It’s easy to take URLs, or web addresses, for granted because they work behind the scenes in helping us jump around the web. By taking a closer look, we can learn about how websites work and what happens when we click. This video explains URLs and teaches:
- How URLs are connected to web servers
- What each element in a URL can tell us
- How to tell if a website is secure
- How URLs can represent how files are organized on a server
- How anchors work in navigating to a specific part of a page
If you’ve used the web, you’ve seen how website addresses, or URLs, help you move from site to site. If we look closely, there’s a lot more to URLs than meets the eye.
When you visit a web page, what appears on the screen usually lives on a computer called a server. The URL, which stands for Universal Resource Locator, tells your web browser exactly where to find the page or file you want on the server.
Imagine you love a dog photo on a web site and save a web page’s URL that looks like this. This link has everything your web browser needs to show this page and it starts with the protocol. This part of the URL tells the web browser what kind of information is being communicated. HTTP tells the browser it’s a web page. And HTTPS tells the browser it’s a secure web page.
You’re probably used to seeing a subdomain like “www” in front of website addresses. It’s a default that usually isn’t needed for links to work. However, some websites use this part of the URL to connect to a separate part of the website, like support.doggopics.com. And subdomains can be confusing. Criminals may try to fool you by adding a familiar subdomain to their website address.
That’s why paying attention to the domain name is so important. It tells the browser where to find the website’s server. It’s like a street address for finding a house. This name includes .com, which is called a top level domain. These can be different and may relate to the website’s purpose, location, or affiliation. Now we have an address for finding the web page, which we can imagine being a folder on a server. Everything that appears on the web page is in this folder.
After the domain name in the URL, there are words, separated by forward slashes. This is called the file path. It tells the browser that within the website folder, there is a folder called “pages” and inside the pages folder is a page called “cutedogs”. Here, the URL matches how the server is organized.
But that’s not all. This page was designed with anchors, which means your web browser can go to a specific part of a page. The anchor in the URL can be found after a question mark and includes a hash symbol, like this:
This tells the browser to go the domain, find the right folder, the right page and then, the right part of the page.
As you can see, URLs contain a lot of information if you know where to look. And once you know the basics, you’ll start to see that they often reveal how the web works behind the scenes.
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