Anatomy of a Web Address

Ever wonder what it really means when you type in a web address? It seems like an impenetrable code. Not so! Let’s dissect my favorite web address:

http://www.waukeganpl.org/technology-tips

HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. Long-time computer users may remember a time before Windows when we needed to enter lines of code to tell the computer what we wanted it to do; HTTP works sort of like that. By typing HTTP, you’re telling a web server to go fetch and transmit the page you’re requesting.

Next comes waukeganpl (yes, we’re skipping the www for now). This is the domain. It is not case sensitive, whatever your grandmother may believe. It can’t include spaces, but can include numbers and dashes.

Next part is the .org – this is called a top-level domain. Different types of websites use different top-level domains. Some commonly used top-level domains are:

  •  .edu – for educational institutions like universities
  •  .gov – for websites created by the federal government
  •  .com – used by for-profit companies

Other countries often use different top-level domains like .mx for Mexico or .ie for Ireland.

Back to www! This part is called the sub-domain. Most websites use www as the sub-domain and depending on the way the site is configured, you can often skip typing this part into the address bar. Other sub-domains are sometimes used to point to different features of a website. For example, you can visit www.google.com to conduct a keyword search, mail.google.com to log into your Gmail account, and maps.google.com to get driving directions. All the same website, just different features.

When you combine the domain (waukeganpl), the top-level domain (.org) and the sub-domain (www) you get something magical: a domain name!

What about the extra bit at the end? In the case of our example above, the /technology-tips added to the end of the domain name tells the website that we’re looking for a page called technology-tips. This part could also point to a specific file – in that case, it would end in the file type (.pdf and .docx are examples).

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