URL Types: The 3 Key Formats Shaping Web Navigation (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

URL Types: The 3 Key Formats Shaping Web Navigation (2023)

URL Types

Navigating the digital world without URLs is like attempting to find a needle in a haystack, without any idea what a needle looks like! A URL is your guiding star, your map, and your compass in the vast ocean of the Internet. So fasten your seatbelts as we set off on a journey to understand the nuances of these indispensable web addresses.


A URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is a unique address used by web browsers to locate and display webpages from the vast Internet. They structure the web, make it accessible, and guide the digital ‘conversation’ between your device and the server hosting the desired content.

Type 1 – Absolute URLs: Absolute URLs provide the full address, including protocol (like HTTP or HTTPS), domain name, and the specific page path. Think of them as the complete mailing address for a webpage, handy when you’re linking to a site outside of your own.

Type 2 – Relative URLs: Relative URLs are akin to shorthand, giving the path to a specific page within the same website. They’re convenient when building internal links in a website, like directing you to another room within the same house.

Type 3 – Data URLs: One of the more intriguing types, data URLs allow small files to be included directly in the URL rather than being linked from a separate file. It’s like packing a suitcase with everything you’ll need for a trip instead of carrying separate bags!

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URL Types – In-depth

Absolute URLs

Imagine you’re embarking on a journey to a friend’s new house. To get there, you’d need the full address, right? The street name, the house number, maybe even the zip code. In the vast city that is the Internet, Absolute URLs act just like that full address, guiding you straight to the webpage you’re seeking.

An Absolute URL is the complete webpage address. It’s the full string of information your web browser needs to locate and display a specific page. Just like a physical address includes the city, street, and house number, an Absolute URL contains several different parts that each play a vital role.

For starters, there’s the scheme or protocol. This is the ‘HTTP’ or ‘HTTPS’ you’ve probably seen at the beginning of a web address. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the set of rules for transferring files on the World Wide Web. If there’s an ‘S’ at the end, as in ‘HTTPS’, it means your connection is secure – a comforting extra layer of protection when you’re sharing sensitive information like credit card numbers.

Next, we’ve got the domain name. This is the unique name that identifies a website. It’s like the name of the street on which a house resides. When you enter ‘google.com’ or ‘amazon.com’ into your web browser, you’re inputting the domain name.

Lastly, there’s the specific page path, which leads you directly to the webpage you’re looking for on a particular website. Consider it the house number on the street. If the domain name gets you to the right neighborhood, the page path gets you to the right house.

So, when you’re navigating the Internet, remember the Absolute URL is your full address guide, taking you right where you need to go. Whether you’re checking the latest news, shopping for a new gadget, or reading a fascinating article about URLs, you’re using these unique ‘digital addresses’ to travel around the world of the Internet. Happy surfing!

Relative URLs

Remember the last time you visited a friend’s house, and you wanted to get from the living room to the kitchen? You didn’t need the complete address of the house to find the kitchen, did you? Instead, you followed a relative path, something like “go straight, then take the second left.” This scenario is a perfect real-world analogy to explain the concept of Relative URLs in the realm of the Internet.

In contrast to the full address provided by Absolute URLs, Relative URLs are a bit like helpful shortcuts. They guide your web browser to a specific page or file within the same website you’re already on, using a path relative to the page where the URL is placed.

To put it simply, Relative URLs are time-savers. When you’re creating a website and want to link between pages, typing out the Absolute URL every time would be like using the full address to navigate within your own house—it’s accurate, sure, but it’s also overkill. Instead, you’d use a Relative URL, a simple and efficient way to move from page to page within your website, just like you move from room to room within a house.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into this concept. If you’re on the home page of a site, and you want to go to the “About Us” page, the Relative URL might be something as simple as “/about-us”. Here, the forward slash “/” represents the home page, and “about-us” is the path to the specific page you want to reach from there. This path makes navigating the digital maze of a website a whole lot easier.

It’s essential to note that these Relative URLs won’t work if you try to type them directly into your web browser – they’re like in-house directions that only make sense once you’re already in the house. But within the website, they’re invaluable tools for creating a connected, easy-to-navigate space.

So, next time you’re jumping from webpage to webpage on a site, remember that it’s the handy Relative URL helping you find your way. Whether you’re exploring a blog series, an online catalogue, or a digital art gallery, these handy ‘digital directions’ make your web surfing a smooth sail. Happy exploring!

Data URLs

Picture this: you’re packing for a big trip, and instead of carrying separate bags for clothes, toiletries, and shoes, you could bundle everything neatly into one suitcase. Wouldn’t that make your journey more manageable? That’s exactly what Data URLs do in the realm of the Internet.

Data URLs are a unique type of URL that stands apart from the others. Instead of directing the browser to fetch data from a server like Absolute or Relative URLs, Data URLs take a different approach. They carry the actual data within themselves. They’re the ultimate all-in-one package, bundling small pieces of data directly into the URL.

Let’s break it down a bit. A Data URL starts with ‘data:’, followed by the MIME type, which indicates what kind of data it is carrying (like ‘image/png’ for a PNG image). After a comma, it contains the actual data, usually encoded in Base64, a method of translating binary data into text.

So, why use a Data URL? If the file you’re dealing with is tiny, like a small icon or a simple graphic, using a Data URL can actually be more efficient than linking to a separate file with an Absolute or Relative URL. It’s a bit like packing a small carry-on bag for a quick trip, rather than lugging around a huge suitcase.

However, for larger files, Data URLs might not be the best choice. They can make your URL incredibly long and unwieldy. Imagine trying to fit a year’s worth of luggage into that carry-on bag – not a great idea, right?

In short, Data URLs offer an exciting, efficient way to pack data directly into a URL. They are particularly handy for embedding small files, making the Internet browsing experience quicker and more efficient. So, the next time a tiny image loads instantly on a webpage, you may have a nifty Data URL to thank for that smooth experience. Happy browsing!


In the grand library of the Internet, URLs are our trusty guides, leading us to the right ‘books’ we seek. Absolute URLs, Relative URLs, and Data URLs each serve unique functions in our digital journeys. Absolute URLs act as the complete addresses, leading us to any destination on the vast web. Relative URLs offer handy shortcuts for navigating within a single website, and Data URLs efficiently pack small files right into the URL itself. As you navigate the fascinating and ever-expanding world of the Internet, take a moment to appreciate these unsung heroes that make our journeys possible. Remember, whether you’re exploring, shopping, learning, or connecting, there’s always a URL guiding your way.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

How is a URL different from a URI?

A URL is a type of Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). A URL specifies the location of a resource on the Internet and the mechanism to retrieve it, much like a physical address. A URI, on the other hand, is a broader term that identifies a resource either by location, name, or both, but doesn’t necessarily provide a way to access it.

Are URLs case sensitive?

It depends. The domain part of a URL (e.g., www.google.com) is not case sensitive – it doesn’t matter if you type it in as upper case, lower case, or a mixture. However, everything after the domain (the specific page path or file) can be case sensitive, depending on the web server.

How does a URL work?

When you type a URL into your web browser and hit enter, you send a request to a server to view a webpage. The URL tells your browser where to find the server (using the domain) and what specific page to retrieve (using the page path). Once the server receives your request, it sends back the webpage data, which your browser then displays.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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