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special character for space in URL

mark I thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 07, 2008
Posts: 86
I know we can use %20 to replace any space character. For example,


But when I use URLEncoder.encode API to encode the parameter values I find it converts space character into "+" instead of %20. When I use "+" to replace the %20 in URL it also works.

So is it true that both "+" and "%20" can be used to replace space char in URL ?
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63053


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Bosun Bello
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 06, 2000
Posts: 1510
The MIME type of the data being encoded plays a role. It may even be browser dependent - application/x-www-form-urlencoded uses + and properly encoded URIs use %20.

So much trouble in the world -- Bob Marley
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63053

There is nothing improper about using + to encode spaces in URLs.
Howard Watson
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 07, 2004
Posts: 56
I've never seen + used in place of %20 in a URL. Decided that since I spent a few minutes thinking on this one to share the references.

RFC 2396:, sections 2.2 and 3.4.

I visualize URI = URL + URN. I think of the query string as a kind of extension to the URI and not part of my HTTP request, the URN located at URL.

A Google of this topic got several hits to the effect that %20 is interchangeable with + in a URL. They all have a similar example URL.

I finally found this:, the section Query strings.

This method was used to make query URIs easier to pass in systems which did not allow spaces.

It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
subject: special character for space in URL
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