In the premiere episode of Bartosz Goralewicz’s fun new series Getting Geeky with E-commerce, he takes a look at URLs:
When it comes to e-commerce stores, URLs play an important and often underappreciated role in the website’s online success. Bartosz breaks down all of the valuable information you can get from URLs and how it affects e-commerce stores.
Sit down and pour yourself a cup of coffee for this one because things are about to get very, very geeky.
Hello! This is Getting Geeky with E-commerce. My name is Bartosz Góralewicz. I’m the CEO of Onely and today we’re going to be talking about URLs.
URLs play an important part in e-Commerce, they are a very, very underappreciated part of your, of your store structure, and there is quite a lot of information you can squeeze out, you can get out of one URL within your e-Commerce store.
At the same time, most of us using them every single day, sending links to our friends and so on, don’t fully understand, what each part of the URL mean, and how that affects our daily work with e-Commerce stores.
And just to make it a little bit more exciting, we’re gonna share quite a lot of very, very, very geeky facts and histories, and history of URLs and how they got to where they are right now.
The URL was invented in 1990 by a guy called Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, that’s, that’s a long name, also known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.
In the early days, URLs were mostly used to locate different files online, but over time developers started using them for other resources, like the content, and the rest is history.
Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, but it wasn’t until, until a year later that he would invent a browser, meaning that there was a whole year when there was a World Wide Web, but there were no browsers available.
But what’s even more interesting, the first website was hosted on his PC at, at his workplace, and so if he would switch it off, the whole World Wide Web wouldn’t work and that’s why there is the picture and if you Google that, there’s a picture of his old PC from 1990, saying “this machine is a server, do not power down”. I guess we could all use that, that button today sometimes.
So now let’s talk a little bit about SSL and TLS. As I mentioned TLS is a newer version of SSL, which is actually quite difficult to find online sometimes, but they’re the same thing, but just a different version, they just, I guess, this is just to make it a little bit more confusing.
But, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and this is most of the time when people talk about HTTPS, they would also talk about SSL, so it’s just, just a form of, like, web security used to secure the traffic between you and your website.
And now, the main difference between HTTP, what, what I already mentioned, it’s not secure, and HTTPS, is that with HTTP, if you’re visiting a website, let’s say you’re visiting amazon.com, and you’re seeing that it’s HTTP, all of the information you’re sending to the server is not encrypted, so your name, your credit card data, everything like that is just sent to Amazon in a form of non-encrypted text, so everyone who’s somehow sniffing, or trying to go through the data you’re sending to, through your internet connection, can have access to that data, so always have in mind, obviously Amazon is using HTTPS, but have in mind that if you’re ever using HTTP, every single piece of information you’re sending them, so is it a search query, is it your credit card data, is it your name, or anything, it’s non-encrypted, so it’s definitely not safe.
Now, there are a lot of reasons, especially since the last few years, you should have HTTPS as an e-Commerce, and it’s really difficult to find a large e-Commerce store today without HTTPS. The HTTPS is basically, if you imagine a truck with your information, driving from your computer to the store, to the e-Commerce store, is basically a very secure truck that’s encrypted, so anyone who would somehow try to access that information, can’t do that without the encryption key.
So that encryption key is something that the e-Commerce store with HTTPS, and you, share, so only you, only those two parties can encrypt the information you’re sending.
TLS version 1.0 is the same as SSL version 3.1, and TLS stands for Transport Layer Security, so they are still the same, different naming, but they’re the same thing with different versions. As I already mentioned, it’s very difficult to find a large website, not to mention E-commerce store, that’s not hosted on HTTPS, but I’ve managed to find one website that’s within top ten websites worldwide with the most traffic, that’s HTTP, and I’ll wait one minute for you to enter that website into the comments.
For those of you who guessed, it’s baidu.com, so it’s the biggest search engine in China with 70% of the search market, and even today, it’s still HTTP. Now, to look at that from a very practical point of view, and using the Baidu example, if you’re looking for something that’s very private, something you don’t want others to find out, and you’re using Baidu that’s using HTTP, some third parties looking at your web traffic, or using some kind of sniffers, can intersect or hijack, hijack the, the query you’re, you’re entering, or any content you’re sending to baidu.com.
So, if you’re ever sending anything that’s, that’s sensitive information online, make sure that you’re interacting with websites with an HTTPS.
Back in the day, www subdomain was quite useful when you had, for example, an FTP subdomain where you hosted all the files for your users. Right now, as I said, it’s pretty much a legacy thing, but it’s still a little bit useful, useful when we, for example, talk about tracking.
So imagine that you have a domain called example.com, and then if you’re gonna go with www.example.com, it’s a little bit more specific. Let me give you an example: when you have a cookie for, for a user visiting your online store, let’s say that someone was visiting your store to buy running shoes, and you want to retarget that person using that cookie, when you have www.example.com, you can be very, very sure that that person visited your store. When you only have example.com, it may get mixed up with some of your subdomains, like for example, I don’t know, promos- or couponcodes.example.com.
So the www makes it a little bit easier for you to specify the exact part of your domain that the user was visiting. There is one exception though: I’m usually a massive, massive fan of www for all the reasons I said before, but there is one example when I just don’t think it fits that well. So with all the new TLDs, if we’re gonna buy a domain like onely.agency or ecommerce.store, I think that www looks very, very weird in front of that.
Imagine having www.ecommerce.store – it doesn’t look as good, it doesn’t pronounce as good as just e-commerce.store.
So, some of the new TLDs, I think that maybe practicality can be moved aside just to make, just to have that domain that’s looking very, very nice and pronounced, you know, it’s very cool to have just two-words domain, so, so that’s one of the examples where you can go into having something that looks and sounds a little bit better for the marketing sake.
So, the fun fact is that in 1985, the year I was born, there were only six domains out there, but what’s actually even more interesting, before 1995, everyone out there could register a domain for free. Let me tell you a story about a man who built his whole career about, around flipping domains.
Mike Mann once bought 15,000 domains over the course of only 24 hours. He quickly became the legend in the domain flipping industry. His, his business was making almost half a million dollars per month around the year 2012. Mike Mann started selling domains in 1998, it was when he was offered $25,000 for the domain menus.com he bought for only 70 bucks. When the offer got raised to fifty, fifty thousand dollars the next day, he instantly decided to go and get into the domain business.
Another fun fact is that most of the money in the domain flipping business is not made through selling business, selling domain names, like sex.com, which was sold for around 14 million dollars, and it’s still one of the most expensive domains ever sold, the most domainers made their money through selling keyword-specific, or like, keyword-oriented domains, like CEOhealthclub.com.
I couldn’t find the exact data for 2019, but it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 300 million domains registered today. This is one of the main reasons why you cannot buy a four or five letter .com domain for less than ten thousand dollars. That’s also the main reason why there, why there were so many new TLDs introduced in 2014, so now you can buy a domain like that .ninja .pizza or even .wtf.
So now, let’s move on to the next part of the URL, and let’s talk about the port.
The port is something that you usually don’t see in the URL. If you have a domain like www.onely.com:80, that “80” is the port used to connect to your domain. The port is usually not visible in the URL, the default port for HTTP is 80 and for HTTPS is 443.
But we’re not done with fun facts about the port numbers. If you are an IRC fan, like I was back in the day, your go-to default port for that is 194, but if you feel like having a lot of good time today, you can Google different ports, and there are quite a lot of those.
For example, the default port for pop3 is 110. Pff, I know…
So, ports are a little bit like doors to your own computer, coming obviously from the network, hence the technique called, called port sweeping, so sometimes hackers are gonna scan port within your IP to see if any of your ports is open, and there is a very simple way to make sure that this doesn’t happen to your machine, and for that we’re using something you probably heard of, we are using software called firewall.
We already went to quite a lot of exciting parts of the URL, but now I need to introduce something more off on a boring side, but something that we all need to know about. We’re gonna talk about the path. If you’re a PC guy, you’re probably a little bit more familiar with that concept than Mac guys.
Path is everything after the domain name that ends with a slash, so for example www.example.com/blog. Server is looking into the last folder within the path, and is looking for the index or default file within that folder. If that file is not found, the server is returning at 404 error, meaning that the resource is not found within that path. Mind that both index and default are usually not visible within the URL.
And now I’m very excited because we’re going to get really, really geeky. We’re going into the geekiest part of this video – now we’re going to talk about the query string.
Query string is an optional part of the URL, but it can easily be found – it always starts with a question mark, okay, parameters are a trail of key value parts separated by the ampersand.
We’ve learned quite a lot about how exciting URLs are today, but let’s put all that to the test, and let’s build our own Google query using just the URL. Let’s search for what is a URL, now let’s build that URL from scratch.
To do that, we need to create our own query string and the URL. In our case, the key we’re looking for that Google is using for queries, is the letter Q, and the key is our search query with proper URL encoding, so we need to use https://www.google.com/search? and then you need to build the rest of the URL.
Now just copy-paste that URL into your browser, and just have a look if you really searched for what is a URL.
Now, moving to the last part of the URL, there is one more thing that we sometimes use in URLs, and this is fragment identifier. This is something you use pretty often, but you probably are not aware of that most of the times. If your friend is sending you the link to the Amazon comment that he found hilarious, you’re always going to get a link with a hashtag at the end, and that marks the given, the very, very specific comment. So when you click on that link, it’s not the Amazon product that’s gonna show up, but it’s gonna scroll down to the very specific comment that you’re interested in.
Fortunately, fragment identifiers are not only used to link hilarious Amazon comments. You can use that to link your favorite section or interesting section of the research paper you’re reading to your friend, so he or she doesn’t have to go through the whole thing and scroll and find the right part. Fragment identifier is going to do that for you.
I could go on and talk about URLs for a few more hours because they’re really quite exciting once you get to, get to know them and get into the structure of how they are designed. But a few more things, I’ll just gonna leave you a few more things that you really have to know about the URLs before we wrap this up.
First of all, that’s something that’s often overlooked, URLs are case sensitive, so never put capital letters into your URLs and make sure that if some, someone within your company is doing that, they’re ultimately automatically redirected with a 301 redirect to small letter URLs.
There is also a hard limit on the URLs that not too many people know about. So, you need to keep your URLs under 2083 characters, if you tend to get very lengthy with your product names or your category names.
Just to leave you with one last fun fact, there are also special characters, so if your URL is żarówki.pl, you will see that the browser is going to change that into that, those URLs usually starting with xn. Fortunately, we’re not going to cover that today, because that would be another very lengthy topic, we’re going to talk about that in another episode, targeting just the different TLDs and domains for e-commerce.
For now, thank you so much for tuning in to Getting Geeky with E-commerce, and stay geeky until the next time.