URLS & Domains

Trocaire College Libraries

URLs: What they are & How to "Read" them

What is a URL?

  • URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is simply the address of a website.


How Do You Read a URL?

  • Before you even go to a website, you can often tell a lot about it by breaking down the URL. This can aid you in searching and surfing the web.


Example of a URL:

Amazon.com. If you right click on any page of the website, select "View page source". This will give you information on the website. When you do this, the address below appears in the toolbar: https://www.amazon.com


https://: This is called the "protocol." For websites, this will be either http:// or https://. The extra s means that it is secure. Any information you send will be scrambled and harder to read if someone intercepts it. Whenever you're filling out a web form with personal information such as your credit card number or a login and password, it's a good idea to look for https:// in the URL.


www: This is the name of the server, which is the actual computer that "hosts" the website you're looking at. Many sites will simply use www as the name of their web server, but it doesn't have to be called that. Often, the name of the server can give you a clue as to what it does. For example, Yahoo's e-mail service is on a server called https://mail.yahoo.com.


Amazon.com: This is the domain name. It basically identifies the organization whose website you're looking at.


Knowing how to read a URL can help you to:

  • Know whether a web form is secure or not. (http vs. https)
  • Figure out what kind of organization is hosting the site. This can help in evaluating the information found.
  • Find what you were looking for. Sometimes, you might type in a URL only to find that the web page within a website you were looking for is no longer there. (It happens all the time, sites re-organize and URLs change.) If you get lost within a website, it is possible to backtrack by eliminating each folder (part of the URL after the domain name) until you find something useful.

Domains

Domain codes are used in URLs to identify particular websites. The organization that runs or maintains the host computer determines the type of web address the site will have. Being able to identify the domain code of a website can go a long way toward explaining the authority, purpose, and objectivity of a page.

There are dozens of domain codes, but here a few of the most common ones:

  • .com
  • .edu
  • .org
  • .gov
  • .mil
  • .net

.COM

.com is the most common domain code, and it is also used for lots of websites that aren't necessarily businesses, but don't fall under the other categories. They can be very helpful, accurate, and reliable sources of information, and they can also be full of lies, misconceptions, half-truths, and hoaxes. Most .com websites:

  • are commercial or commerce, associated with a company or business resource
  • usually is trying to sell you something (amazon.com)
  • may use social plugins or cookies to track you online to sell that information to other companies. (facebook.com or google.com)
  • may be a news organizations (nytimes.com). Always check events against different news sites as information may be biased

.EDU

These websites:

  • are associated with a college or university
  • have information about the institution and its programs, services and resources for its community including faculty, students and staff
  • may have a student’s or instructor’s personal work online that has not been fact checked. Look at personal .edu sites carefully and critically

.ORG

These websites:

  • are organization, usually associated with a not-for-profit group
  • may have reliable information from respected organizations (mayoclinic.org)
  • may have information from groups releasing biased or invalid information. Always verify the author of a website to confirm their authority on the topic. Special interest groups who have a specific agenda may not be the most objective source.

.GOV

These websites:

  • are associated with the government.
  • have reliable information from respected organizations (fda.gov, cdc.gov)
  • have state prefix before their sites (tax.ny.gov)
  • may have politically biased information which leans toward their positions. Always check sites other websites

.MIL

These websites:
  • are associated with the United States armed forces.
  • have reliable information from respected organizations (marines.mil)
  • may have politically biased information which leans toward their positions. Always check sites other websites

.NET

These websites:

  • are networks associated with smaller companies or business resources
  • may often be trying to sell you something (slickdeals.net).
  • may use social plugins or cookies to track you online to sell that information to other companies. (soundforge.net or comcast.net)

If you have questions, ask a librarian!

Revised & Updated June 2020