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Oh what a tangled Web we weave – What makes up a Website name?

January 1, 2004

in All Articles,Browsers

My website is There are four different parts making up that address. Those pieces may be confusing and overly complex, but we see Web addresses so often these days, they slip by our eyes easier than greased banana peels.

What’s the point of all the junk surrounding “andybrain”? What insane designer chose to use “www” when pronouncing this popular term requires nine syllables? Read on for a History Of Internet Naming Conventions, or HOINC. (If a nameless engineer can come up with a needlessly complex goofy sounding acronym, why can’t I?)

This stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”. Usually, that’s computer-talk for “website”. There’s more available on the Internet than just websites, and various methods of connecting to them. Same as a Boy Scout, your computer always likes to be prepared. The “http” lets your computer know what to expect. In this case, you’re telling it “You’re about to connect to a website. Get ready.”

This specifies what resource we want on our website. It could point to a specific collection of web pages. For example, instead of using “www”, the website designer could have users type “mail” to direct the viewer to email resources, or “music” to direct viewers to a subsection of the website dealing with music. (Historically, “www” stands for “world wide web”, and it should be noted that “web” is not the same as “Internet”. The Internet is the computers, cables and infrastructure linking computers together. The Web is the portion of those computers showing us web pages. The Internet also consists of many other non-website computers, like those serving us email and instant messaging.)

Just like houses on a street, each website on the Internet has its own unique address number called an “IP address”. The name “andybrain”, corresponds to one of these numbers. We type names instead of numbers to make things simpler. It’s easier to remember “andybrain” than a long string of numbers. Perhaps one day we’ll be doing this with telephone numbers.

Ah, the infamous “dot com”. Only it’s not only “dot com”, is it? You’ve probably seen website names ending with “.org”, “.edu”, “.ca” and others. These are called TLDs, or “Top Level Domains”. A TLD specifies a website’s affiliation or location. “.com” and others like “.net” and “.org” are for business or general use websites, “.edu” is for schools, “.gov” is for government sites, and “.ca” means the website is based in Canada. A new “.xxx” TLD will soon be appearing for adult websites.

Why must this be so confusing? Blame it on the World Wide Web. Lots of little changes were made to established technologies in order to keep up with surprisingly fast growth, resulting in a system more patch-worked than Frankenstein’s monster. Also, categorizing billions of websites in fancy ways lets computers do their job more efficiently, but we can skip the technical talk because the informal explanation is very simple: Computers like it that way.

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