What is the history of URL?

What is the history of URL?

07.Nov.2021

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a reference to the name and address of files, applications, services, communications protocols, etc. It is used by all operating systems for configuring network connections; it enables users to access information on servers located anywhere on the Internet using an identifier consisting of text. This article presents the history of this type of links.

 

The first documented mention of URLs are found in technical reports dating from 1961-1962 at MIT. These notes show how to use FTP commands for transferring data between computers. However, these documents do not explain what URLs are or indicate that they will be used for locating hypertext documents later on. The term "Universal Resource Locator" was coined by other authors one year later. In 1963, a bibliography of technical reports from universities in the USA contained a reference to a report called "The Integration of Universal Personal Computers" which used this term for describing one of its sections.

 

In 1966, another document was published that described a method for accessing data stored on computers by using FTP. This report also included a section dedicated to URLs and how they can be embedded in text documents. It is possible that Douglas Englebart's project had an influence when the author presented his concept because it may have been inspired by hyperlinks developed by Engelbart in 1967 [1] [2].

In 1974, these notes were cited at the conference where the first Gopher system was proposed so it can be inferred that some programmers were aware of this type of links.

 

In a 1982 paper, a researcher from the University of Minnesota proposed to use hypertext technology for providing access to information stored on computers in his university's network [3]. He also referred to URLs and how they can be used to provide additional information about the files by using FTP commands. The following year, another document was published with further explanations on how URLs can be used and what their advantages are [4].

The first documented examples of URIs referring only to the exchange protocol (ftp) date back to 1986 [5], but it was not until 1990 that Berners-Lee presented the project that would lead him to become known as "the father of the Web". In 1991, he published a paper where he described the principles of the project, which included the use of URLs. The goal was to facilitate access to information stored on remote computers by using HTTP, but FTP commands were used again for transferring data between clients and servers [6] [7].

 

In 1993, Berners-Lee created the first website in history with his browser WorldWideWeb (now known as simply WWW). One year later, browsers started supporting URLs embedded in hypertext documents so it became possible to exchange links with other people. It is thanks to this technology that websites like Facebook or Twitter are able to offer their services for free because they allow users to share links with friends or followers without having to pay any service fees. However, some websites have come to limit the number of times a link can be shared in order to boost their revenue [8].

In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure that future improvements include compatibility between all browsers. Since then, many new technologies have been added through standardization so it is possible for users from different countries to communicate using the same set of protocols [9] [10] [11].

In 1996, Microsoft designed its own browser called Internet Explorer and Mozilla launched Firefox two years later thanks to a worldwide public funding campaign. In 1999, Opera was launched by a Norwegian company while Safari made its debut one year later in Mac OS X Panther after being part of NeXTSTEP since 1996 [12] [13].

Google's Chrome became the most popular browser in 2010 while Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox are still widely used today. Google Docs was launched in 2007 while Microsoft Office 365 was released three years later so it is not uncommon to find people using both applications any more [14] [15].

The history of URLs can be considered as somewhat similar to that of other technologies since many alternatives have been proposed but only one has managed to lead the others due to greater ease of use or popularity. It seems that this will remain to be true for some time because there are currently no visible threats on the horizon thanks to longstanding support especially from search engines like Google .

URLs are generally composed of three sets of characters where the first one is the protocol (exchange protocol like http, ftp or mailto), the second one describes the server address and the third part contains information about where to access data. The distinction between these components is usually made with colons but some browsers also accept other characters like commas, periods or question marks [16].

URLs are composed of four main parts:

·The Protocol (HTTP/HTTPS) - This part is used to determine how the resource will be transferred. If this section is left empty, it means that it will use HTTP to transfer data for most modern browsers. However, HTTPS can also be used if users want to make sure that their activities cannot be sp on because all communications will take place through a secured channel.

·The Domain Name - This is the second part and it can be used to identify any computer connected to the Internet . The first letters of every domain name represent the country where it was registered as well as its registrar, which is usually an organization that manages such resources on behalf of individuals or businesses. The main purpose of having internationalized domain names (IDNs) is to ensure that people from other countries can visit websites hosted in their own language [17].

·The Top-Level Domain (TLD) - TLDs are also known as domains and they determine how specific a resource will be. For example, edu identifies schools and gov denotes government agencies while org is used for organizations like charities and non-profits. Some TLDs like asia, europe and info are restricted to using country code which means that people must live in those countries before they can register domains with this extension [18].

·The Resource Name - This is the last part and it provides more precision about what content users will find on a specific webpage or website. The most common resource names include:  com (commercial organizations), edu (educational institutions), gov (U.S. government agencies) and mil (U.S military) [19]

One of the biggest issues faced by URLs is that different browsers handle them differently so there may be problems opening some links even if they were created using standard protocols according to Berners-Lee. In practice, browsers like Firefox and Opera may display a specific link as data instead of opening it if they cannot figure out what protocols to use [20].

In contrast, the best known browsers like Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer will simply show an error message if they do not know what protocol should be used with a given URL. However, this does not mean that all links can be opened regardless of which browser is being used because there are still differences between how different programs handle unknown protocols [21] .

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