In the last item on today’s ‘Best of the Web Today’ column in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, the writer draws attention to a gaffe by the US Vice President in which he made reference to ‘a website number’. Presumably, that’s what most people would refer to as a website address, or even a URL.
At the end of this item the writer has a link to what he claims is the website number which, he says, is 3626216940. If you hover the over this link (either here or in the WSJ piece), you ought to see on your browser’s status bar an address: http://188.8.131.52. But what is actually in the link is http://3626216940.
Of course, the 216.35 etc is the fixed address of the website in question (recovery.org). But what’s 3626216940 all about?
The way we specify URLs in numerical terms is a weird hybrid of hexadecimal and decimal notation. In the AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD format, each of those AAA etc is the decimal form of a two digit hexadecimal number. A more sensible representation of the address using actual hexadecimal numbers would be D8.23.AD.EC. Since a two digit hex number can encompass only an integer range from 0 to 255, that’s why you never see an Internet or network address in the hybrid dec/hex format with a value of greater than 255 in any of the four slots.
You can convert this address format to a fully decimal number by adding the least significant (right-most) number, to the next least significant multiplied by 256, to the third least significant multiplied by 256 and again by 256, and so on. Let’s do it:
Copy and paste that expression into a suitable calculator and you will see that the answer is 3626216940, the number mentioned in the WSJ piece.
What I found surprising is that a browser will treat this as a decimal representation of URL.