An .htaccess (hypertext access) file is a directory-level configuration file supported by several web servers, used for configuration of website-access issues, such as URL redirection, URL shortening, access control (for different web pages and files), and more. The 'dot' (period or full stop) before the file name makes it a hidden file in Unix-based environments.
A site could have more than one .htaccess file, and the files are placed inside the web tree (i.e. inside directories and their sub-directories), and hence their other name distributed configuration files.
The original purpose of .htaccess—reflected in its name—was to allow per-directory access control by, for example, requiring a password to access World Wide Web content. More commonly, however, the .htaccess files define or override many other configuration settings such as content type, character set, Common Gateway Interface handlers, etc.
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