Zyra.org.uk //// Internet //// Site Index

How to Read a Web Address (url)

It's important to be able to read web addresses, so you don't get fooled by scams which involve a hoodwinked address, as seen in many fake bank messages. I was inspired to write this page when a scam message arrived which said "Please Re-activate your Google AdWords account. Dear Google AdWords Customer, Please sign in to your account at http://adwords.google.com/select/login , and update your billing information..." etc. I'm not a Google AdWords customer, and I knew it was a hoax message and was not from Google. However, it was interesting to note that the LINK to adwords.google.etc did not actually go to where it said it did! On closer inspection it went to http://adwords.google.com.0k8ujd.cn/select/Login/,which, irrelevant of the fact it's got "google.com" in it, does not go to Google! It actually goes to 0k8ujd.cn with a subdomain. How many people would be fooled by that?!

Note that you can see the link without even following it. If you move your mouse over the link, the link destination appears at the bottom of the screen.

I advise against following such links in emails, as some of them lead to viruses, spyware, etc.

URL = U.R.L. = Universal Resource Locator = a web address.

How to read a URL: The first part of a URL is the domain, and after that there may be some server-specifics, but the first thing to do is to locate where the domain part ends. Bearing in mind that the Domain part of a URL can contain letters, numbers, dots, dashes, ampersands, and a few other characters, but can not contain spaces, slashes, carriage-returns, newlines, and a few other characters, here's a surefire way of reading the domain part of the web address: Start with the http:// and follow it along character-by-character until you get to the first non-domain character.

For example, this page has the address http://www.zyra.org.uk/read-url.htm

You start off the the http:// , and follow it along, and all of the characters are acceptable domain characters until you get to the "/" after "uk". That's where the domain ends. The URL carries on until the first non-url character after that, which is the space after htm. So, as a result, you get a page name of read-url.htm within the domain www.zyra.org.uk - see, easy enough?

Now when you try that with a right-click and "properties" on some of the links in dodgy-looking security messages pretending to be from the bank, you see some very odd things, and clearly not anything to do with the banks themselves.

To check such links, you can right-click and copy shortcut, or view source. I'm saying this because you can't always rely on hovering over a link. If you wanted to hide your email address you'd be interested to know you could do this yourself.

It's easy enough to suppose that a web address starts with http or www and ends in something familiar like "net" or ".co.uk" or "com" or ".tv", but in fact there are a great many interesting possibilities. You might consider these when getting your own domain. See country code domains, and some of these are available from the reputable 123-Reg, which is worth knowing about. The availability of such things as .TV and .AT expand the horizons of what's possible, and when you're reading a web address, you may be surprised to see www.the.real.name is an actual site. Then again, if you've understood what I've said about following the words a character at a time, you'll know it must go as far as the space and that's it.

There! Another helpful page!

Further reading? OK, here's a more advanced case of web address reading