The http part, means "hyper text transfer protocol".
The colon : is a separator to indicate to your computer that you have reached the end of the http part.
The // tells your computer that the document you are looking for is located on a different computer than the one you are sitting in front of.

Note: Those of you who used to use the old DOS system or who use Windows may wonder; why the / (forward slash) instead of \ (back slash)? In the beginning, all the computers that ran the Internet used an operating system called UNIX. UNIX uses the / instead of the \. So that became the standard for the Internet.

So why do I need to type http:// in?

The http:// is very important! You should try to get in the habit of always typing this in when you are entering a URL (Universal Resource Locator), the stuff in the address bar above. It tells your computer that you are retrieving a HyperText document, rather than some other type of file. Web files are written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and HTML files are HyperText documents. HyperText documents are simply ones that enable you to click on "links" which will take you to other locations.

But I never type it in and I always get the web page I want!

Actually, if you look, you will notice that your web browser (Netscape, or Internet Explorer) has put it in for you. There is an exception which is mentioned farther on.

Well, if my browser inserts it, why should I have to type it?

If you are connected to the Internet, try this. Click here which will open a new window. (You'll probally get an error message in the window, don't worry about that) Replace the text in the address bar with        then hit enter. Nothing happens. I've just discovered that Internet Explorer 5.5 puts the http:// in anyway, however most older browsers don't.

Now try it with       Now it works. WHY??

Note: domain names (the part) are not case sensitive; however, the part to the right of the net or com or edu etc. is case sensitive if you are connecting to a UNIX computer.

Look closely at the address line. Notice how it now has the http:// in front of the domain name? Unless some setting is telling the browser not to show it, (such as "show friendly URLs") but believe me, it's there.

If you include the www, your web browser is doing part of the work for you and assumes you want a web document, then it proceedes to insert the http:// for you.

So why didn't it work the first time?

This answer requires an bit of understanding of domain name syntax. (Internet computer grammar)

You read Internet addresses from the right to the left starting with what is called the root domain. The root domain is the com   net   edu   gov   uk   au   etc. The domain is the part just to the left of the root,   CowboyFrank   Microsoft   AOL   or what ever, and is separated from the root by a dot. Then you have the sub domain which comes just to the left of the domain and is separated by another dot,   www,   hometown   members.   In some cases you may have even more sub domain extensions to the left, each separated by a dot.

Here are some of the above combinations in examples.

The part of the address to the right of the root domain is the location and name (within the particular computer you are connecting to) of the specific file you are retrieving . The file name and location is separated from the root domain with a forward slash /, and may include sub directories. The page you are now looking at is     Another one is

My domain name is     It is not

When you type in a URL, or address, the combinations of root domain, domain, and sub domain, are pointing to a specific computer somewhere in the world. It's actually a bit more complicated than that but this will suffice for our discussion. If you have included a sub domain, you may be pointing to a different computer than if you only use the domain.

In some cases, as in my case, and both point to the same place. In other cases they point to different computers.

In the following examples, is the domain, and community-2 is a sub domain. If you type in,
you will get a different page from a different computer than if you type in

Now for why you should type in that stupid   http://

When you retrieve a web page from the Internet, you are actually getting it from a piece of software called a web server. Web servers generally deliver "HyperText" documents. Any given domain can be running not only a web server, but other kinds of server software protocols. Common examples are "FTP" (File Transfer Protocol), "SMIL" (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language), "RM" (Real Media), and many others.

Most web servers are configured in such a way that if you ask for an http type file, and don't specify a specific file name, the server will automatically send you one called index.htm, or home.htm, or any of several variations thereof. So if you type in   the server knows you are requesting a HyperText document and you will get the file located at

Now to finally answer the question

If you don't include the http://, and you don't specify the exact file location and name, the computer you are connecting to doesn't know whether you want a HyperText file, or an RM file, or an FTP file, or some other kind of file. In the case of   the computer on the other end doesn't know what to send you, so you get nothing.

If the sub domain of www doesn't happen to be the same computer as the primary domain, then you either won't get a document at all or you may get a different one than expected.

So it really is a good idea to get in the habit of typing in the http://

p.s. to those of you in the know, yes I realize this isn't exactly correct, but I tried to make it simple for those who aren't.
Survey started on 09-06-00
Results as of end of survey ~2001
Was this page interesting?  47 Yes 05 No 05 Wake me up when it's over. 
Will you start typing in the http://?  22 Yes 17 No 12 Only if you lasso me and break me, SIR!
Did you learn anyting?  59 Yes 02 No 04 Your kidding, me learn anything?
Do you think I'm full of it?  11 Yes 16 No 07 Clean out your stable!
Info began 12-11-00
Which Continent
28North America 02South America
07Europe 00Asia
02Africa 00Australia
00Antarctica 00International Space Station