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Do Capitals In Web Addresses Make Any Difference?

          January 25, 2020

A while back I wrote Do Capitals In Email Addresses Make Any Difference? but people also often wonder "do capitals in web addresses make any difference?"

A web address, also known as an URL (Uniform Resource Locator), is that often-long character string you type (or better, paste) into the address bar of your web browser to go to a webpage. It starts with http, or https for more secure websites like Apscitu.com.

Just after comes a separator, consisting of a colon and two forward slashes — https:// — that many find ugly and off-putting (and the two forward slashes weren't technically necessary).

Then before the next forward slash comes the domain name, which contains subdomains separated by dots; for example, https://Apscitu.com or https://www.Apscitu.com. (Technically www is a subdomain that should go to a different webpage from the domain it precedes, but almost always it goes to the same webpage. www has become prettier shorthand for http:// when giving web addresses.) The domain name gives the web server computer's address on the Internet.

After the domain name and the next forward slash comes one or more directories separated by forward slashes; for example www.Apscitu.com/SecureContact. These are directories on the web server computer.

At the end of the web address is a file name with a .html suffix; for example www.Apscitu.com/SecureContact/index.html. If no file is given, as is often the case, then the file index.html is assumed. This file contains HTML code to generate the webpage in your browser.

So do capitals in web addresses make any difference? In more technical terms, are web addresses "case-sensitive"? For example, is www.Apscitu.com/SecureContact the same as www.apscitu.com/securecontact?

Domain names are defined as no-caps in the Internet standards. Otherwise, hackers would go crazy with getting domain names for their scam websites that differ just by capitalization from legitimate domain names and websites, so that they could easily fool people into going to those scam websites; for example, GOOGLE.COM instead of google.com.

The domain name is converted to an IP address, for routing on the Internet, by a DNS (Domain Name System) server computer on the Internet. This conversion is, for the reason given, programmed not to be case-sensitive.

A web server computer often hosts more than one website and uses the domain name to determine which website is being requested. The web server computer is usually programmed to not be case-sensitive for domain names.

The directories and files in the web address are a different matter. Web server computers that use Linux as the operating system are case-sensitive. For example, the directory securecontact is different from the directory SecureContact. Web server computers that use the more simplistic Microsoft Windows are not case-sensitive.

There are reasons directories and files are left case-sensitive on some Linux web server computers, but in general you would set them up to not be case-sensitive. I administer my own web server, which you are using right now, and I have set it up to not be case-sensitive: securecontact is the same as SecureContact.

Since this is not always the case though, you should always try to type — copying and pasting it is best — the web address exactly as given with regards to capitalization or the webpage you are requesting may not be found. However, given rampant IT incompetence, even the given web address may be wrong. In that case, try a no-caps version of the web address.

For more on web technology, see Websites: Simple is Smart, Secure, and Speedy.