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What is the Address Bar?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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The address bar is the narrow text field at the top of a Web browser where the currently displayed website address appears. It is also called the Universal Resource Locator (URL).

Website addresses that appear in the address bar start with http://, which tells the browser that the page is written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML). If visiting a site to download files via File Transfer Protocol (FTP), the address in the bar will start with ftp://. The Web browser can also be used like a file manager to look at hard drive files. In this case, the address bar is used to navigate to the file by starting with C:\, or the drive of choice.

Surfers get around the Web by clicking on active links that automatically paste the destination address into the Web’s address bar for them. Another way to surf is to type an address into the bar manually. If there is a typo, the Web browser will either show an error page, or if a domain was purchased as typed, the browser will take you to that page. Often, misspelled Web addresses are purchased by third parties to redirect traffic to an unintended site. Phishing scams employ a similar technique, using an alternate spelling of a legitimate site to trick people into giving them personal information.

Websites that offer free anonymous surfing provide their own address bar for surfers. The surfer must enter the destination Web address into the special bar provided by the site, rather than into his or her browser’s bar. By using the provided bar, the anonymous service serves as a proxy. It passes all information through to the surfer’s browser while leaving its own tracks across the Web, rather than the surfer’s Internet protocol (IP) address.

It has become popular to have a tiny personalized icon appear in the address bar next to the website address. The icon, called a favicon, is often a company logo. When the site is bookmarked, the favicon will appear in the bookmarks menu as well.

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Discussion Comments

By anon124078 — On Nov 04, 2010

My drop-down menu picked up a delineator icon i.e. looks like two crossed swords, which erase the selected address from the drop-down list when the address is selected. How to eliminate?

By anon53379 — On Nov 20, 2009

how do i keep my web sites in my web browser?

By chaconne — On Sep 07, 2009

My address bar has disappeared. My browser is Firefox. How can I get my address bar back?

By anon26622 — On Feb 16, 2009

You did not mention which browser you use, but all browsers keep a history of websites visited. You can open your history inside the browser and scan it for the site you are looking for. The length of time that a browser keeps the history log can be user-configured. Some people consider history logs a security issue, and configure the browser to purge the logs at the end of each session (i.e. every time the browser is closed). If your setting was left at the default, your history logs probably persist for 30 days or more, assuming your hard drive is not starved for room.

Some browsers can be set to auto-fill the address bar when you start to type, so that if, for example, you enter "br" a drop-down menu will appear with all recently visited websites that began with "br" and as you add more letters, the wesbites change to reflect the new possibilities.

By anon26353 — On Feb 11, 2009

How can I use the address bar to locate a website that I used but don't remember know how I got there?

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