Quick Look

This section is intended to give the reader a brief overview of the features and interface style of the library.


Sample code and identifiers used throughout are written as if the following declarations are in effect:

#include <boost/url.hpp>
using namespace boost::urls;

We begin by including the library header file which brings all the symbols into scope.

#include <boost/url.hpp>

Alternatively, individual headers may be included to obtain the declarations for specific types.

Boost.URL is a compiled library. You need to link your program with the Boost.URL built library. You must install binaries in a location that can be found by your linker.

If you followed the Boost Getting Started instructions, that’s already been done for you.


Say you have the following URL that you want to parse:

boost::core::string_view s = "https://user:pass@example.com:443/path/to/my%2dfile.txt?id=42&name=John%20Doe+Jingleheimer%2DSchmidt#page%20anchor";

In this example, string_view is an alias to boost::core::string_view, a string_view implementation that is implicitly convertible to std::string_view. The library namespace includes the aliases string_view, error_code, and result.

You can parse the string by calling this function:

boost::system::result<url_view> r = parse_uri( s );

The function parse_uri returns an object of type `result<`url_view`>` which is a container resembling a variant that holds either an error or an object. A number of functions are available to parse different types of URL.

We can immediately call result::value to obtain a url_view.

url_view u = r.value();

Or simply

url_view u = *r;

When there are no errors, result::value returns an instance of url_view, which holds the parsed result. result::value throws an exception on a parsing error.

Alternatively, the functions result::has_value and result::has_error could also be used to check if the string has been parsed without errors.

It is worth noting that parse_uri does not allocate any memory dynamically. Like a string_view, a url_view does not retain ownership of the underlying string buffer.

As long as the contents of the original string are unmodified, constructed URL views always contain a valid URL in its correctly serialized form.

If the input does not match the URL grammar, an error code is reported through result rather than exceptions. Exceptions only thrown on excessive input length.


Accessing the parts of the URL is easy:

url_view u( "https://user:pass@example.com:443/path/to/my%2dfile.txt?id=42&name=John%20Doe+Jingleheimer%2DSchmidt#page%20anchor" );
assert(u.scheme() == "https");
assert(u.authority().buffer() == "user:pass@example.com:443");
assert(u.userinfo() == "user:pass");
assert(u.user() == "user");
assert(u.password() == "pass");
assert(u.host() == "example.com");
assert(u.port() == "443");
assert(u.path() == "/path/to/my-file.txt");
assert(u.query() == "id=42&name=John Doe Jingleheimer-Schmidt");
assert(u.fragment() == "page anchor");

URL paths can be further divided into path segments with the function url_view::segments. Although URL query strings are often used to represent key/value pairs, this interpretation is not defined by rfc3986. Users can treat the query as a single entity. url_view provides the function url_view::params to extract this view of key/value pairs.

  • Code

  • Output

for (auto seg: u.segments())
    std::cout << seg << "\n";
std::cout << "\n";

for (auto param: u.params())
    std::cout << param.key << ": " << param.value << "\n";
std::cout << "\n";

id: 42
name: John Doe Jingleheimer-Schmidt

These functions return views referring to substrings and sub-ranges of the underlying URL. By simply referencing the relevant portion of the URL string internally, its components can represent percent-decoded strings and be converted to other types without any previous memory allocation.

std::string h = u.host();
assert(h == "example.com");

A special string_token type can also be used to specify how a portion of the URL should be encoded and returned.

std::string h = "host: ";
assert(h == "host: example.com");

These functions might also return empty strings

url_view u1 = parse_uri( "http://www.example.com" ).value();

for both empty and absent components

url_view u2 = parse_uri( "http://www.example.com/#" ).value();

Many components do not have corresponding functions such as has_authority to check for their existence. This happens because some URL components are mandatory.

When applicable, the encoded components can also be directly accessed through a string_view without any need to allocate memory:

  • Code

  • Output

std::cout <<
    "url       : " << u                     << "\n"
    "scheme    : " << u.scheme()            << "\n"
    "authority : " << u.encoded_authority() << "\n"
    "userinfo  : " << u.encoded_userinfo()  << "\n"
    "user      : " << u.encoded_user()      << "\n"
    "password  : " << u.encoded_password()  << "\n"
    "host      : " << u.encoded_host()      << "\n"
    "port      : " << u.port()              << "\n"
    "path      : " << u.encoded_path()      << "\n"
    "query     : " << u.encoded_query()     << "\n"
    "fragment  : " << u.encoded_fragment()  << "\n";
url       : https://user:pass@example.com:443/path/to/my%2dfile.txt?id=42&name=John%20Doe+Jingleheimer%2DSchmidt#page%20anchor
scheme    : https
authority : user:pass@example.com:443
userinfo  : user:pass
user      : user
password  : pass
host      : example.com
port      : 443
path      : /path/to/my%2dfile.txt
query     : id=42&name=John%20Doe+Jingleheimer%2DSchmidt
fragment  : page%20anchor


An instance of decode_view provides a number of functions to persist a decoded string:

  • Code

  • Output

decode_view dv("id=42&name=John%20Doe%20Jingleheimer%2DSchmidt");
std::cout << dv << "\n";
id=42&name=John Doe Jingleheimer-Schmidt

decode_view and its decoding functions are designed to perform no memory allocations unless the algorithm where its being used needs the result to be in another container. The design also permits recycling objects to reuse their memory, and at least minimize the number of allocations by deferring them until the result is in fact needed by the application.

In the example above, the memory owned by str can be reused to store other results. This is also useful when manipulating URLs:


If u2.host() returned a value type, then two memory allocations would be necessary for this operation. Another common use case is converting URL path segments into filesystem paths:

  • Code

  • Output

boost::filesystem::path p;
for (auto seg: u.segments())
    p.append(seg.begin(), seg.end());
std::cout << "path: " << p << "\n";
path: "path/to/my-file.txt"

In this example, only the internal allocations of filesystem::path need to happen. In many common use cases, no allocations are necessary at all, such as finding the appropriate route for a URL in a web server:

auto match = [](
    std::vector<std::string> const& route,
    url_view u)
    auto segs = u.segments();
    if (route.size() != segs.size())
        return false;
    return std::equal(

This allows us to easily match files in the document root directory of a web server:

std::vector<std::string> route =
    {"community", "reviews.html"};
if (match(route, u))
    handle_route(route, u);

Compound elements

The path and query parts of the URL are treated specially by the library. While they can be accessed as individual encoded strings, they can also be accessed through special view types.

This code calls encoded_segments to obtain the path segments as a container that returns encoded strings:

  • Code

  • Output

segments_encoded_view segs = u.encoded_segments();
for( auto v : segs )
    std::cout << v << "\n";

As with other url_view functions which return encoded strings, the encoded segments container does not allocate memory. Instead, it returns views to the corresponding portions of the underlying encoded buffer referenced by the URL.

As with other library functions, decode_view permits accessing elements of composed elements while avoiding memory allocations entirely:

  • Code

  • Output

segments_encoded_view segs = u.encoded_segments();

for( pct_string_view v : segs )
    decode_view dv = *v;
    std::cout << dv << "\n";
  • Code

  • Output

params_encoded_view params_ref = u.encoded_params();

for( auto v : params_ref )
    decode_view dk(v.key);
    decode_view dv(v.value);

    std::cout <<
        "key = " << dk <<
        ", value = " << dv << "\n";
key = id, value = 42
key = name, value = John Doe


The library provides the containers url and static_url which supporting modification of the URL contents. A url or static_url must be constructed from an existing url_view.

Unlike the url_view, which does not gain ownership of the underlying character buffer, the url container uses the default allocator to control a resizable character buffer which it owns.

url u = parse_uri( s ).value();

On the other hand, a static_url has fixed-capacity storage and does not require dynamic memory allocations.

static_url<1024> su = parse_uri( s ).value();

Objects of type url are std::regular. Similarly to built-in types, such as int, a url is copyable, movable, assignable, default constructible, and equality comparable. They support all the inspection functions of url_view, and also provide functions to modify all components of the URL.

Changing the scheme is easy:

u.set_scheme( "https" );

Or we can use a predefined constant:

u.set_scheme_id( scheme::https ); // equivalent to u.set_scheme( "https" );

The scheme must be valid, however, or an exception is thrown. All modifying functions perform validation on their input.

  • Attempting to set the URL scheme or port to an invalid string results in an exception.

  • Attempting to set other URL components to invalid strings will get the original input properly percent-encoded for that component.

It is not possible for a url to hold syntactically illegal text.

Modification functions return a reference to the object, so chaining is possible:

  • Code

  • Output

u.set_host_ipv4( ipv4_address( "" ) )
    .set_port_number( 8080 )
std::cout << u << "\n";

All non-const operations offer the strong exception safety guarantee.

The path segment and query parameter containers returned by a url offer modifiable range functionality, using member functions of the container:

  • Code

  • Output

params_ref p = u.params();
p.replace(p.find("name"), {"name", "John Doe"});
std::cout << u << "\n";