19 June 2011

What Is a URL?


After being asked to explain what a URL meant, I decided to start a series tagged 'Getting Started' where I intend to discuss topics geared to very basic blogging facts that every newbie ought to know. Advanced bloggers may scoff, but this blog is about sharing experiences I garnered online, including the stupid basics.

URL, Uniform Resource Locator
URL of a web page displayed on top and inside an address bar
The very first thing I got to learn, outside the general term of what the 'internet' meant, was the URL. So, if you do not know what this seeming simple term means, do not fidget. There was a first time for every master. This first article in the Getting started series presents the meaning of this term in clear English language.

What Is A URL?

The Uniform Resource Locator (previously Universal Resource Locator), abbreviated as URL but also known as web address, is a specific string of characters constituting a reference to a resource which is available on the web.

Technically speaking, a URL is a type of uniform resource identifier (URI), and in many technical documents and verbal discussions, URL is often used as a synonym for URI. Thus URL and URI can be used interchangeably.

In most web browsers, the URL of a web page is displayed on top and inside an address bar (see the image above). Examples of typical URLs would be "http://www.example.com" or "http://forum.example.com" or "http://www.example.com/what-is-url.html".

URLs are commonly used for web pages (http), but can also be used for file transfer (ftp), email (mailto) and many other applications (see URI scheme for complete list).

What A URL Means For A Blogger

For a blogger, a URL can be defined in much more simpler terms. It is the unique address for a file that is accessible on the Internet such as www.example.com, or foo.example.com (the same as http://www.example.com, or http://foo.example.com).

Several of such files, with all in one location, constitute a website (or in this case, a blog).

A common way to get to a website (or blog) is to enter the URL of its home page file in your web browser's address line. However, any file within that website can also be specified with a URL. Such a file might be any web (HTML) page other than the home page.

These websites can be hosted with several different extensions including .edu (usually for educational institutions e.g. www.harvard.edu), .org (for any organization e.g. www.catholicrelief.org), .com (for commercial and non-commercial sites), .gov (strictly for government sites e.g. www.us.gov), and many others.

A typical .gov website, with the different parts of the URL explained, is shown in the image below. This is the same for all other extensions.

Uniform Resource Locator
Image credit: Turnerfenton
From the image above, it is easy to deduce that important functions of a URL are giving the location where a resource can be found (computer host name, sub directory, file name) and also showing how to get or use that resource (protocols).

Selecting A URL During Blog Creation

During the blog creation process, you'll have to select a URL for your blog, so that visitors can access your blog by typing this URL into the address bar of their browsers.

For example, the home page URL of this site is saibaworld.blogspot.com; while the URL of this page you are now reading is saibaworld.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-is-url.html (look at your browser's address bar to confirm).

Since there are already a large number of Blogspot blogs, you'll need to get creative and possibly try a few different URLs before you find one that is available. On Blogger, the format for your URL will be thenameyouchoose.blogspot.com.

Things To Bear In Mind

When selecting your blog's URL, remember that you can only use letters, numbers, and hyphens. Special characters such as $, #, &, etc are not permitted.

You can also host your blog on a custom domain by paying a little amount to Blogger. If hosted on a custom domain, your URL will become www.thenameyouchoose.com.

To do this, log into your Blogger dashboard, click Settings | Publishing; and the 'Custom domain' link. Follow the prompts that follow.

In the next post, I will be discussing how to choose a template for your blog. Till then, enjoy!

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