What is Globbing?

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  • Written By: Pharaba Hacker-Witt
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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Globbing, in computer terms, is a fairly important feature in the day-to-day lives of most computer users. Globbing refers to a “wildcard” character that allows for expanding searches for non-specific file names. This was originally a process used when searching a personal computer or server for particular files. Internet search providers have taken it to new levels to allow users to run searches quickly and thoroughly.

In the beginning, globbing was used with a character such as an asterisk or a question mark to expand on what the person was searching for. For example, if the searcher knew the filename included “wisegeek” with something before or after the term, the person could type in “*wisegeek*” and globbing would kick in. The program would then use globbing to find all filenames within that parameter.

One of the down sides to globbing in personal use is the demand on memory as well as processing power. It requires a lot of available RAM to properly run a search. As computers have gotten stronger with larger processing units, this memory requirement has become less of a problem.


Globbing has also been a culprit to blame for shutting down servers. If many people are running remote searches that require a lot of memory, a server can become overloaded and crash. While the major search engines have worked hard to have back-ups in place, a crash can still happen. Still, overloaded servers are now more likely to experience a slowdown in the search process rather than a complete system crash.

Hackers once utilized globbing to weaken systems and obtain information. Writing programs that would continually force a system to perform complex globbing searches would allow a hacker to wear down a system, forcing the user to stay logged on for an extended period of time. If the user was logged into something password protected, this gave the hacker time to seek out the access to the account. Computers have now been programmed with protections against this type of hacking. Most computers will limit the amount of time a server can spend globbing or refuse to glob at all if the wildcard is far too general.

Certain computer programs support globbing, and others do not. The ones that do not are trying to boost the program security. If a person is writing programming, it is important to look into the program's need for globbing before beginning the process, and then writing the program accordingly.


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