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Each page on the Web has a unique address called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL gives you a general idea of where the resource originates and who is responsible for creating it. The address also hints at the type of resource and whether or not it will be of value to you.

Let's look at the following sample URL, which is the address for the University Libraries' laptop computer policies.

1. Protocol

  • All Web addresses begin with http which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol, the set of standards used by computers to transfer hypertext files (Web pages) over the Internet.

2. Domain

  • This section identifies the computer on which the Web page is located. From this information, you can determine the entity supporting the computer, and the type of organization it represents.
    • www indicates that this computer is acting as a Web server.
    • ua is an abbreviation for the University of Alabama.
    • lib indicates that this is a library Web page.
    • The last part of the domain (in our example .edu) is called the 'top-level domain.' This tells us what type of organization is running the computer.
  • Below are four major categories of Web sites that can be distinguished by the top-level domain:
    • .edu = educational institution
    • .gov = government site
    • .org = organization or association
    • .com = commercial enterprise

There are other less common top-level domains as well, such as .mil (military) and .net (network access provider).

You will also occasionally see two-letter codes at the end of the domain. These are country codes, which have been assigned to identify and locate files stored on host computers in countries around the world. Some examples:

  • .ca = canada
  • .uk = united kingdom
  • .de = germany
  • .mx = mexico
  • .au = australia

If you wish, you may see a complete list of these country codes.

3. Path

  • The last part of the URL is the path. The domain has identified one computer out of the millions of computers connected to the Internet, but it's the path that pinpoints one specific file on that computer.
  • In our example, the path is policies/laptop.htm. This tells us that we are looking in a directory (or folder) on the host computer called 'policies' and that the filename is 'laptop.'
  • The .htm is known as a file extension and tells us what type of file it is. In this case, it's a hypertext file (Web page).

©2006 - University Libraries , The University of Alabama
adapted with permission from
Healey Library , University of Massachusetts, Boston
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