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Tim Berners-Lee Is Sorry About the Slashes

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the as-long-as-he's-proud-of-the-dots dept.

The Internet 620

Stony Stevenson writes "A light has been shone on one of the great mysteries of the internet. What is the point of the two forward slashes that sit directly in front of the 'www' in every internet website address? The answer, according to Tim Berners-Lee, who had an important role in the creation of the web, is that there isn't one. Berners-Lee revisited that design decision during a recent talk with Paul Mohr of the NY Times when Mohr asked if he would do any differently, given the chance. 'Look at all the paper and trees, he said, that could have been saved if people had not had to write or type out those slashes on paper over the years — not to mention the human labor and time spent typing those two keystrokes countless millions of times in browser address boxes.'"

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Theres one technical point (5, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743463)

From technical point of view, *not* having the // could create problems more easily. For example if you include port number in the URL and browser or program tries to look at what protocol it is based on value before first :

http://tech.slashdot.org:80/story/09/10/14/1219215/Tim-Berners-Lee-Is-Sorry-About-the-Slashes
http:tech.slashdot.org:80/story/09/10/14/1219215/Tim-Berners-Lee-Is-Sorry-About-the-Slashes
Now if you dont write that http: in browser:
tech.slashdot.org:80/story/09/10/14/1219215/Tim-Berners-Lee-Is-Sorry-About-the-Slashes

Now the browser would think the protocol is tech.slashdot.org and tries to pass it to a responsible program instead of loading it. This means you would now need to actually type in the http: which none of us do now. Or dropping general URI support from browsers and IM windows and any other programs (you know all those irc:// spotify: and so on URI's). Or then typing in the :80 would be mandatory.

Re:Theres one technical point (4, Insightful)

redhog (15207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743521)

Or remove support for ports and use SRV records to find the port. Which would have saved us tons of work with named virtual hosts, and allowed us to run multiple SSL sites on the same IP...

Re:Theres one technical point (2, Interesting)

redhog (15207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743565)

But, thinking of that.... many many pieces of software allows you to write URLs directly in a body of text, no tags needed, and finds the URLs and turns them into links, but searching for "://". So, what would you regexp for if all you had was a ":"? Normal text quite often does contain colons....

Re:Theres one technical point (5, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743723)

Don't be an ass. Using ports allows someone to set up an ah-hoc server for testing or whatever easily. The last thing they want to do is dick about having to update DNS's bastard child before they can access it from the browser.

Re:Theres one technical point (3, Insightful)

andymadigan (792996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743921)

What if I just want to run an HTTP server on a non-standard port for development? Not everyone is running a DNS server, nor should DNS records need to be changed so often.

How would it allow named virtual hosts? The only thing you have at the network layer is the IP address that the message was sent to, that's why HTTPS virtual hosts is difficult to implement.

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744069)

allowed us to run multiple SSL sites on the same IP

If all your SSL sites are for a single domain, it's possible to use VirtualHosts and a wildcard certificate to host multiple SSL sites on a single IP.

The restriction is one certificate per IP, rather than one site per IP.

Re:Theres one technical point (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743775)

Try it, it works. The parser correctly identifies tech.slashdot.org as the host name. It even works with single component domain names. The only case which needs disambiguation is when you have a local host name (i.e. no ".") and it happens to be the same as one of the known protocol names. In that case, //name/path is a working disambiguation, but really, is that easier than prefixing http:? Even if you consider that //name/path is awfully close to \\name\path, which is something else entirely?

On the other hand: Who types http:// anyway? Most programs which turn text into clickable URLs look for www.* (which btw. is one of the reasons for not omitting www from the URL although it is technically not necessary either.) Besides, people type everything into the Google (Yahoo, Bing) search box these days, even HTTPS URLs.

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743993)

On the other hand: Who types http:/// [http] anyway? Most programs which turn text into clickable URLs look for www.* (which btw. is one of the reasons for not omitting www from the URL although it is technically not necessary either.)

Don't I know it! How many times have I been thankful that whoever owns www.localhost.com hasn't sprayed advertising all over the homepage? If I try to connect to a local server, but it hasn't started correctly, the browser helpfully redirects me to this site. If it were me, I would advertise Apache for Dummies there; so if someone from contactprivacy.com (the registered owners) is reading this: Thanks!

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

Pvt_Ryan (1102363) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743857)

I love the way the whole 1st linked article implies that "www" is required before every address.

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

maharg (182366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744037)

yeah, http://www.news.news.com/ [news.com] :o) and you have to say "double-u, double-u, double-u" out in full !!!

Re:Theres one technical point... not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743903)

> From technical point of view, *not* having the // could create problems more easily.

No, it's completely and utterly useless. I don't understand how this got rated interesting when any decent parser can tokenise a given HTTP address without the protocol prefix. Where the prefix format matters is reliable URL detection in normal text, but even here http: would be as sufficient as mailto: (which doesn't need slashes). There is no technical reason, it could have saved us a lot of time explaining people web addresses.

I think Sir Tim Berners-Lee describes it quite good: there really was no reason for double slashes... it seemed like a good idea at its time.

Cheers /M

Re:Theres one technical point... not really (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744033)

I don't understand how this got rated interesting when any decent parser can tokenise a given HTTP address without the protocol prefix. Where the prefix format matters is reliable URL detection in normal text, but even here http: would be as sufficient as mailto: (which doesn't need slashes). There is no technical reason, it could have saved us a lot of time explaining people web addresses.

Only way that kind of parser can detect its an http url then is to look at www.something.com. www prefix obviously isn't required, and many sites have different subdomains (like tech.slashdot.org - which wouldn't get parsed as http link).

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

3247 (161794) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743941)

tech.slashdot.org:80/story/09/10/14/1219215/Tim-Berners-Lee-Is-Sorry-About-the-Slashes

Now the browser would think the protocol is tech.slashdot.org and tries to pass it to a responsible program instead of loading it. This means you would now need to actually type in the http: which none of us do now.

Who is typing the '//', then?

Safari 4 on Mac OS actually interprets //tech.slashdot.org:80/story/09/10/14/1219215/Tim-Berners-Lee-Is-Sorry-About-the-Slashes as file:///tech.slashdot.org/story/09/10/14/1219215/Tim-Berners-Lee-Is-Sorry-About-the-Slashes, which is useless.

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743985)

So use a different syntax, like

http:example.com/path/to/file.txt
With option to use alternative syntax like:
http:[example.com:80]/path/to/file.txt
or
http:example.com@80/path/to/file.txt
or
http:example.com/80//path/to/file.txt

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

devjoe (88696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744023)

For similar reasons, the // is also necessary to ensure all types of relative URLs within HTML pages can be distinguished. It would still be possible to have relative URLs without it, but certain types of relative URLs would not be allowed.

Re:Theres one technical point (1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744031)

What?

How the hell does that make sense?

Your examples clear have a : separating the protocol and address. Without the protocol specified, it will default to http, as it does now. Considering that whatever you type in a webbrowser is really only going to be using http or tls/ssl, then there is no need to specifiy the protocol, unless it is something else, like rss or whatever.

Likewise, outside of a browser, the relevant programs will be used and the protocol to use will be obvious or can easily be specified.

The slashes have no merits, and nor does your example.

From the year 2022 (5, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743467)

I used my time modem to login to the Internet3 in 2022 and pulled this review from cdweggbuy (yes, that's a full URL because people thought it was ok to remove gTLDs and also got rid of that pesky http:/// [http] for a VeriLogiSoft Computer Interface device. But of course I got infected by a future virus because my Firefox plugin that matches malicious content didn't know how to identify as a URL.

Ok back to the present.

The problem with letting people have what they want is that the majority of people don't understand why things are the way they are. Tim made the right choice,
he just feels that it is wrong now because he's had to hear people complain about it for the past 15-20 years. But when it comes down to it you need some parts of a URL to indicate what something is.

Re:From the year 2022 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743593)

protocol:host[:port]/path is unambiguous, considering that the colon can not appear in the protocol part or the host name. It might be easier to hand-craft a parser to look for the // than a parser which needs to tell the components of a URL apart with just colons for separators, but a properly generated parser works with both and is no more complicated either way.

Re:From the year 2022 (1)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743669)

Ok, but can we just drop protocol: then and not have the / between host and path? I don't want to type in slashes at all.

See what my point is now?

Re:From the year 2022 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743839)

Whatever it is that you take in the future, pass it around.

Re:From the year 2022 (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743923)

Rubbish. More / are needed. Maybe even some backslashes.

http://org/slashdot/tech/article.pl/sid=09 [org] \10\14\1219215

Such perfection! You drill down from the root. Also see:

file:/home/hattig/filename.txt

Works! Lovely.

Of course you'd have to stick the port elsewhere:

http:8080/com/example/www/news/2009101414450 [8080]

and finding the entire hostname versus folders/files would be difficult for http URLs as the / delimiter is used throughout. You could use dotted notation:

https:443/com.example.www/news/2009101414450 [443]

Or make DNS return the longest match for the entire URL.

All academic of course, and probably with just as many problems down the line.

Re:From the year 2022 (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743937)

Have an even mildly intelligent system that assumes of the first field is not a recognizable protocol it must be the address? It wouldn't be that hard. Computers make guesses about what we want all the time. Pretending for a moment that I have an earlier version of Firefox without the Awesome Bar (which is actually just a more advanced version of what I'm talking about anyway), and I type "slashdot" into the address bar. Firefox sees that I have typed an invalid url and says:

"Hmmm. He probably wants to use http since I'm a web browser. Most of the urls in the world end with ".com" so he probably means http://slashdot.com/ [slashdot.com] "

It then tries that url and I get to /. If http://slashdot.com/ [slashdot.com] isn't a valid url, it also looks at slashdot.org (which in this case would also work) and slashdot.net. It also tries all three with "www" in front of them if none of the bare urls work. Finally, it tries all the valid country code TLDs for the country it believes itself to be in. It may even try all of that for the ftp protocol too, I'm not sure.

Since most operating systems and even a lot of software have a list of protocols that they recognize, it would be trivial for a browser to look at a url and decide whether the first field is a protocol it can deal with or not, then act accordingly.

Re:From the year 2022 (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743899)

Yeah, it was unambiguous last week when I typed ned:8080 and an nntp client started up. I then had to tell the oh so helpful browser that I wanted http://ned8080./ [ned8080.] ned, news: close enough. Granted it was IE, so there are worse things it could have done.

Re:From the year 2022 (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743769)

I love that a post that begins "I used my time modem..." can be modded as Insightful. God bless you, you crazy mods.

Funny vs. Insightful (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743905)

I love that a post that begins "I used my time modem..." can be modded as Insightful. God bless you, you crazy mods.

And crazier Slashdot admins. Because they want to discourage smart-ass comments [slashdot.org] , "Funny" gives no karma on slashdot.org. An alternating sequence of "Funny" and the allegedly M2-proof "Overrated" quickly drains a poster's karma. "Insightful", on the other hand, invites no such danger.

ObTopic: Without the slashes, Slashdot would have been called something else.

Just for the looks? (1)

kill-1 (36256) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743491)

I think they look pretty cool and techy

Re:Just for the looks? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743655)

Were they supposed to serve another purpose?

Re:Just for the looks? (1)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743949)

Definitely. Can you think of anything more techie than saying "Okay, now browse to http colon slash slash slash dot dot org dot slash on your Apple slash slash e"? I can't.

yes (4, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743497)

not to mention the human labor and time spent typing those two keystrokes countless millions of times in browser address boxes.'

Has anyone had to do that since NINETEEN NINETY FOUR? Is Berners-Lee still using Mosaic or something?

Re:yes (2, Informative)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743563)

There are a number of https websites I have used/use that (for whatever reason) don't automatically redirect if you simply type the web-address. Hence you have to manually type "https://..." to get the secure site.

Redirector Firefox add-on (1)

xororand (860319) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743725)

You could use the Redirector [mozilla.org] add-on for Firefox for these situations. It allows you to automatically search & replace URLs with regular expressions. Example:

Include pattern: http://www/\.)?tunnelbroker\.net/(.*)
Redirect to: https://tunnelbroker.net/$2

Re:Redirector Firefox add-on (1)

xororand (860319) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743761)

Slashdot broke my quote... I'll try again:

Include pattern: http:/ /(www\.)?tunnelbroker\.net/(.*)
Redirect to: https://tunnelbroker.net/$2

Mosaic? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743765)

Has anyone had to do that since NINETEEN NINETY FOUR? Is Berners-Lee still using Mosaic or something?

Real nerds browse with telnet to port 80.... You should know that....

Re:Mosaic? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743975)

In that case you don't need the http:/// [http] Hence you are readining the protocall.

Re:yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29744045)

Sir! In order to preserve your sanity, you have concealed from your friends and colleagues your familiarity with the electronical arts.

This was no modest undertaking, yet you have deceived without effort all who asked "Do I need to type in this bit?" and emerged triumphant and untroubled by their eternal protocolic queries.

Your humble servant requests that he become your disciple and learn the Way of the Unknown URI Syntax, and tear from himself the burdened title of free support guy.

Re:yes (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744053)

A number of ISP have taking to breaking that kind of functionality - at least in Canada, Rogers and Bell do it, and half the time redirect you to their stupid search portal.

It's time to... (2, Funny)

Firemouth (1360899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743505)

... get your pitchforks and torches! We've finally found the guy responsible for those satanic slashes!!!

to think .. (5, Funny)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743511)

.. we could've had colondot instead of slashdot! I like it!

Re:to think .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743587)

And given the amount of crap lately, it would have been more appropriate.

Your Colon (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743863)

Your colon is like a big series of tubes. And if you send too many big meals down it at the same time it can get clogged up. Apologies to a certain Alaskan politician.

Re:to think .. (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743771)

colondot

You should get that looked at.

Re:to think .. (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743927)

Colondot: IT Stinks Sometimes

backslashdot (5, Insightful)

thhamm (764787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743531)

Nah. Slashes are fine, but Microsoft should be sorry about backslashes!

yeah and (1)

objekt (232270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743797)

we still have people right now saying "H-T-T-P colon backslash backslash"

Re:backslashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743859)

Backslashes are a nightmare to type on foreign keyboard layouts (I've got first-hand experience with Finnish, you've got to press control-alt-+ so typing in especially long Windows pathnames becomes a nightmare)

Re:backslashdot (4, Interesting)

syrinx (106469) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743873)

I'm pretty sure they are sorry about that. I can't remember who it was, Paul Allen maybe? But one of the early MS programmers said once that he hugely regretted using / for switches in DOS 1.0. When they added directories in a later version, / was already taken so they had to use \ instead.

Re:backslashdot (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29744055)

Paul Allen was the early Microsofty who escaped with some of his soul intact, so it was probably him who regretted it.

Re:backslashdot (2, Interesting)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743935)

Well, they added directories in MS-DOS 2 and had already used forward slashes for switches in MS-DOS 1, so what could they do? Can someone older than me confirm that they 'researched' the slash for switches from CPM?

Just think if he had left them out ... (3, Funny)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743537)

We'd all be reading colondot right now.

Re:Just think if he had left them out ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743731)

And here I thought /. was some sort of reference to the root directory. I just learned something. Yay! This changes my life!

pronouncing www is a lot more of a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743557)

Most people never pronounced the //. They would just give an address as www.google.com where the first 3 letters take more time to spell than all the rest.

Re:pronouncing www is a lot more of a problem (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743601)

Atleast in here they never pronounce www. in tv or radio, they just say the website address like slashdot.org

Re:pronouncing www is a lot more of a problem (5, Funny)

red_kenotic (842553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743651)

Every time I set-up a sub-domain for work I always have to tell my boss "http://subdomain." out loud first, in the hope that he'll not prefix "www".

Sometimes he still just does both, then asks me why it isn't working. This results in a lengthy conversation where we're both saying "http colon slash slash" and "www" to each other. Makes me want to stab him in the face.

Re:pronouncing www is a lot more of a problem (2, Insightful)

PAjamian (679137) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743909)

better idea: Just alias the www version and it won't matter if the boss (or anyone else for that matter) confuses it that way.

No problemo.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743561)

No one types them anyways. All of the browsers automatically throw the default http syntax in.

No effort lost. As for trees, well, I think disposable diapers are more to blame than double forward slashes.

Now, if TBL was responsible for the trash heap madness caused by diapers and by Java, then we would have something to blame him for.

Re:No problemo.. (3, Informative)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743575)

No one types them anyways. All of the browsers automatically throw the default http syntax in.

Except web-developers you insensitive clod!

Slashdot (5, Funny)

cffrost (885375) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743577)

So we could be called "Colondotters?" No thanks.

Re:Slashdot (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743603)

Better than colonslashers I suppose...

Re:Slashdot (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743605)

So we could be called "Colondotters?" No thanks.

When have you ever seen /. in a URL?

What are you smoking and can I have some?

Re:Slashdot (4, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743663)

On an interesting sidenote, if you type in url /. in Opera it goes to slashdot.

Re:Slashdot (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743743)

When have you ever seen /. in a URL?

Sure: click here [goatse.fr]

Re:Slashdot (1)

PAjamian (679137) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743971)

You seem to have missed the joke. This will help [slashdot.org]

Re:Slashdot (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743695)

So we could be called "Colondotters?" No thanks.

As in "the red dot at the end of the colon"? Bring it on!

Time wasted explaining a slash vs. backslash (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743585)

Not to mention all the time wasted trying to explain to people the difference between a slash and a backslash.

Re:Time wasted explaining a slash vs. backslash (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744009)

I end up saying 'the one that lives with the question mark.' And then I find out I'm supporting a foreign keyboard. Not quite as bad as the laptop with German keyboard, Spanish Windows and English mail client I had to support. It messed with my head.

So Who's Apologizing for 'ttp' ? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743589)

Doesn't the same logic hold for the person that decided it should be 'http' for hypertext transfer protocol and not just simply 'h'? Yes, http is more descriptive but unnecessary. Had another protocol came along starting with 'h' they could have opted for another letter or -- if they were all taken -- became a two letter protocol. I mean, if we're going to get into pedantic apologies for lack of brevity I would assume the three unnecessary letters in http are a greater crime than the double slashes, right? Of course, rarely do I find myself typing anything other than the domain and TLD (i.e. slashdot.org, mail.google.com, woot.com) so this has really become a non-issue.

Re:So Who's Apologizing for 'ttp' ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743709)

4 me s ok

Re:So Who's Apologizing for 'ttp' ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743889)

the worst offender of all is the 'w' in spoken web addresses. I know several attempts have been made, but can we change it to 'globe girdling grid' or something?

... it seemed like a good idea at the time... (4, Funny)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743609)

There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time. he said.

If the human race is ever brought before a court to account for itself, that's going to be its entire defence. Nuclear power, the Internet, ID cards, ... that excuse works for everything!

Re:... it seemed like a good idea at the time... (1)

Anonymusing (1450747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743657)

In fact, my four-year-old has a t-shirt which says exactly this. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Re:... it seemed like a good idea at the time... (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743685)

I assume you always pick the right decision yourself then...

Come on man, humanity chooses wrong paths all the time with the best of intentions, because none of us (apart from you apparently) can predict the future. We do our best to evaluate the future results of our actions, but our foreknowledge is always sketchy at best.

Saving energy (2, Insightful)

twoblink (201439) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743633)

If microsoft set the default screen saver to blank in 5 minutes, we'd save billions a year in electricity around the world. The // ain't nothing compared to that.

Just wondering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743637)

Would a t-shirt with two slashes topped by a red circle with a slash through it be considered redundant?

It's interesting (3, Interesting)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743645)

I think it's interesting to be able to talk to someone who picked something that affects so many people on a daily basis. Of course, it's a really tiny effect, but very visible. He could have picked two colons or dollar signs or any random thing. It's not often you get to make a decision that ends up being used globally.

Stupid story (1, Insightful)

mgessner (46612) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743649)

It doesn't matter a rat's ass.

Pick up any browser, type in www.yahoo.com.

Does it get there? Sure!

If you're worried about all the time spent typing, store the stupid text in a document that you cut and paste! (Yes, this will take more time, showing even more how stupid this whole thing is.)

Store a stupid bookmark. Then you only have to type https://blah.blah.blah/ [blah.blah] one time.

Get a life.

Re:Stupid story (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744029)

Most browsers will let you just type in yahoo and give you the same result. AOL keywords for you and me too.

I thought there was a point to the two slashes (4, Interesting)

magloca (1404473) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743675)

Back when I wrote a thesis on dissemination of company-internal information via the world-wide web, in 1994 or so, I remember stating that originally, an indication of which network protocol to use was meant to go between the slashes. But since, in the real world, the network protocol was always TCP/IP, this was made the default and whatever was once put between the slashes was dropped.

Of course, I don't remember the source or anything.

Re:I thought there was a point to the two slashes (2, Interesting)

mrpacmanjel (38218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743933)

As far as I understand, it was never envisioned that users would actually type "http://www.whatever.com" in an "address bar", users were not supposed to see this at all - it was purely to be used by software and mark-up pages to specifiy the protocol.

Re:I thought there was a point to the two slashes (3, Informative)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744011)

I remember stating that originally, an indication of which network protocol to use was meant to go between the slashes.

I don't think so, since the double slashes only apply to Internet schemes anyway. RFC1738 says:

//<user>:<password>@<host>:<port>/<url-path>

      Some or all of the parts "<user>:<password>@", ":<password>",
      ":<port>", and "/<url-path>" may be excluded. The scheme specific
      data start with a double slash "//" to indicate that it complies with
      the common Internet scheme syntax.

But if you find another reference, please let me know.

Saying double u double u double u a billion times (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743691)

I had occasion to have an email conversation with Berners-Lee at one time (he bought a license for a program of mine), and I asked if he regretted choosing "www" instead of "web". I was very surprised that this was not something he'd change if he could do the whole thing over ...

Saying "double u double u double u" takes about twice as long as saying "web" so that would have been far more beneficial than worrying about the slashes.

There was a bit of a drive to use "web" some years ago, but unfortunately that fizzled..

Re:Saying double u double u double u a billion tim (4, Insightful)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743867)

Saying 'www' might be slower, but typing 'www' is much faster. Which one do you do more often?

Re:Saying double u double u double u a billion tim (2, Interesting)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744065)

I actually don't think it is! You can (and almost certainly do) use more than one finger to type web, so the speed with which it can be typed isn't related at all to how quickly you can move your fingers. By the time the W is pressed, you should've already been moving to the E in anticipation of having to type it, etc.

WWW on the other hand is limited by how quickly (and accurately) you can move one finger up and down.

Here's another demonstration: see how quickly you can tap out a repetitive rhythm with just one finger. Now try it alternating between two fingers. See?

Re:Saying double u double u double u a billion tim (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744067)

I call bullshit.

WWW is no quicker to type than web, and in fact web is more natural to type quickly because may hands can pre-prepare the "e" and "b" while I'm still pressing the "w" and I think that's the same for anyone who's done any decent amount of typing in their lives (i.e. almost everyone over the age of 18 by now!)

I think web is a better idea, in retrospect, but I can't remember the last time I typed www either - it comes naturally and I don't even notice, but http:/// [http] is still a pain in the bum to speak over the phone, especially when people aren't used to the syntax.

DNS (5, Insightful)

redhog (15207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743747)

What I wonder is why the designers of DNS put the name in reverse? If the name had been in most-significant-first order, one could have tabcompleted it properly (using history and maybe zonetransfers of smaller zones). Also, if http had included a way to get _parsable_ directory listings, the tab-completion could have gone even further...

http://edu.wu<TAB>
http://edu.wustl
http://edu.wustl.wu<TAB>
http://edu.wustl.wuarchive
http://edu.wustl.wuarchive/p<TAB>l<TAB>d<TAB>f<TAB>
http://edu.wustl.wuarchive/pub/linux/distributions/fedora

gopher, wais (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743763)

At the time there was also gopher and WAIS- both of which were supported by mosaic. The protocol was necessary to differentiate.

POSIX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743783)

In POSIX, file names starting with two slashes are special. One slash or even three slashes mean the root of the filesystem, but two slashes can mean something else (for instance, they can be followed by a server name). You see a leftover of that in Windows (only with backslashes instead of slashes), where a single backslash means the root of the current drive but two slashes are followed by a server name (or some even more obscure things).

So, I would guess he just used the same special meaning, only with a protocol in the front.

That and saying "backslash" (1)

kriston (7886) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743789)

To think of all the time wasted on the radio saying "double-ewe double-ewe double-ewe" on top of idiots calling them "backslash" instead of "slash," the web has eaten away hundreds of decades of man-hours each year.

Re:That and saying "backslash" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29744013)

Do it like the newsealanders: dub-dub-dub. Fast'n'easy.

Now explain triple-slashes (2)

objekt (232270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743825)

like when I open a local file in my browser I get "file:///"

Re:Now explain triple-slashes (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743961)

I believe the third slash represents the root of the filesystem, so the base / in *nix, and whatever you would say is the parent of C:\ in Windows.

Re:Now explain triple-slashes (1)

gomek-ramek (1340625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744027)

file:// indicates the protocol. The third slash indicates that it is an absolute path.

Am I missing something here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743837)

So the author of TFA knows nothing about web addresses, or else he would not pretend that they all start with "www", a subdomain that has been totally superfluous ever since servers learned to redirect requests by protocol. But Tim Berners-Lee of all people? How could he not remember that the two slashes stand for root, and that omitting them would make the address relative? Not to mention that a colon is also used between username and password before the hostname, and before hostname and port number, so the slashes cannot be omitted without making the whole syntax ambiguous. But maybe I'm just humorless.

There was a point, but never used (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29743893)

It is explained by TBL at http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/FAQ.html#etc

"I wanted the syntax of the URI to separate the bit which the web browser has to know about (www.example.com) from the rest (the opaque string which is blindly requested by the client from the server). Within the rest of the URI, slashes (/) were the clear choice to separate parts of a hierarchical system, and I wanted to be able to make a link without having to know the name of the service (www.example.com) which was publishing the data. The relative URI syntax is just unix pathname syntax reused without apology. Anyone who had used unix would find it quite obvious. Then I needed an extension to add the service name (hostname). In fact this was similar to the problem the Apollo domain system had had when they created a network file system. They had extended the filename syntax to allow //computername/file/path/as/usual. So I just copied Apollo. Apollo was a brand of unix workstation."

I don't believe him (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743915)

With all due respect to Sir Berners-Lee, I think he's fibbing. If, indeed, it "seemed like a good idea at the time," then he had some purpose in mind when he came up with them. I don't for a minute believe that he just randomly decided to drop some punctuation in because, hell, why not?

I think his purpose might have been embarrassingly dumb and he's covering it up.

Re:I don't believe him (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744057)

The real reason is even more shameful. Secretly, in the twisted fantasies that he wouldn't tell even a shrink or a priest about, Sir Berners-Lee wishes that he had based the WWW on AOL keywords, rather than URLS. This "sorry about the slashes" stuff is just testing the water...

www (1)

EricX2 (670266) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743967)

Was he also the guy who decided on WWW? That takes too long to say, why not AAA or VVV or any other letter that doesn't take three syllables to say. World Wide Web... what were they thinking?

Backslash (1)

cafn8ed (264155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29743983)

My biggest problem with the slashes is the number of people (especially in the mainstream press) who call them backslashes. Drives me up a wall.

Ah, NOW I understand God's last message! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29744041)

To Marvin the Robot: We apologize for the inconvenience.

Sorry about WHAT? (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29744063)

I like slashes. I like them a lot. Especially the Buffy/Faith variety. Only loserboy nerds can't handle slashes. That's why we beat them up and you can guess the rest.

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