What is a URL?

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Stands for “Uniform Locator.” A is the address of a specific webpage or file on the Internet. For example, the URL of the TechTerms website is “http://techterms.com.” The address of this page is “http://techterms.com//url” and includes the following elements:

  1. http:// – the URL prefix, which specifies the protocol used to access the location
  2. techterms.com – the server name or IP address of the server
  3. /definition/url – the path to the directory or file

While all website URLs begin with “http,” several other prefixes exist. Below is a list of various URL prefixes:

  • http – a webpage, website directory, or other file available over HTTP
  • ftp – a file or directory of available to from an FTP server
  • news – a discussion located within a specific newsgroup
  • telnet – a Unix-based computer system that supports remote client connections
  • gopher – a document or menu located on a gopher server
  • wais – a document or search results from a WAIS database
  • mailto – an email address (often used to redirect browsers to an email client)
  • file – a file located on a local storage device (though not technically a URL because it does not refer to an Internet-based location)

You can manually enter a URL by typing it in the address bar of your  browser. For example, you might enter a website URL printed on a business card to visit the company’s website. Most URLs, however appear automatically when you click on a link or open a bookmark. If the server name in the URL is not valid, your browser may display a “Server not found” error. If the path in the URL is incorrect, the server may respond with a 404 error.

NOTE: URLs use forward slashes to denote different directories and cannot contain spaces. Therefore, dashes and underscores are often used to separate words within a web address. If your browser produces an error when you visit a specific webpage, you can double-check the URL for typos or other errors. If you find an error, you can manually edit the URL and press Enter to see if it works.

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