What is URL Encoding?
URL encoding, also known as percent encoding, is a method used to represent reserved and non-ASCII characters in URLs. Since URLs can only contain a limited set of characters, URL encoding ensures that all characters can be safely embedded in a URL without causing issues.
How Does It Work?
URL encoding replaces unsafe or reserved characters with a percentage sign (`%`) followed by two hexadecimal digits. For instance, a space, which is not allowed in a URL, is encoded as `%20`. This way, characters that have special meanings in URLs, like `?`, `&`, and `#`, or characters not in the standard ASCII set, can be safely included.
Common Use Cases:
- Query Strings: When sending data in the URL, like in search queries, URL encoding ensures the data doesn't interfere with the URL's structure.
- Special Characters: For URLs that need to include characters like spaces, symbols, or non-English letters, URL encoding makes it possible.
- Consistent URLs: URL encoding ensures URLs look and work the same way across different systems and browsers.
While URL encoding is essential for creating functional URLs, it's not a form of encryption. Encoded data can be easily decoded, so sensitive information should not be sent directly in URLs, even if it's encoded.