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What is URL Encoding?

URL encoding, also known as percent encoding, is a technique used to represent special characters and non-ASCII characters in URLs and query parameters. URLs are designed to work with a limited set of characters, so any characters outside this set must be encoded to ensure proper transmission and interpretation by web browsers and servers.

The process of URL encoding involves replacing each non-ASCII and reserved character with a '%' sign followed by two hexadecimal digits representing the ASCII code of the character. Reserved characters include symbols like spaces, question marks, and ampersands that have special meanings in URLs.

Here are a few examples of URL encoding:

                    Space (' ') -> %20
                    Question Mark ('?') -> %3F
                    Ampersand ('&') -> %26

URL encoding is commonly used when:

  • Passing data via query parameters in a URL.
  • Including special characters in a URL, such as file names.
  • Submitting form data with non-ASCII characters.

For example, consider a URL that includes a search query with spaces and special characters:

                    Original URL: https://example.com/search?q=my search query&category=electronics
                    Encoded URL: https://example.com/search?q=my%20search%20query%26category%3Delectronics

The original URL is URL encoded to ensure that the spaces and the ampersand are correctly interpreted by the web server and the browser.

URL encoding is a crucial aspect of web development, as it ensures that data is correctly transmitted and interpreted in URLs and avoids any potential issues caused by special characters and non-ASCII characters. Programming languages and web frameworks often provide functions or methods to perform URL encoding and decoding operations automatically.

Keep in mind that URL encoding is not the same as HTML encoding, which is used to represent special characters within HTML documents. URL decoding is the process of converting a URL-encoded string back to its original form, allowing web servers and applications to correctly interpret the data.

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