Vishful thinking…

URL & URI What’s the difference?

Posted in Uncategorized by viswaug on December 3, 2008

I am going to attempt to highlight the difference between URLs and URIs the way I see it. I am sure the purist might disagree with my take on it. So here goes nothing…

URI – Uniform Resource Identifier – This identifies a resource uniquely. The identifier used could optionally contain the location and the name or not. Ok, you have read that before…what does it really mean? Here is how I see it.

Take ISBN number for instance. It helps you identify the book uniquely. Let’s assume you are interested in the book with the ISBN number ‘ISBN-10: 0596519206′. Using an ISBN number you can confirm as to whether any book you are looking at is the book you are interested in. But using the number, you cannot get access to the book, you can only confirm whether you have found the book or not. This doesn’t mean that an URI cannot tell you how to access the resource also or not, but it SHOULD at least let you differentiate that resource from all others.

URL – Uniform Resource Locator – This lets you know how to get access to that particular resource. In most cases, URI is contained as a sub-part within the URL. URL contains not just the resource identifying information (URI) but also the resource locating information. Well, take for example, the above book resource, a URL for the book could be ‘‘. Here you can see that the ISBN number (URI) is contained as a part of the URL. But the URL also provides you more information that lets you gain access to it. Like, it lets you know that the resource can be accessed on the ‘World Wide Web’ via the HTTP protocol at the Amazon address using the ISBN number.


That said, I would also like to add that the two terms URL and URI are used so interchangeably these days that the subtle difference really doesn’t have a lot of significance.