Q. How can I "read" a url or website address?

Answer

URLs or website addresses can reveal a lot of information.

  • Publisher
    • The first portion of the web address will take you to the publisher. Does that publisher make sense?
    • The publisher portion includes everything before the first / in a web address...remove everything else and go to that site and see what you get
      • Example 1:
        • http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/course-catalog/ takes you to the Rasmussen University course catalog
        • http://www.rasmussen.edu/ (the portion before the first /) takes you to Rasmussen University
        • This makes sense
      • Example 2 (we made this one up):
        • http://www.kraftmacNcheese.com/about/MarieCalendarsMacNCheese.html would, in theory, take you to a page about Marie Calendar's macaroni and cheese.
        • http://www.kraftmacNcheese.com would take you to the homepage for Kraft macaroni and cheese. 
        • This does not make sense, or at the very least, tells you that the information on the webpage is likely to be wildly biased since Kraft and Marie Calendar's create two VERY different kinds of macaroni and cheese meals.
    • What happens when the publisher page doesn't tell you much?
      • Use WhoIs
      • Search for the web address you want to know more about (you'll need to take out things like http:// )
      • See who the domain is registered to and then Google them
        • Note: you will need to scroll down after searching. WhoIs will try to sell you a domain name and give you alternative ones to the one you entered...you just want to see who OWNS the one you typed in.
      • Example:
        • http://www.abortionfacts.com/ is a site about abortion
        • We don't know anything about the publisher from the url
        • The webpage tells us who published the site, but if it did not, we could search abortionfacts.com in WhoIs
        • WhoIs reveals that a group called Heritage House '76 owns that address
        • A Google search on Heritage House '76 reveals that it is a Pro Life Group
        • You now know that the abortionfacts.com website is likely to be biased

  • Domain Names
    • Will tell you something about the nature of the website sponsor
    • Appear before the first single / in the url
      • Examples:
        • http://www.froglegs.com/lunchspecials/legs.html
        • http://www.rasmussen.edu/
    • Can be a "type" or "geographical" location. Below are some examples:
      • .com = businesses
      • .org = organizations
      • .edu = educational institutions (elementaries, high schools, colleges and universities)
      • .gov = government agencies
      • .mil = military
      • .uk = British
      • .ca = Canadian

 

  • Official or Personal Site?
    • Sometimes webpages that show up in official areas are not officially sponsored by that group.
    • This happens frequently with .edu domains because students and faculty are often granted their own private space on university or school websites.
    • Private or personal (non-sponsored) webpages sometimes have clues to indicate they are private/personal and not official.
    • Example clues:
      • ~ before a last name        
        • http://www.harlard.edu/psychology/~smith/vaccines.html
      • %  before a last name       
        • http://www.abbyhigh.edu/mathematics/%miller/algebra.pdf
      • /staff/    
        • http://www.stratfordvillehs.edu/staff/kjohnson/swotanalysis.htm
      • /students/
        • http://www.colby.edu/webspaces/students/brownsam/rock/acdc.htm 
  • Last Updated Jun 29, 2021
  • Views 5332
  • Answered By Sara Fillbrandt, Digital Services Librarian

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