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What is the difference between an absolute and a relative URL?

An absolute URL contains more information than a relative URL does. Relative URLs are more convenient because they are shorter and often more portable. However, you can use them only to reference links on the same server as the page that contains them.

Linking with absolute URLs

An absolute URL typically takes the following form:

protocol://domain/path

The protocol is usually http://, but can also be https://, ftp://, gopher://, or file://. The domain is the name of the website. For example, the domain name of Indiana University's central web server is www.indiana.edu. The path includes directory and file information. You must use absolute URLs when referring to links on different servers.

Linking with relative URLs

Relative URLs can take a number of different forms. When referring to a file that occurs in the same directory as the referring page, a URL can be as simple as the name of the file. For example, if you want to create a link in your home page to the file foobar.html, which is in the same directory as your home page, you would use:

<a href="foobar.html">The Wonderful World of Foobar!</a>

If the file you want to link to is in a subdirectory of the referring page's directory, you need to enter only the directory information and the name of the file. So if foobar.html were in the foobar subdirectory of your www directory, you could refer to it from your home page by using:

<a href="foobar/foobar.html">The Wonderful World of Foobar!</a>

If the file you want to link to is in a higher directory than the referring page, use  .. , which means to go up a directory. For example, to link from foobar.html to home.html, which is in the directory above, you would use:

<a href="../home.html">Go back to my home page</a>
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Last modified on March 19, 2013.

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