URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s the address that’s used so that anyone can get to a file, page, graphic, document or program from the World Wide Web. Each URL is made of text arranged in a format that shows the software where to look. It features the name of whichever protocol is needed to get to the right file, a domain name that refers to a specific computer on the Internet, and a pathname, which shows where the file sits in the hierarchy on that particular machine.
How Do URLs Work?
Also known as a Universal Resource Locator, a URL is an IP address that’s been turned into words. People find it harder to remember strings of numbers, so this approach makes it easier for them to remember addresses.
Every time you enter a URL into your web browser it connects to a server at a specific IP location. The job of associating URLs with IPs is done by a DNS (domain name server). The DNS system is actually a network of its own. If a DNS server doesn’t understand a domain name or can’t find it, it passes it to another one on the network, and this carries on until the right IP address is eventually found.
URLs can sometimes be very long. Shortening turns a long web address into a shorter one without changing where it points to. This can be useful if, say, a free hosting space generates a URL that’s difficult to remember or isn’t very attractive to look at. Twitter users and others who have to work within fixed character limits use URL shorteners to squeeze links into their messages.
URL shortening may be convenient, but it does come with security risks. When you receive a shortened link, it won’t look anything like the original, and that makes it easy for hackers and other ne’er-do-wells to trick you into going somewhere that might compromise your security.