URI vs. URL: What’s the Difference?

Delving into the complexities of web terminology can be challenging, particularly when it involves understanding the nuances between terms like “URI” and “URL,” which are easily confused. These acronyms, though closely related, have distinct definitions and uses within the context of internet addresses. Now, we’ll clarify their proper applications and provide insights to help you accurately navigate and reference these web identifiers.

The Main Difference between URI and URL

URI vs. URL: What's the Difference? Pin

URI vs. URL: Key Takeaways

  • URI is a broad term that includes both URLs and URNs, used for identifying resources.
  • URL is a type of URI that provides the exact location of a resource on the internet.
  • Understanding the difference between URI and URL is crucial for effective navigation and management of online resources.

URI vs. URL: The Definition

Definition of URI

A URI is a broad term that we use to identify resources. It could be anything like a webpage, a book, or a document. Essentially, it represents any resource’s identity, which could include a name, location, or both. When we refer to a URI, we’re talking about a generic syntax that is used to identify a resource.

Definition of URL

A URL is a specific type of URI that provides not just an identity but also a method to find it through its location. We use a URL when we need to retrieve a resource over the web. It often contains information such as the protocol to be used (HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, etc.), the server’s address, and the path to the resource.

URI vs. URL: Usage and Examples

When we talk about URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers) and URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), we’re referring to the ways we name and locate resources on the internet. Let’s unpack their usage and provide some examples to clear the air.

URIs: Their job is broad—they uniquely identify a resource. This can mean a webpage, a book, or a document. URIs can be a name, a location, or both. Think of it as an umbrella term.

URLs: These are specific types of URIs that tell us where something can be found. They include the protocol (like http or https) and the resource location on the internet.

Tips to Remember the Difference

When we’re trying to differentiate between a URI and a URL, it’s helpful to think of them in terms of identity versus location. Here are some friendly tips to keep these concepts clear:

  • URI (Uniform Resource Identifier): Think of URI as a person’s name—it’s how we identify them, regardless of where they are. It’s a broad term that includes both URL and URN.
  • URL (Uniform Resource Locator): Now, imagine a person’s address—that’s the URL. It tells us where we can find them, specifically how to retrieve the resource.

URI vs. URL: Examples

Example Sentences Using URI

  1. We can use the URI to identify a resource without indicating where or how to locate it.
  2. On our website, each item in the inventory has a unique URI which we use to reference them in our database.
  3. When developing, we refer to URIs to distinguish between different services in our application.
  4. The book’s URI in the library system uniquely identifies it regardless of its physical or digital location.
  5. Sending a request to an API often requires specifying the URI of the desired resource.

Example Sentences Using URL

  1. Please make sure you enter the URL correctly, or you won’t be able to access the website.
  2. I found a great article on gardening, here’s the URL if you want to read it too
  3. When you register for the event, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a URL to join the webinar.
  4. If you come across any broken URLs on our site, we’d appreciate it if you could report them to our webmaster.
  5. You can access the university’s online library catalog by typing this URL into your browser

Related Confused Words with URI or URL


URI, short for Uniform Resource Identifier, is a broad term that encompasses all types of identifiers on the internet. We can think of URI as an umbrella term that can refer to a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or a URN (Uniform Resource Name).


In contrast, a URL is designed to be actionable since it provides sufficient information to locate and retrieve the resource. A URN, in contrast, is primarily concerned with the resource’s identity, potentially enabling it to be found across multiple locations or platforms, but it does not include directions on how to retrieve the resource directly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you explain the distinction between a URI and a URL in simple terms?

A URI, or Uniform Resource Identifier, is a broad term that refers to a string of characters used to identify a resource on the internet or a local network. On the other hand, a URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is a specific type of URI that not only identifies a resource but also provides the means to locate it, typically by describing its network location.

What does each part of a URI signify, and how does it relate to a URL?

Each part of a URI has specific significance. The scheme indicates the protocol or the nature of the resource (httpftp, or mailto, for example). The authority, if present, specifies the domain and possibly authentication information. The path, query, and fragment may follow, providing a hierarchy, data for a query, or a specific part of the resource. In a URL, these parts work together to locate a resource on the internet explicitly.

How do URIs, URLs, and URNs differ from one another?

URIs encompass both URLs and URNs. URLs are focused on locating a resource, typically including a protocol and domain name. URNs, or Uniform Resource Names, identify a resource by name in a given namespace but do not imply its location

Are all URLs considered URIs, or are there exceptions?

Yes, all URLs are considered URIs because a URL is a subset of URI that provides specific location information. There are no exceptions to this rule as the definitions are categorical.

In the context of web services or APIs, should we refer to endpoints as URLs or URIs?

We should generally refer to endpoints in web services or APIs as URLs because they are specific locations where a service can be accessed. However, the term ‘URI’ is also used, particularly when emphasizing the identification aspect of the endpoint over its location.


Last Updated on January 30, 2024

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