What is a URL?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Since websites are considered resources, and every website the world over has a unique address per a uniform addressing scheme, “Uniform Resource Locator” (formerly Universal Resource Locator) or URL, is a fancy name for website address. A synonym that is actually more precise but less well-known is URI, or Uniform Resource Identifier. The term “URI” developed after URL had already gained widespread public use; hence URI is used by those involved in Internet development, standards and protocols, while URL is the prevalent term outside those circles.

A Web browser is software used to cruise the World Wide Web. Every browser has a URL window where the address of the currently viewed webpage is displayed. Clicking on a hyperlink within a webpage will direct the browser to a new URL or Web address, changing the text inside the URL window. In tabbed browsing the active tab’s address will show in the browser’s URL window. A website address can also be manually typed or pasted into the URL field.

A URL can be composed of words, such as “,” or the corresponding Internet Protocol (IP) address: Either address will take the surfer to the wiseGEEK site. The vast majority of surfing is done by entering the name of the website, as names are easier to remember than numbers. Most people never even know the IP addresses of the websites they visit, but every name maps back to a unique, numerical address.


It’s a good idea to be at least marginally familiar with what a website address looks like. Common webpages start with http:// for HyperText Transfer Protocol. Pages that start with http:// are not encrypted, so all information that passes between your computer and the Internet can be “seen” by eavesdroppers. For this reason it is unwise to enter personal information into a webpage that starts with http:// in the URL window.

If you are about to enter personal information into a webpage, first check that the URL starts with https://. The extra “s” stands for “secure” and indicates the information exchanged between your computer and the Internet will be encrypted, making it useless to eavesdroppers or hackers. If a part or all of the transmission is captured en route, it will only appear as blocks of garbled characters.

When downloading or uploading files to a website, the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is often used. In this case the URL address will start with ftp://, with the website address following. Often people use special FTP clients (software) to more easily handle transfer of large files, rather than using a Web browser. FTP clients are especially useful for domain maintenance, and are more streamlined than a Web browser.


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Post 12

thanks for the explanation. thank you for not trying to be a big hero computer jerk. we need more teachers like you who don't try to act big about themselves just because thy know something we don't at the time.

Post 11

thank you for all your computer knowledge, it has helped me so much with my assignment and I'm sure with many to come.

Post 10

I appreciate the clear explanation of geek words that some incompetent IT people use them in brush-off manner in talking to an average computer user at work places.

Post 9

the only computer iv ever used was a sinclair and I screwed that up. This site is proving very valuable, especially as you can't get a book for a first time user. I thank you loads!

Post 8

yes the information you provide to the reader i found an interesting read and has given me some helpful hints.

Post 6

Glad that I found your site, thumbs up! You make it easier for non-tech people like me to digest, swallow. Your site is bookmarked for my future reference.

Thank you. This site deserves the nick Wise Geek! --OwlByNite

Post 5

For the last year your newsletter has been my "learn something new each day." thank you.

Moderator's reply: Thank you for visiting wiseGEEK! We're glad you took a moment to let us know you like the site. There are tens of thousands of articles on every subject under the sun, so you won't run out of something new to learn every day!

Thanks again,

The wiseGEEK Team

Post 4

i am little familiar with computers. i want to create my own do i develop a website? Please explain.

Post 3

I am new to computers. I found your article explained more by speaking in very understanding and teaching protocol. Lot of knowledge and easy to understand and learn.

Post 1

Thank you, this was more helpful then anything else I have found. You are truly a wise geek!

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