Conducting Electronic Research

What's a URL?

Using an Internet browser, such as Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera or Safari, any page that has been uploaded to the World Wide Web can be displayed on a computer monitor. Connected to the Internet, you can learn about and purchase a wide variety of goods and services, keep up with breaking news, send electronic mail as well as participate in online communities that cross city, state and national boundaries.

Each page on the World Wide Web has an Internet address. Technically known as a Uniform Resource Locator, the URL identifies the kind of document being accessed, the server--a commercial ISP computer--on which it is stored, its folder, or location on that server, and the name of the file containing the actual document. For example, the URL for the Writing@CSU Web site at Colorado State University is:

http://writing.colostate.edu/activities/index.cfm

It's a code or sorts. Let's demystify it.

http:// is an access protocol. It stands for hypertext transfer protocol and your Web browser uses it to connect your personal computer to the server hosting the Web page, or site, you want to look at.

ftp:// is another important protocol. It stands for file transfer protocol and is used to transfer files from one computer to another. A Web designer will use it to upload a new Web page, or site, from a personal computer to a Web-hosting server, making it available to any one with Internet access.

writing.colostate.edu is the name of the server on which the Writing@CSU Web site is stored, or located. In this case, the "writing" server is part of the larger Colorado State University network (colostate), which is part of the education domain (edu).

.edu is an extension of the server name. It indicates the actual Internet domain (hence the "domain" name) that supports the activity--education--with which the Writing@CSU Web site is most closely aligned.

Other Internet domains include .com and .biz (commercial or business), .net (Internet infrastructure), .gov (government) and .org (typically nonprofit organizations).

/activities/ is the name of the folder (sometimes called a directory or path) containing the activities on Writing@CSU.

index.cfm is the name of the page (or file) you are viewing. In this case, it is located on the Writing@CSU Web server at http://writing.colostate.edu, in the /activities/ folder. The URL for this page is thus http://writing.colostate.edu/activities/index.cfm.

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Introduction