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Just a var refering to a server address, probably if you see the cookbook post in the context you'll se that it's used to call a remote object or a web service. It's just a URL refering to where your server is located.
What it means is this:
localhost (or 127.0.0.1) is a pointer to your local machine (IE you have a web server installed on your dev machine). And what the :3001 represents is the port that your server is running on. By default a web server runs on port 80, and uses that when no port is specified. So if you had http://localhost - then it would be the same as putting http://localhost:80 But in this instance the web server is running on an alternate port (the reasons for that could be many (IE there is another web server running on port 80, etc). Oh, and the "http://" just represents the protocol the browser is using. Other valid ones could be "https://" (port 443 by default), or even something like ftp - "ftp://" (defaults to port 21).
Hope that helps.
Thanks for the information.