A Uniform Resource Locator, more commonly known as a URL, is the global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web. It is the mechanism used by browsers to retrieve any published resource on the web. For example, www.webopedia.com is the URL used to locate this website. A URL is the most common type of Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), the generic term used for all types of names and addresses that refer to objects on the World Wide Web. An IP address can be directly used in replacement of a URL, but since it’s relatively inconvenient, it’s not often used.
Parts of a URL
A URL consists of different parts used to load the associated page. Some parts are mandatory while others are optional. Below, the corresponding part of a URL is bolded to demonstrate which part is being referenced. There are three key parts of a URL:
The beginning of the URL indicates which protocol the browser must use. The most common protocols are Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). With more attention being paid to online privacy and security today, the more secure HTTPS is becoming the dominant protocol on the World Wide Web. Less common protocols include ftp: (File Transfer Protocol) and mailto: (to open a mail client). The term “web address” refers to a URL using the HTTP or HTTPS protocol. It is not mandatory to include the protocol when entering in a URL.
Many people use the terms domain name and URL interchangeably, but a URL incorporates a domain name to create a complete address it is not one in itself. A domain name is a unique reference that identifies a website on the World Wide Web. It comes directly after the protocol and is separated by a colon and two forward slashes.
The path refers to the exact location of a page, post, file, or other asset. The path comes after the domain name and is separated by a forward slash. Not all URLs will display a path due to websites being able to rewrite URLs for simplicity.
It’s important to note that spaces are not allowed in a URL. Only alphanumeric characters and the !$-_+*'(), characters can be used. Any other characters that are needed must be encoded.