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Answered By: Sara Stambaugh, Digital Services Librarian
Last Updated: Jun 13, 2016     Views: 1210

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:
        • takes you to the Rasmussen College course catalog
        • (the portion before the first /) takes you to Rasmussen College
        • This makes sense
      • Example 2 (we made this one up):
        • would, in theory, take you to a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
        • would take you to the homepage for the Ku Klux Klan. 
        • This does not make sense, or at the very least, tells you that the information on the webpage is likely to be wildly biased
    • 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 just want to see who OWNS the one you typed in.
      • Example:
        • 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 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 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:
    • 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        
      • %  before a last name       
      • /staff/    
      • /students/

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