Anatomy of A URL
A URL is like an extended IP address in that it includes the name of the machine, but it has other important information as well.
What is a URL? A URL is an Internet universal resource locator. URLs provide road-maps to the World-Wide Web (WWW) and also to other Internet resources. As you begin to look at URLs, you should recognize one of the big frustrations for the new Internet user: all Internet connections are not created equal! Those with dial-in connections, in particular, may have different capabilities or limitations, depending on the type of Internet account and the software being used. To understand what this means or why it is important, you must have a basic understanding of TCP/IP, or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.
Nearly all computers directly on the Internet use TCP/IP. This communication protocol deals with how data is bundled into packets to be sent and received among Internet machines. If you have a direct network connection to the Internet, undoubtedly software has been installed on your Macintosh or PC-compatible to let it "speak" TCP/IP to other computers on the Internet. If you have a standard dial-in connection to the Internet, your personal computer may not have the ability to directly use TCP/IP. Rather, you are probably connecting to a host machine (typically a UNIX system) that can directly communicate on the Internet via TCP/IP. Another possibility is that you have an enhanced dial-in connection to the Internet that uses a special protocol such as SLIP (serial line Internet Protocol) or PPP (point-to-point protocol). These enhanced dial-in connections are available from some Internet providers, often at an additional charge, and require you to have special software installed and properly configured on your personal computer to use them. The advantage is that they give you the ability to speak TCP/IP directly to other computers on the Internet.
So, why this discussion on TCP/ IP? Because the best way to navigate the World-Wide Web is to run software on your Macintosh or PC-compatible that can communicate directly with WWW servers using TCP/IP. The most common of these WWW client software packages (called Web Browsers) are Mosaic and Netscape, available for both Macintosh and PC-compatibles. These browsers are remarkable because of their full graphical user interface (known also as a GUI--pronounced "gooey"). If you are limited by a standard dial-in connection, you cannot run these software packages. But, to there may be software installed on your UNIX host machine called Lynx that allows you to browse WWW servers in a text-only format. (Of course, half the fun of navigating the WWW is the graphics, and you will want to have the GUI capability.) If you are a dial-in Internet user, you might want to check with your Internet provider about the possibilities of getting a SLIP or PPP connection so that you can run Mosaic or Netscape.