URI vs URL? Think Scotch vs Whisky

For the longest time, I’ve been unconsciously transposing URI and URL (with the occasional sprinkling of “web address”) in conversations and correspondences without ever really considering that they are abbreviations for two different things. That is until I decided to finally read up on these confounding abbreviations and got the proper info on the real difference between URL and URI. So you wanna know what the difference is?

After all that build up I’m sad to say there really isn’t much of a difference. URI vs URL is actually very similar to Whisky vs Scotch – how’s that for a memory jogging association? Any good bartender that knows their jigger from their jeroboam will tell you that Scotch is really just a whisky that was produced in Scotland. A URL is actually a URI that identifies the location of the resource. For another explanation, A URL is a URI but a URI is not necessarily a URL just like scotch is always a whiskey but a whiskey is not necessarily scotch.

Another little tidbit I discovered while researching this is that there’s another abbreviation called URN that identifies a resource by name in a particular namespace and is also a URI. So for example 1400082471 is the ISBN URN of the book Dreaming in Code.

A Venn-like diagram showing URL on the left and URN on the right with a slight overlap, above is URI with an encompassing line to them both signifying that a URL and a URN are both URIs

So to recap, a URL is a URI that identifies a location (hence the last word of the abbreviation being location) and URN is a URI that identifies a name (hence the last word of the abbreviation being name). For all you right brain visual learners out there, check out the diagram to the left as a reminder.

Not really the most groundbreaking of topics but I thought it was cool to know the difference (what little difference there is at least) especially considering it’s a part of what I do on a daily basis. Hopefully someone out there feels the same.

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