Another name for an Internet address is a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The URL is typed into the address box of a web browser, and a system called DNS (Domain Name System) translates the domain name into an IP address. The IP address is a unique number (and part of the TCP/IP protocol upon which the Internet is based) that identifies a computer attached to the internet. A domain name such as www.google.com is easier to remember than 188.8.131.52.
To make the addresses easier to find, conventions are used. For the most part, URLs have an ending that describes the purpose of a site, called the Top Level Domain (TLD). These endings help us classify what a site’s address should be. Organizations who design their URL with the appropriate ending help people who search for their page find their official site easier. If you are looking for a site, it is important to know what category the site falls under in order to go to the correct site, e.g. fbi.gov, not fbi.com.
With this convention in place, when we try to guess a web address we have a better chance of finding the correct site. If we put in the conventional 'www.', followed by the name of the company and the appropriate ending, we should get pretty close. For example, USU's home page is www.usu.edu, while the homepage for Yahoo is www.yahoo.com. Big companies will often buy the rights to various sites with similar names to help people find their way to the correct site. Disney did this; they own www.disney.com, www.disney.org, and www.disneyland.com. As you will see a little later on, this method of guessing a company’s web address is not always the best way to find what you’re looking for.
The following are TLDs that can be registered by anyone:
- .com – Commercial (Yahoo, Ebay)
- .net – Network or Communications (Comcast)
- .org – Non-Profit Organization (Dare, CAPSA, GreenPeace)
These TLDs are restricted to entities that can show their site fits in the category:
- .gov – U.S. Government (IRS, CIA, FBI)
- .mil – U.S. Military (Navy, Army)
- .edu – Higher Education (USU, BYU, Gonzaga)
There are several TLDs that have been approved or that are waiting to be approved to provide a new category or to extend a category with only a few good names available. These TLDs are newly approved, so they are not as common:
- .biz – Commercial
- .info – Informational
- .name – Personal
- .pro – Professional
- .aero – Restricted TLD for aerospace industry
- .museum – Restricted TLD for museums
- .coop – Restricted TLD for Cooperative Organizations
URLs can also identify the country of origin if outside of the United States. These country TLDs are standard two letter codes, and every country has one. A few of these abbreviations are:
- .ar - Argentina
- .br - Brazil
- .it - Italy
- .ru - Russia
- .uk - The United Kingdom
There are several small countries that have been able to profit off selling the rights to use their country’s TLD, since it is a commonly used acronym. The most well-known is probably Tuvalu (.tv), which is used by several TV stations. Others include Armenia (.am), Micronesia (.fm), Congo (.cd), and Djibouti (.dj) for music- or radio-related sites.
The .com TLD is designed to make money. They might sell products like amazon.com, or they might sell information for solicitors. This TLD is probably the most abused, since it is the most common. It is often the first TLD typed in, even if a site does not have a commercial purpose. Many times these sites are the opposite of what you are looking for since the creators know that people may type in their address, because they add the .com out of habit. A good example of this is whitehouse.com. The White House is controlled by the government so using the convention described previously, the correct site is whitehouse.gov. The URLs whitehouse.com, whitehouse.org and whitehouse.net have switched around several times. These domains may change hands and change content, so be careful. Always know who you are dealing with before submitting any personal information, no matter how legitimate a site appears to be.
The country radio station KIX 96, based in Logan, is a good example of registering a web address in a misclassified TLD. Since the domain www.kix96.com was already taken by another country music station in Georgia, they used www.kix96.org, even though they are not a non-profit organization. They later changed the address to www.kix96.fm, taking advantage of Micronesia’s country code becoming available.
A safer way than simply guessing to search for a site is to use a search engine. By doing so, you will be given a list of sites to choose from. There may be quite a few, but you will at least know more about where you are going before you get there. Sort through the list and see which one matches what you are looking for and you can have a better chance of finding what you are looking for.