Canada. In the web address "http://www.fbi.gov/about-us" for example, the domain extension is the .gov" part.
Path & Filename
The path is the section of the web address after the domain extension that indicates to your browser which folder or file to open. Unlike the domain name, the path is case sensitive so "/about.html" is not the same as "/About.html." When no path is specified, the index.html or "Home Page" file is shown. In the web address "http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/background-checks/address-verification/addresscard.pdf" for example, the path is the "/about-us/cjis/background-check/ " part while "addresscard.pdf" is the filename. In some browsers, the filename is visible only when downloading the page.
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