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March 21, 2014

No, It’s Not a URL

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

Joining download in the Tech Lingo Hall of Infamy is the term URL. It’s not what you think it is.

Most people use the term download when they mean “file transfer” or “to transfer.” And the term does describe a type of transfer, but only from a certain perspective: A download is a transfer to your device from another device, specifically a server.

So when you hear someone say, “I just downloaded a new app,” they’re being correct. But when they say, “I just downloaded a picture to Facebook,” they’re wrong. You upload pictures to Facebook.

Yes, this is but a minor quibble, but aren’t all my quibbles minor?

A long time ago, Marketing dopes all over computerdom were using the term TSR with reckless abandon. Yet they had no idea what it meant. That bugged me.

The better term was memory-resident program. It was more friendly and perhaps a bit more descriptive. TRS is an acronym for Terminate and Stay Resident, which is the name of the old MS-DOS function call that created such programs. Not one drooling Marketing idiot in the 1990s knew that, but yet they bandied about the term like they were some sort of expert on the process.

In fact, one of the great sources of joy I found in Windows 95 was that the dipsticks stopped using the term TSR as it became suddenly irrelevant.

Today, one of my pet peeve high tech jargon terms is URL.

A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator. It’s a command for the Internet: Do this in a certain way. The URL determines the resource to be used and it’s followed by the location of that resource.

A URL is not a web page address.

So those same marketing dipsticks who I believed all had died in 1995 have suddenly been resurrected in the 2010s to once again annoy me by abusing a three letter acronym. Welcome back to the Tech Lingo Hall of Infamy.

Some clarification.

A web page address can contain a URL. It doesn’t need to, but if often does. The URL part of the web page address is http. That’s it. HTTP is a URL for the hypertext transfer protocol. It’s followed by a colon and a web page address.

URLs aren’t limited to web sites. Another common URL is mailto. For example, mailto:dgookin@wambooli.com. That URL links to my email account. It is not a web page address.

Other URLs include ftp:, nntp:, rsync:, and many more — including gopher: although I don’t believe any gopher servers are still online.

My point is that URL is more complex and involved than just a web page address. So when you hear someone refer to a web page address as a URL, silently confirm to yourself that A) that guy is a fool and B) only one small part of the web page address is the actual URL.

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