Everyday billions of people go to various websites from around the world, but only a fraction know how it all works. In this post, we will dive into what happens when you visit your website and fundamentals behind a basic web request via HTTP or HTTPS.
The anatomy of a URL
A URL is broken into a few parts, each with their own meaning. The first part of the URL is the protocol most commonly for HTTP.
Let’s use the following URL as our example.
HTTP it’s the language your computer uses to communicate with the global web. The next part is the domain name, which directs the user to the server.
When the internet first was born, the main domain types were .com, .net, and .org these are called Top-Level Domains (TDL) but today there are so many endings that having a .com is not as important as it once was. Domains are something you purchase/lease from a domain company. We won’t go into too much detail about that here, but some endings are reserved for governments, and or can only be used by specific countries.
The last part of the URL is the page on the server you would like to see.
If no page is specified (I.e. http://ollyjolly.com), then it will default to the homepage.
So when you type in a domain in your browser, it can be summarized as your browser yelling:
“Hey internet, take me to this website and show me this page.”
Now the reason we mention yelling is that when you visit a website via http, it’s a public connection meaning others monitor your activity. Or another way to think about it is your browser connected to a megaphone announcing every page, link, and website you visit.
Now sometimes that may not be a problem, but if you’re going to a website and buying something, or entering a passcode, do you really want people to see such private information?
HTTPS ensures that traffic to a website is encrypted and secure. As you may have guessed, it stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure, or an easier way to think of the S stand for silent. With HTTPS unlike http when you visit your website, it is as if your browser is silent and the only people who can see what you are doing are you and the website you are accusing.
Today most sites now offer https, but if you ever find yourself on a website logging in or purchasing something and the URL is not HTTPS, be cautious as someone may see your activity and steal your personal and or sensitive information.
Summing it all up.
We hope this basic introduction between http and https was helpful. As a final note, it’s best to always use HTTPS in your browsing and in your own web project. With so many tools that make it far easier than before, it’s now considered being standard proper practice. Should you have any issues or questions, please reach out.