Totem Tools

survival skills for a digital world

#4 - Evaluating Websites - Part 1

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Read the URL

In evaluating websites we will use a four part system called: REAL. The first part in REAL is to "Read the URL." In order to analyze content you find on the internet, it's important to know how to read and understand web addresses. Just like home addresses, each website has an address. An address on the internet is called a URL (uniform resource locator)and when you type that into a browser it takes you to that location on the internet.

The base of a URL is the domain name. The domain name is made of two or three parts. The first part is created by the owner and is often how you refer to the website (ex: google, twitter, facebook). The second part is called the extension or the top level domain (ex: .com, .net, .edu). If a site is hosted in another country it may have a country code as the thirdpart. Ex: google.com.au (Australian Google).


Sometimes there will be subdomains. An example is shown below. "Weebly" is the primary domain, while "shsresearchtech" is a subdomain of the weebly.com website.

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After the domain, you may see forward slashes, which indicate sub-folders or sub-domains. If you think of a website as a book, you can think of these sub-folders as chapters within that book. You can also have subsections of sub-folders as you dive deeper into the website. A website could have thousands of folders.
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What is the domain?

Does the domain look familiar to you? Is the domain a good source? You might want to do research on the type of site the domain is.

What is the extension?

As you look at the extension there are a few things you should be aware of:
  1. Anyone can own extensions like .com, .net, .org
  2. Only certain groups can own extensions like .gov, .edu, .mil, .k12

This doesn't mean that you can't trust information from a site like a ".com," but you need to consider that information as you evaluate. I could buy a .com and put whatever information I want on it.

Is it a personal site?

Clues to look for in the URL to know if it is a personal site:

  1. A name
  2. ~ or %
  3. the words "users," "people," "members."


Just because it is a personal site doesn't mean you can't trust it, but you need to look further to see who the person is and whether they have the education or authority to speak about the subject.


Keep these questions in mind as you look at the URL. It won't tell you the whole story, but it's a great place to start.

Next time in Totem Tools...

we'll go a step further and start examining the content of the site. Stay tuned!