Internet Basics

Understanding a URL

URL syntax for a Network (Internet-style) item:


Examples of common protocols:

Components of a Universal Resource Locator (URL):

Note that the host name part of a URL or EMail address is not case-sensitive. The remainder of the URL or EMail address may or may not be case-sensitive.

Understanding an Internet E-Mail address

Syntax for an Internet email address:


Examples of EMail addresses:

Note that the host name part of an EMail address is not case-sensitive. The user_id part of the EMail address may or may not be case-sensitive.

Computer Addresses and Names

Most of the connecting done between machines on the Internet happens between computers labelled by numbers, not names. (Computers seem to always prefer using numbers to names!) These numbers are called "IP" (Internet Protocol) numbers. The numbers are 32-bits long and usually look like this when written in human-readable form:,

To establish a connection between the machines, the friendly, human-readable names must be turned into IP numbers. Tables of these name-to-number maps typically reside on computers that serve as Domain Name Servers (DNS). These DNS Servers translate human-readable names to IP numbers.

Computer Names

Computer names in the DNS are hierarchical, separated by periods, with the most specific components on the left and the most general, large domains on the right, e.g. "".  There is no fixed limit to the depth of the hierarchy; however, more than four levels is uncommon.

IP Numbers

IP numbers are also hierarchical; however, the most specific parts of the IP number are on the right, and the most general, large network components are on the left, e.g. "".  The IP numbers written this way are often said to be in "dotted quad" form.  Two machines on the same network will have numbers that differ only in the rightmost bits, such as and  Their DNS names might be  and Just because two machines are on the same IP network does not mean that their DNS names must be related (though they usually are).

DNS - Domain Name Servers

Name servers "cache" name requests for a period of time (the "time to live").  Subsequent requests for the same name are served from the cache until the entry expires, then a fresh request is made to update the cache. Adding or changing a DNS name can take several days to propagate through all the caches in the Internet.