University of Houston-Victoria

University College

Understanding URLs

Uniform Resource Locators, or URLs, are locations or addresses on the Internet. If you’ve done any kind of searching on the Internet, you’ve most likely had experience with URLs. They’re typically listed at the top of the screen in the web browser’s location bar. Let’s look at an example:

The location bar shows the web page that you are currently viewing or visiting. In this example, you can see the electronic version of this handout.

While most Internet users are familiar with URLs or web addresses, not everyone is familiar with what the different parts of the URL mean. Understanding the URL itself can be very useful information. While you still have to evaluate the content of the web site, understanding the website’s URL will provide you with additional information about the website.

Let's break down the parts of the URL and consider it part by part. A sample URL appears below. The different parts are labeled.
PartOur ExampleDescription

Transfer Protocol


The first part of the location or address indicates HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol. HTTP is a special set of protocols used for retrieving information. Protocols are simply the commonly accepted rules for the transfer of information. HTTP is probably the most common transfer protocol that you’ll see. Others are possible, however. FTP or file transfer protocol is generally a directory of files. You can download the files. NEWS refers to newsgroups. These are similar to special interest bulletin boards.

World Wide Web


The www simply means that the document or file is part of the World Wide Web.

Servername and Domain

The server name is the unique name of the website. Here, it’s uhv. Domain names (in our case .edu) are assigned by the kind of organization. Some common ones include .com (commercial or for profit organization); .org (nonprofit institution); .gov (government), .edu (education or research institution); .net (gateway or host). Outside of the U.S., the country code will appear after the domain name. For example .uk will appear for documents from the United Kingdom; .jp indicates Japan; .za means South Africa.
Additional domain names. Additional country codes.

Directory and Subdirectory


URLs may have one or more directories located within them. For example, /ac is the directory for the Academic Center. The uhv server includes other directories like /bus for the School of Business or /edu for the School of Education. In addition to the main directories, subdirectories may exist. In this case, “research” is a subdirectory of /ac or the Academic Center’s home page. Think about directories and subdirectories as file folders that files go in. So, in this case, the Academic Center (/ac) is a file folder within the UHV homepage and within the /ac file folder is another set of file folders— including one called research.

File Name and File Type


The last part of the URL is the filename and file type of the document you are viewing. Filenames are set by the author of the document or webmaster for a website and may describe the information included in the file. The file type generally reflects the kind of file. Common examples that you’ll see on the web include HTML or HTM files (hypertext, the standard for web documents); GIF, JPG, BMP, or TIFF (visual images); DOC (Microsoft Word document); PDF (Adobe Acrobat document); or ZIP (a compressed file, you may need special software to access the files). Note that the homepage of most sites you visit may not include a file name or file type.