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What's a URL?

Sample URL

URL (pronounced like the letters "U," "R," "L," not like the word "earl") stands for Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is the Internet address of a particular site or document available via the World Wide Web. The URL above is the address to a Web page with the hours and locations of the SRJC Libraries. URLs are composed of several parts, indicating:

  • the Internet protocol used to access the document or site you are trying to reach
  • the Internet address of the "host computer," on which the document you want is stored
  • the directory path on the host computer that will take you to the exact file you are trying to retrieve
  • the name of the file you are trying to retrieve.

Examining URLs

You can learn something about the type of organization and the country from which the Web page you're viewing comes by taking a look at the "host computer address" section of a URL (the part between the "http://" and the next "/"). For example, host computer addresses ending in .edu are from educational institutions, and those ending in .gov are from government sites. (Note: This does not necessarily mean that the Web page you are viewing is an official page of the educational institution or government agency. It might simply be the personal Web page of a student or employee of the institution.) The most commonly used top-level "domain" indicators are:

  • .com Commercial entities (i.e., businesses)
  • .edu Educational organizations
  • .gov U.S. Federal Government organizations (non-military)
  • .mil U.S. Military (Army, Navy, etc.)
  • .net Network resources (e.g., commercial Internet Service Providers)
  • .org Other organizations (e.g., nonprofit groups)
  • country codes A two letter abbreviation for a particular country. For example, ".uk" for United Kingdom or ".fr" for France

City and Country Codes

URLs for Web pages outside the United States and for some sites within the United States (schools, public libraries, etc.) end with a two-letter code indicating the country where the Web page originates. For example, the URL for the French National Library, http://www.bnf.fr , ends in ".fr" for France. See a list of all top level and country level domains.

In the United States, official Web pages of city governments often follow the format: www.ci to indicate that the Web site is for a city, then the name or abbreviation for the city name, then a two-letter code for the state, followed by the two-letter country code.

For example:

     www.ci.sf.ca.us for City of San Francisco, California, U.S.

     www.ci.boston.ma.us for City of Boston, Massachussetts, U.S.

Personal Web Pages

The special character ~ before some part of the URL usually indicates that you are looking at a person's home page or personal pages that might not represent the official point of view of the organization or institution on whose host computer the pages are stored.

For example:

   http://www.santarosa.edu/~jsmith

would be the personal home page of someone at Santa Rosa Junior College whose login ID is jsmith. It is not an official Web page of the College.