How to Read a Web Address

The challenge is that there’s usually a LOT of other stuff in the name.

When you look at a postal address, you know exactly what it means. The town and state will get you close, and the street and house number will narrow exactly where you are going so your GPS can guide you right to the correct door.

The web has a similar system and it’s just as easy to read, but there’s a lot of extra information you have to know how to discard. In short you are looking for DomainName.COM and nothing else. The challenge is that there’s usually a LOT of other stuff in the name. Let’s take a look at an important example:

Everyone has to keep updating Adobe Flash as it’s got significant security flaws on a regular basis. But, there are also a ton of fake, “Download Flash Here!” sites out there which are designed to fool the user into downloading something else. Usually a bad something else.

So here’s how to make sure you are at the right address. Read it like this: “blah blah blah ADOBE.COM/ blah blah blah”

1. The http:// or https:// are how the address starts. Every web page has this (unless it’s hidden by the browser).
2. The “get.” at the start of the above example is a subdomain and can be anything that adobe.com wants it to be since it’s inside their site. Picture pointing someone to a specific room once they have found your house.
3. Adobe.com is the domain and that’s the key to knowing where you are actually going. It’s the address.
4. Everything after the .com/ is the folder and page on the company’s website. And, while it can be useful sometimes, the important part for today is that it can be ignored because it’s part of the site.

Start with the “.com/” which is how you identify the end of the address. This can also be .org/ or .edu/ or .net/ Make sure a slash (/) immediately follows the .com or you won’t be in the right place. “adobe.com.ru/ isn’t an adobe site at all. It’s actually part of “com.ru” in Russia which you can tell by finding the first single / and working backwards. In the address adobe.com.ru/ the “adobe” is a subdomain and is completely unrelated to the actual web address. Kinda like “Cupboard Under the Stairs” is an internal addition to Harry Potter’s address of 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. But, “Cupboard Under the Stairs” won’t find Harry if you send it to another house.

SEARCH NOTE: Make sure that when you are looking at the address, you are looking at the actual address bar. There’s been a lot of confusion about the Search bar vs the Address. The address bar is the main location and shows where you are on the internet. It’s like the You Are Here location on your GPS. In most browsers, it’s at the top and to the left side. It’s important, because a search bar will never tell you where you are right now, so you can’t use any of the techniques above.
In this screenshot below, starting at the top, left side.
1. Tab with “flash - Bing” showing the name of the page. This can be anything a company wants, so sometimes isn’t a helpful indication of what you are looking at.
2. Below the tab is the address. This is what is important to this article. I’ve circled it in red.
3. To the right side is a search bar that’s built into Firefox.
Below the header is the page itself which contains another search box with the word “flash” in it.

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