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The workings of a web hosting server

By Staff
Click Here for Page 1 

Here’s an explanation of the type of information captured in the URL:

“Transfer protocol - The type of information being transferred, and the method of transfer:

         http - hypertext transfer protocol. The standard format for the Web. Your browser reads the contents of the file and interprets how to display the contents on your screen.

         ftp - file transfer protocol. A method for transferring files to your computer. Make sure your virus detection software is up to date before downloading any files if you are not convinced of their safety.

         gopher - gopher was a text-only precursor to the Web, still occasionally used for text files.

         news - newsgroup, or online bulletin board. Newsgroups can contain valuable and reliable information, but most are unmoderated, and anyone can contribute, so verify the information and/or the contributor before relying on anything you find in a newsgroup.

Domain - The type of institution, organization, etc. that hosts the computer on which the Web page resides. Some common domains are:

         edu - education. For pages at educational institutions, be sure to determine whether it is an "official" page whose contents are endorsed by the institution or department, or whether it is a personal page of a professor or student.

         gov - government. Which department, agency, etc, is responsible for the page?

         com - commercial. Includes news sources, but also includes companies' information and marketing pages: who hosts the page, what is the purpose of the page?

         org - organization. Includes many advocacy groups: what group is responsible for the page, what is the purpose of the group and of the page?

         uk, jp, aw, ... - country codes (uk: United Kingdom; jp: Japan; aw: Aruba). Usually, "us" (United States) is not included in U.S. URLs, but other countries' codes are.

Personal or "official" page - Personal pages often (but not always) have a "~" in the URL, or a directory called "/users/" or "/people/" followed by a name. The contents of a personal page are not necessarily endorsed by an institution or organization hosting the Web site.

URL "chopping" - You can "chop" a URL to move up "higher" in the hierarchy of directories and folders. This can be helpful if you want to find out what else is at the Web site or who is responsible for the page or site you are viewing. For example, chopping the URL for this page to "" would take you to the list of all the online tutorials which Wesleyan librarians have created. Chopping it further to "" would take you to the Wesleyan Library home page, where you can find out more about the institution that hosts this page.”

Source: Wesleyan Library Tutorial

Once the browser receives instruction from you as to where it should go, it sends a request to the appropriate Web server.  The Web server evaluates the request (is it a real address, does the requestor have the necessary authorization), and executes it.  Most likely this request would be asking for an exchange of information, and so the Web server would respond with what was asked for.  If for some reason that material is not available, the Web server responds with an error message, such as “404 File Note Found”.  That is probably the most common error code you will see.  There are a series of error codes that the Web server could return depending on what the problem was.  If you are interested, just Google “Web server error codes” and you can see the series and learn about what each error code means.

This process continues until you ask to go someplace different.  That’s about it – in plain English as promised!





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