Chapter 2. Web Basics

Three things made the Web possible: HTML for encoding documents, HTTP for transferring them, and URLs for identifying them. To fetch and extract information from web pages, you must know all three—you construct a URL for the page you wish to fetch, make an HTTP request for it and decode the HTTP response, then parse the HTML to extract information. This chapter covers the construction of URLs and the concepts behind HTTP. HTML parsing is tricky and gets its own chapters later, as does the module that lets you manipulate URLs.

You’ll also learn how to automate the most basic web tasks with the LWP::Simple module. As its name suggests, this module has a very simple interface. You’ll learn the limitations of that interface and see how to use other LWP modules to fetch web pages without the limitations of LWP::Simple.


A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the address of something on the Web. For example:

URLs have a structure, given in RFC 2396. That RFC runs to 40 pages, largely because of the wide variety of things for which you can construct URLs. Because we are interested only in HTTP and FTP URLs, the components of a URL, with the delimiters that separate them, are:


In the case of our example URL, the scheme is http, the server is, and the path is /news/bikeweek_day1.html.

This is an FTP URL:

The scheme is ftp, the host is ...

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