On the Design of the URL


Notations can affect the way we think, and how we operate; consider as a simple example the difference between Roman Numerals and Arabic Numerals: Arabic Numerals allow us not only to more easily represent numbers, but also simplify calculations and the manipulation of numbers.

One of the innovations of the World Wide Web was the URL. In the last 30 years URLs have become a ubiquitous element of everyday life, so present that we scarcely even grant them a second thought. And yet they are a designed artefact: there is nothing natural about their structure – each part is there as part of a design.

This talk will look at the design issues behind the URL, what a URL is meant to represent, how it relates to the resources it identifies, and its relationship with representational state transfer (REST) and the protocols that REST is predicated on, and finally, with hindsight, to what extent the design could have been improved.


Steven Pemberton

Steven Pemberton

Chair of Forms Working Group at W3C

Researcher at CWI, author and public speaker, co-designed ABC, the programming language that Python was based on; he was one of the first handful of people on the European Internet in 1988; he has been involved with the web since its beginning, organising two workshops at the first web conference in 1994, and has been chair of several working groups at W3C, designing new web technologies, including HTML, CSS, XForms, RDFa, and many others.