URL is a popular term not just among Web Developers but also every day web users. But what is a URL?
It’s an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. Put simply, it is the website address or file address you see in your browser.
The URL for this page is: https://www.wpcake.com/what-is-a-url.
So let’s break this URL down to explain further.
http:// or https://
HTTP is another acronym this time standing for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It is a communication protocol for delivering files or document to the browser via a web server.
HTTPS (the S is for Secure) is very similar to HTTP with added security. The data is encrypted between the browser and web server to protect against potential attacks.
SSL certificates are installed on servers to activate the HTTPS protocol. These can be purchased and installed using your web host although it is possible to do manually and free using services such as SSL for free.
When a website has a SSL certificate installed, a padlock icon is added before the url in the browser address bar.
After the http or https is a colon and two forward slashes (: // ). This separates the protocol from the rest of the URL.
WWW (World Wide Web) is a well recognised part of a URL. However, it does not technically have to be there. In fact you will often see websites that don’t have www before the domain name. It still is the standard practice though to use www to distinguish the URL as a website.
Note: We no longer use www for our URL although it does still work with it.
The part of the URL that I am sure already makes sense to you is the Domain Name. This is the part of a URL that is unique to the website you are on. Domain registration is normally administered by domain name registrars such as GoDaddy who sell their services to the public.
It can be difficult to find a Domain Name suitable for your website as millions have already been registered. You can however still find a good domain using a domain aftermarket or auction website.
The .com part of the domain name is the TLD (Top Level Domain). Many TLDs are available with the most common being .com, .net and .org. Local businesses or website owners sometimes prefer local TLD’s such as .us (USA), .co.uk (UK) or .de (Germany) . There are actually over 1500 TLDs currently available to pick from!
The final part of our URL is the path. So if wpcake.com is our website then /what-is-a-url is the webpage within that website. This particular path gives you (and google) a good indication of what the content of the page is.
If you are using a Content Management System that allows it (such as WordPress) you can change this to suit in the Permalink settings. This is helpful if you have a particularly long page name or site structure that may make your URL look unpleasant.
A slug is another name for the path. We have an article that explains what slugs are and how to optimize them.
Next time someone asks you “What is a URL?” You can now impress them with its full title: Uniform Resource Locator!
It’s purpose will also be much clearer now we have broken it down into its separate parts. URLs are an important technical part of how websites function. They are also an important factor for how people and search engines find web pages.