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Understanding URL's: How Internet URL Addresses Work

A Plain English Explanation

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Part 1) 19 Years of URLs, and Already There Are Billions.

March, 2014

In 1995, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, implemented a standard of "URIs" (Uniform Resource Identifiers), sometimes called Universal Resource Identifiers. The name later changed to "URLs" for Uniform Resource Locators.

The intent was to take the idea of telephone numbers, and apply them to addressing millions of web pages and machines.

Today, an estimated 100+ billion public web pages are addressed using URL names.


Here are six examples of the most-common URL appearances:


Example: http://www.whitehouse.gov
Example: https://www.nbnz.co.nz/login.asp
Example: http://forums.about.com/ab-guitar/messages/?msg=6198.1
Example: ftp://ftp.download.com/public
Example: telnet://freenet.ecn.ca
Example: gopher://204.17.0.108


Cryptic? Perhaps, but outside of the strange acronyms, URLs are really no more cryptic than an international long-distance telephone number.

Let's take a closer look at several examples, where we will disassemble the URLs into their component parts...

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