Explanation of a URL

If you have followed the reading lists on this site so far and done the associated work, you should be able to see your site on your own computer, but that means little if you are not able to present your work to the outside world.

Before you start that process, you need to understand a few terms:

A web server is a computer that has software installed to serve content to the web. There’s nothing special about the computer itself (or even the software), just its connection to the internet. You could turn your own computer into a web server, but in order to host a public web site it would have to have a 24/7 connection to the internet and an IP address (a computer address that translates to a domain name). You’d also have to keep the computer secure from intrusion. That’s too much effort for most, so we turn that service over to a web hosting provider, a company that specializes in hosting web sites. They will typically have a number of servers, mounted in racks, with a “big pipe” high speed connection to the internet.

Owning a public website involves two steps:

  1. Choosing a domain name for your site, and paying for it. This process is known as domain registration.
  2. Finding a hosting provider, paying them to host your site, mapping the domain you have purchased to their server(s), and uploading your site.

While you can leave the technicalities of registering and finding a web hosting service to your client, there are several reasons you want to do it for yourself: often, your client may not want to deal with, or understand, technical issues, but for taking on these tasks you are compensated for your time, effort, and any markup you wish to charge.

In addition, by registering and hosting the domain, you can remain the technical and administrative contact for the site. That means that you have the power of life and death over the site: if the client doesn’t pay, you can, ultimately, pull the site from public access.

Illustration by Una Kravets, used with permission

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