Looking for that page: What’s in a website address?

Looking for that page: What’s in a website address?

The URL is one of the most basic elements of browsing the web. It tells your web browser what page you want to view on which site. Right now, you’re on https://techforthepeople.org/2020/05/looking-for-that-page-what’s-in-a-website-address. That’s the URL (address) of this specific page. Your browser knew to connect to the server for techforthepeople.org and ask for the page at 2020/03/looking-for-that-page-what’s-in-a-website-address

Understanding what’s in a URL can help you protect yourself from insecure websites and scams alike! For our concerns here, URLs are made up of 3 parts: Protocols, Domains and Paths.

The Protocol

You’re probably most familiar with seeing either http or https at the beginning of a website address. (There are many, many others, but you’ll you’ll probably never come across them.) It’s the part before the :// in the web address.

https://techforthepeople.org/2020/05/looking-for-that-page-whats-in-a-website-address

Whenever possible, you want the protocol to be https. This guarantees that the connection between your phone/computer and the server are encrypted – that no one else on your WiFi network can see the information you’re sending to the site, and vice versa. If it just says http, don’t send passwords, credit card info, or other sensitive information – in fact, you might not want to trust the site at all!

Tip: Installing the HTTPS Everywhere plugin from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in your computer’s browser helps make sure that you’re using a secure connecting whenever one is available.

The Domain

After the :// and before the next / is the domain name. That’s the website you’re connecting to.

https://techforthepeople.org/2020/05/looking-for-that-page-whats-in-a-website-address

It’s important to check the domain — this helps tell you whether you’re looking at the website you want to be on. Domains usually end in .org, .com, .net, etc. but there’s a whole list of new endings (called Top-Level Domains or TLDs) like .museum, .xyz, .restaurant and more.

Sometimes, the domain name has multiple parts, separated by a period. The most common one is www, for example in https://www.netflix.com, the www is part of the domain. To make sure that you’re visiting the domain you want to be on, read the domain backwards!

https://www.paypal.com/signin is the real login for PayPal.
https://www.paypal.com.b84ls.net/signup is not real. Reading backwards, b84ls.net is not paypal.com – even though paypal.com appears in the domain, it’s not at the end. That website would be a scam.

Tip: If you’re not sure if the link you’re looking at is trying to trick you, type in the domain name yourself.

Path

The path is the rest of the address, everything after the domain name and the following slash. That’s the specific page you’re on.

https://techforthepeople.org/2020/05/looking-for-that-page-whats-in-a-website-address

An important thing to note here is that if the protocol for your connection is https, then your Internet provider can only see the domain name of the website you’re connecting to, not the specific page you’re viewing. So for this page, they’d only see that you’re connecting to techforthepeople.org, not that you’re viewing this particular page! That’s not the case if the protocol is only http.