URL encoding, also referred to as percent-encoding, is the process of replacing certain characters in a URL with the percent character "%" followed by two hexadecimal digits. This substitution is done in order to make sure that invalid characters are not passed through to the server, which can cause significant problems. By encoding characters with their URL-friendly counterparts, we are able to make sure that the URL is rendered correctly and properly interpreted by the server.
URL encoded characters will remain intact when passed to the server, meaning that any special characters or non-alpha-numeric characters do not have to be escaped in order for the server to interpret them correctly. For example, when a space character is encountered in a URL, it will be replaced by "%20" in the URL encoding scheme. Any characters outside the allowable a-zA-Z0-9./- set will be encoded, ensuring their safe passage.
URL encoding is a necessary step when creating a valid URL, and provides an additional layer of security and reliability. By explicitly defining how characters are interpreted in a URL, any potential conflicts are averted and ensure proper communication between the web server and web clients.
URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) use a defined set of unreserved and reserved ASCII characters which must adhere to the specifications outlined in RFC 3986. Any characters outside of this set are not permitted. Reserved characters are those which can sometimes have special meaning, while unreserved characters have no such meaning. If an otherwise not allowed character is required, it can be represented using percent-encoding, also known as URL encoding. Knowing which characters are allowed and which ones must be encoded, allows for the proper and successful use of URLs in various circumstances.
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