What is a URL?

The URL has helped make the global connected computer system a much more user-friendly and easier to navigate experience. Any person that has used a modern web-browser has used a URL. Many people don’t even realize they are using one; instead, they refer to it as the website’s name or address. The URL has a long history, one that has helped shape the internet in to the communication tool it is today.

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is the global address of resources and documents on connected computers, otherwise known as the World Wide Web. The URL is the information inserted in to the address bar of a web-browser and helps the user navigate to the correct website. Each website is located on a server, which serves the website to the user when asked. The URL is a simple set of directions that guides the user to the right location on the server. The URL acts as a map but for Information and not distance.

How does a URL function?

The first part of any URL designates the type of protocol that will be used. . This is a standard method of communications among machines. The most common protocol is HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) but other protocols do exist such as FTP, NEWS, and HTTPS. A colon and two slashes follow these protocols.

The main part of a URL indicates the host name of the computer that is being accessed. Although WWW is commonly used at the beginning of the host name, this can be replaced by a variety of words. The word used depends on what is needed at the time. Many modern web servers omit the need to use WWW, which stands for World Wide Web, to contact the host.

The end of the URL is called an extension. This displays what kind of institution where the webpage belongs. The .edu extension indicates an educational website; .com represents a company, while .gov indicates the government. Many extensions represent a number of business types and countries around the world. These are also referred to as a ‘top-level domain’ since every URL needs this extension to function. The URL as a whole is often referred to as a domain, although technically it is just one part of the whole URL.

There are also file names and directories that can come after the extension. This can help display files, sub domains, load up music, and other functions. If a website is showing off a picture, often the name of that picture will be shown after the main URL. This is the same for any other type of data that exists in the website folder and can be accessed via the website.

The URL is so common now that many people don’t know that the web wasn’t always accessed by using one. Once upon a time, websites were accessed by numbers and not by any type of name.

History of the URL

The URL came about through a series of steps over a 9-year period. The domain name came about by users of the ARPANET to help users remember the location of certain sites. Before the domain name existed, the only way to find a site was remembering the numerical value. The domain name process started slowly but became official in 1985.

The syntax of the URL, using slashes to separate the different portions of the URL, came in to common use after the adoption of the Domain name. This helped users input a string of information in an organized and conscious way. Protocols were also in use at this time, creating a way for different computers to talk to each other.

The separate portions of the URL were brought together with one unified format in 1994. As graphic based web-browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape rose is use, the URL became the industry standard for users to access a websites.

Current URL statistics

The World Wide Web is humongous and made up of millions of URLs. The top-level domains, which make up the extension of each URL, consist of 250 country domains, 21 generic domains, and the ARPA domain. The country domains relate to each country on the planet, such as .US for the USA and .ca for Canada. The generic top-level domains are the extensions such as .com, .net, .biz and .co. As of December, 2011 there are 366,848,231 websites on the internet that branch off from all the top level domains.

The governing body for top-level domains is called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. This body decides which top-level domains are relevant, which needs to be deleted, and which will be added. All URLs must have a top-level domain of some sort, so this body decides what will be and what won’t be used.

Future of the URL

With the rise of websites acting as applications (Or ‘apps’) some feel that the decline in use of the URL is not far off. In this version of the future, people wouldn’t actually type in a website address, but use a search engine or a preexisting app to navigate to a particular website. The rise mobile products have helped to push this idea forward, since apps are popular on phones and tablets.

With close to 400 million domains roaming the worldwide wasteland, the upcoming death of the URL won’t happen anytime soon. In 2012, there has been a spike in domain name registration with about 12 million domains registered. Many pieces of technology are getting their own IP addresses as well, making it possible that something as mundane as a microwave could have its own domain name. It has happened with game consoles in the past, so it could happen with kitchen appliances in the future.

More people around the world are also becoming net savvy, with the World Wide Web and computers becoming a part of daily life. This means that many people are just now learning what a URL is and how to use one. Many of these people will become interested in the technology and start their own website, leading to even more domain names and URLs.

The Last Hurrah

The URL isn’t going anywhere. The technology is relatively new, with the 19th year of the URL almost upon the world. Even if all websites on the World Wide Web become nothing more than mobile apps, the URL will still exist behind the scenes. The web will always need a set of instructions for retrieving data from a location. The URL serves that job with grace and dignity. The URL will be kept around, unless something else is created to make retrieving data off a server easier. The URL is the workhorse of the web, providing users with internet sites and information that can be shared with all of humanity .

 

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