Each day when we use the Internet to check our mail online, visit a web page or browse an FTP folder, we use our browser. And while there can be a great number of Internet browsers out there, each of them offering different functions and boasting a different design, one thing that unites all of them is the fact that they are built with a single purpose - to handle URLs.
Each file available on the World Wide Web can be identified and accessed through its corresponding URL. Standing for Uniform Resource Locator, a URL represents the global web address of documents, including web pages or image files, and programs such as CGI applications or Java applets. Its main mission is to identify the location of a document or a program available on the web and specify the mechanism for accessing it through a web browser.
The URL structure
A URL has a linear structure and is comprised of two main parts. It begins with a short protocol identifier, i.e. the name of the protocol that is to be used for reaching a particular document or program file. The most commonly used protocols are 'http' for viewing web pages, 'ftp' for transferring files over the Internet and 'mailto' for transmitting emails. The protocol name is followed by a resource name, which specifies the actual file address, including the domain name or the IP address where it is located and the exact pathname to that file.
While the protocol name is system pre-defined, short, and may contain only letters, the resource name could vary in length, depending on the specifications given by the user, and could contain letters, numbers and a hyphen. Both URL parts are visually separated by a colon and two forward slashes.
The URL in everyday life
Let's take a look at a few examples that will further clarify what stands behind a URL. For instance, if you look at the address bar of your browser you will see that the URL of the web page where this article is located is:http://www.ntchosting.com/internet/url-global-web-address.html
Here you see the 'HTTP' protocol used for retrieving website files from the server where they are located with the help of a web browser. The resource name here is comprised of the domain name 'ntchosting.com' and the file pathname '/internet/url-global-web-address.html', where '/internet' and '/www' are hierarchically ordered folders, and 'url-global-web-address.html' is the name of the article file itself.
Here is another example of a URL, this time with the FTP protocol specified:ftp://ftp.ntchosting.com/internet/url-global-web-address.html
While the HTTP protocol is mainly used for accessing websites through browsers, the FTP protocol is intended for uploading/downloading files that should be transferred either through an FTP-enabled web client like Internet Explorer or specific FTP client programs. In the URL context, this example shows how a web address should look like when a browser is used for FTP purposes. If you have the necessary access rights to that file you could download or edit it directly through your IE browser.
More distinct is the use of the mail protocol 'mailto', illustrated in this example: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
This URL will prompt the browser to start an email client program with the email@example.com address readily specified in the 'To:' field.
Not all the information stored online is meant to be seen by everybody. Sometimes, you want your information to be hidden from the public eye and accessible only to a select few, or to the members of your site. The URL protect feature will allow you to hide the content of your site or part of your site in a password-protected area.
All files, which are inside the password protected area, will be inaccessible to all the visitors who don't know the correct username and password, and requests for them will end with a 403 access forbidden message. NTC Hosting customers can easily enable URL protect for any domain name or folder in their accounts via the user-friendly Control Panel.
When switching over to a new host, moving a site from one domain name to another or just when you are not sure what to do with a domain name at the moment, you can take advantage of the URL redirect option. Whenever a user visits the URL, for which you activated the redirection, he will be forwarded automatically to the new URL.
URL redirect will act on top of all the content that you have on the given web page, keeping it hidden from the visitor. It can be very easily activated via the Web Hosting Control Panel, making switching to NTC Hosting more easier then ever.