05162021Sun
Last updateFri, 14 May 2021 4am

COMPUTER CORNER: Fighting Google’s changes in URL protocols

Internet users have a really hard time understanding URLs. Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the protocol used to specify addresses on the internet. Typically a URL begins with “https://www” and includes a domain name such as “google.com” then can continue for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of characters more.

The URL identifies a particular file somewhere on some computer somewhere the internet.

Addresses on the internet are canonical and hierarchical and do not differ much in theory from the protocol required to send a paper letter through the post office. That process requires a street address, city, state, and country in order for the postal services to route the letter to its destination.  Your computer requires a URL consisting of a protocol (http) subdomain (www) domain name (yahoo.com) possibly followed by some optional elements including port number, path, query, parameters, and/or fragment.

For now I am going to skip over explaining what all those parts of a URL are used for.  Suffice it to say that URLs are hard for people to read, impossible to memorize, hard to know which part of them can be trusted, and generally user-hostile. If you think there ought to be a better way you are not alone.  Academics and engineers have considered various options over the years but have been unable to agree on a better system because this problem does not have an easy answer.

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