Glossary of Internet Terms
Note that some definitions are more defined than others. Tab this page.
- A-Drive - Usually refers to a computer's floppy disk drive, as this is conventionally designated the root address "A:" on most computers.
- ADSL - "Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line". A fast and reliable way to access the Internet. ADSL is faster than a 56 Kbps modem, faster than ISDN, and can be faster than a cable connection.
- ASCII - "American Standard Code for Information Interchange". A basic format for plain text characters without markup (such as font style or size). An ASCII text file, being the simplest type of file, can be read on almost all computers.
- Attachment - A file ‘attached’ or added to an e-mail message. Such a file is usually displayed as an icon with the email message which the recipient can then click on in order to save it or display its contents.
- BIOS - "Basic Input/Output System". The program that controls a computer's startup or boot process.
- Bit - A binary digit. The smallest unit of data: 0 or 1, ‘off’ or ‘on’.
- Bounce - When an e-mail message cannot be delivered, it is returned to its sender, or it 'bounces' back. This is usually because the address that the e-mail has been sent to is incorrect, the host is down or the user is over their mail quota.
- Browser - The program used for surfing, or browsing, around webpages on the World Wide Web. Browsers effectively put together the instructions contained in a HTML file to display a document containing text in various styles, pictures, media such as sound files and scripts for inter-activity. Microsoft Internet Explorer is the dominant browser, used by 90% of the population, other full-fledged browsers are Netscape, Mozilla and Opera. Text-only browsers offer less or other functionality, as do braille-browsers, screen-readers etc...
- Buffer - An intermediate ‘storage area’ in a computer's memory to temporarily hold data for interchange between different items of hardware in a system that may not be able to handle those data at the same speed.
- Bulletin Board - In the broadest sense, a public message board or conferencing facility viewable over a network such as the Internet. They are usually regulated or ‘moderated’ by the owners of the site they reside on. See also newsgroups.
- Byte - A string of eight bits.
- C-Drive - Usually refers to a computer's hard drive, or main disk, as this is conventionally designated "C:" on computers with a Windows operating system.
- CD-ROM - "Compact Disc Read-Only Memory". A computer compact disc can hold anything up to 650 MB or 800 MB of data, thus giving them a storage capacity well above their predecessors floppy disks. Once ‘burned’ or written, the information can only be accessed, not changed or overwritten.
- CD-ROM Drive - Disc drive for CD's, enabling a computer to retrieve information from them.
- CGI - "Common Gateway Interface". A specification for communication between an HTTP server and gateway programs on the server. CGI is a popular interface used to create server-based web applications in languages such as Perl or C.
- CMS - "Content Managing System". A system whereby users can log in and update their website online. The content is usually stored in a database and the HTML is created dynamically on request.
- CPU - "Central Processing Unit". The main processor chip of a PC.
- CSS - "Cascading Style Sheets". A technology developed by the W3C to separate style from content. A style sheet is a file that contains information about the colour, fonts, layout, etc., used on a website. Like a script file, an external style sheet file can be cached by the browser to reduce page loads. Globally defined styles may be overruled by local styles in a ‘cascade’.
- Click - to ‘click on’ something on the computer screen is to select or highlight it by pointing the cursor at it using the mouse, and then pressing or ‘clicking’ a mouse button. To ‘right-click’ and to ‘left-click’ are to do this with the right-hand and left-hand mouse buttons respectively.
- Client - Software that gets information from a server.
- Cookie - A file, stored locally by the browser on behalf of a website, allowing that site to uniquely identify that browser. Cookies are usually required for sensitive sites with online shopping carts and email, but can also be used to personalize the style or language a site uses.
- Cursor - Symbol, used on a monitor to indicate the position where the next character will be inserted. Usually rendered as a blinking vertical line.
- DVD-ROM - One step up from a CD-ROM, a DVD can store around 4 gigabytes of information. Like CD's, they only store information, and cannot be written to without special equipment.
- Database - A file or set of files containing information (data) that can be sorted, searched and classified. Common database products are Microsoft Access, PostgresSQL and mySQL.
- Deprecate - To discourage use of a feature without removing the feature from the product, typically in favor of an alternative. The deprecated feature should no longer be used because it might be removed in a future release.
- Directory - A step in the hierarchical system of organising files. A named or specific area where files can be stored.
- Disk - A computer disk stores information magnetically, and can be small and portable (a floppy disk) or heavy and large (the hard disk of a PC).
- Disk drive - The apparatus that reads information stored on a disk. Most PC's are equipped with a drive that can read from floppy disksfloppy (3.5") disks, though some new PC's no longer come with them equipped. Most are also equipped with a CD-ROM drive.
- Domain - The name of a website on the internet, by which it is addressed.
- Download - The transfer of information from a network, or more specifically from the Internet, onto a local workstation. The sending of information is called uploading.
- E-mail - "Electronic mail". This is one of the main communication functions of the Internet, and enables messages to be sent across computer networks between individual users, or to groups of users. Each person has an email address, not unlike a street address, in the form
name@domain where the domain may be the person's company, or a dedicated email provider such as Hotmail or Gmail. Its main advantage over more traditional forms of communication lies in its speed and in the ability to add attachments, which may be files of any kind, to the message.
- ECMA - "European Computer Manufacturers Association". The international standards association for information and communication systems.
- Ethernet - A form of LAN. An ethernet card is required to connect to this kind of network.
- FTP - File Transfer Protocol. This is one of the most important uses of the Internet, and is a method for transferring files between computers at high speeds.
- File - A file is a named group of information, of whatever kind, stored on a computer. Working on a PC, you will most often use them in the form of individual documentsmdash;a word processor document, or a picture file. The names of files are selected by their creator but the filename extension (a suffix to the name) is determined by the file type> Well known examples are
.doc for Word files,
.jpg for pictures,
.html for hypertext files.
- File server - See server.
- Flame - an instance of personal abuse directed against the poster of a newsgroup article or e-mail message.
- Flash - a (rather resource-heavy) web technology that enables interactive animations or 'movies' to be displayed in a suitably enabled browser.
- Floppy Disk - A portable disk for storing information. They usually have a capacity of 1.44 MB, although other capacities may occasionally be seen. The standard size is enough to store several word-processor or image files. Floppy disks are convenient but vulnerable, so backups should be kept on network drives such as Bodiam.
- Folder - a named area where files and other folders can be stored (esp. when using Windows.) Overlaps with the more technical term directory.
- Frames - A method of dividing a browser window into multiple pages, which can be scrolled and navigated independently. The idea is outdated and has serious drawbacks in relation to search engines and bookmarking.
- Freeware - Software distributed with no charge, usually via the Internet. See also shareware.
- GIF file - "Graphics Interchange Format", a type of image file (extension .gif) supporting animation and transparancy but only 256 colours.
- GUI - "Graphical User Interface", a system whereby the user interacts with a computer via a picture-based, graphic medium. Comparable with the dashboard in a car where displays, switches and buttons provide the means to communicate with the machine although they are not the machine themselves. Windows is an operating system that has a GUI (pronounced "gooey".)
- Gigabyte - 1,024 megabytes or 1,024 * 1,024 kilobytes or 1,024 * 1,024 * 1,024 bytes.
- Google - One of the largest and most popular Web search engines, founded September 1998 by then Standford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin: www.google.com.
- HTML - "Hypertext Markup Language". A language for writing hypertext, giving instructions to browser programs so that they can display documents.
- HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The communication protocol used to transfer information between web servers and clients.
- Hard copy - If someone asks for a hard copy of an electronic document, they mean a printed (i.e. paper) copy.
- Hard drive/Hard disk - Both terms are used for the computer's main information storage disk. This is conventionally designated drive "C:" on computers running a Windows operating system.
- Hardware - The collection of electronic components that makes up a computer system.
- Home folder - On a large multi-user system, each user is given their "own" area on a central server. This is sometimes referred to as that user's home folder.
- Host - A large computer, stroring information or running programs, with which you interact when working on the system. As the name suggests it acts as "host" for you while you are working.
- Hyperlink - A highlighted word or phrase in a HTML document which can be clicked in order to direct the browser to another file or part of a file.
- Hypertext - Text where words or phrases can be used as a clickable link to other texts. The central principle of HTML and the WWW.
- IP address - "Internet Protocol" address. A set of four numbers between 0 and 255, separated by periods, that specifies a location for the TCP/IP protocol.
- ISDN - "Integrated Services Digital Network", a digital communications system offered by telecom companies, which can handle more information than standard phone lines. See also ADSL.
- ISP - "Internet Service Provider". A firm enabling computer users to access the internet via a modem, cable or otherwise.
- Icon - A pictorial representation of a file, or program, that can be clicked on in order to open the file or start the program—an extremely simple method. The Windows operating system is partly based on the use of icons.
- Inbox - the area where your incoming mail messages are stored before they are read.
- Internet - The name for the vast global communications network formed by connecting many networks and individual computers across the world. Important elements of Internet communications are e-mail, the World Wide Web, news, and FTP.
- JANET - "Joint Academic Network", a system connecting computers in educational establishments.
- JPEG file - "Joint Photography Experts Group". A compressed image format, often used for photographic images. The extension can be
- JPG file - See JPEG file.
- KB - Kilobyte. 1 kilobyte is 1,024 bytes.
- Keyboard - Item of hardware, rather like a typewriter, that enables you to type text/numbers/commands. Different countries have different keyboard configurations for language reasons, as do English and American keyboards (for no apparent reason). Small devices sometimes have a keyboard with less keys for
- LAN - "Local Area Network". A connected network of individual computers at a local site.
- Linux - An Open Source operating system, based on UNIX. Popular as a server, and also as a desktop machine as an alternative to Microsoft Windows.
- Login - To log in is to supply a user name and/or password to identify oneself to a host computer and thereby gain privileges on the system.
- MB - Megabyte. 1 megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes or 1,048,576 bytes.
- MIME - "Multipart Internet Mail Extension". A standard specifying the format of data transferred over the internet.
- MP3 - a audio file, which offers near CD-quality sound at a high rate of compression, resulting in files ten times smaller than the original.
- Mac - Short for(Apple) Macintosh. This is a kind of computer which works using very different principles from IBM-compatible PC's. Files from a Macintosh cannot be used on a PC or vice versa, although there are some conversion facilities. Traditionally, Macs have been most commonly used in the graphic and design industries.
- Mailbox - see inbox.
- Modem - An item of hardware which connects a computer to a conventional telephone line and thus enables it to communicate with other computers.
- Monitor - Another item of hardware, in this case the screen on which the computer displays information.
- Mouse - A small but useful piece of hardware that can point and move the cursor on the computer screen, and can be used to select or "click" on icons, text, etc. Mastering the use of the mouse is one of the first steps in learning to use a PC.
- Mouse-mat - A mechanical mouse works through its detection of movement in a tracking ball fitted to its underside. A mouse-mat is used to give it a better grip and register movement more easily. An optical mouse has a small laser instead of a moving ball and is less dependent on good surfaces.
- Network - Two or more connected computers. They may be connected by cables, the telephone system, satellite, or by other methods, and can share information and "communicate" with each other.
- Newsgroups - A communication function of the Internet. Newsgroups are essentially a series of on-line message boards which are strictly governed by the rules of Usenet, a cooperative organisation. Their naming and structure are bound by set conventions and they are often tightly regulated, unlike a bulletin board. Newsgroups can be viewed using a news reader, such as Outlook Express, Xnews, or Agent. You should, however, find out as much as possible about newsgroup rules, etiquette, and the like, before posting to one.
- Online - used as an adjective, this means that something is accessible via the Internet - whether a facility, a document, or even a person.
- Open Source - Software that has the source code used to build it available for everyone to view, enabling other people to modify the code if necessary.
- Operating system/OS - The program that looks after a computer's hardware and enables you to interact with it. Examples include Windows 2000 and Windows XP, Linux, UNIX and MacOS (used on Macs).
- PC - "Personal Computer", theoretically any combination of processor, input and output device designed for use by a single individual, as opposed to a server or mainframe. In practice however PC's are thought of as being IBM-compatible and running a Microsoft Windows operating system, while single-user systems that do not meet this criterium are called Mac's.
- PNG file - "Portable Network Graphic", a form of compressed image file that offers better quality than both GIF and JPEG, and does not come with any software patents.
- Pathname - a sequence of directories, separated by a slash ( / ) characters, which you might have to specify to a program to tell it where to find a file. A pathname may be absolute (i.e. giving its whole or complete address on the system) or relative (i.e. its position in relation to another part of the system.)
- Peripheral - An item added to a computer system, such as a printer or scanner.
- Platform - The operating system installed on a computer.
- Port - socket where cable is inserted in order to connect a PC to other pieces of hardware, e.g. a printer.
- Postmaster - An alias for a person or group of persons handling e-mail enquiries at a particular site or organisation.
- Program - Usually this means an application, such as Microsoft Word, but can also refer to a series of instructions in a programming language such as Java.
- Queue, Printer - On a large network where many users may be printing simultaneously, your file is not necessarily printed instantly when the instruction is sent from your computer. Printing jobs are queued by the servers that handle them and go through as soon as the printer is free.
- ROM/Read-Only Memory - Information stored once that cannot be altered in any way, usually having been stored by a manufacturer.
- Read-Only - used as an adjective, referring to a file or a disk on which files are stored. A read-only file can be accessed but not altered and a read-only disk cannot be saved or written to.
- Rot13 - Text obfuscating method whereby every letter is replaced with another one to make a message less directly readable, as used in newsgroups for instance. See our obfuscater.
- SSL - "Secure Socket Layer". A technique of encrypting data so it cannot be read as it travels across the internet.
- Server - A large, powerful networked computer, storing information which is then accessed by smaller computers on the same network.
- Shareware - software distributed freely (often via the Internet). The distribution process relies on the user to pay the developer/author a (usually fairly small) fee when the program is used.
- Smiley - a colloquial term for a small symbol, made out of ordinary characters but often representing a smiling face, inserted into an e-mail or news article to indicate that a message or comment is humorous, ironic, or not meant to be taken seriously - it is difficult to indicate these qualities through text alone, and people are easily offended. These symbols take many forms, such as
;^) or for more serious comments
- Spam - Unrequested advertising email (just like junk mail at home), a multimillion dollar market and a great nuisance. It is important to never publish one's e-mail address on the internet to avoid it being collected by spammers.
- TCP/IP - "Transmission Control Protocol over Internet Protocol". Simply speaking, this is a set of rules agreed by the internet industry that enable different types of computers to communicate together over networks.
- Trolling - deliberately provoking arguments on newsgroups or bulletin boards, with no other intent than to gain attention for the sake of attention. Originally: fishing by dragging a line fitted with one or more hooks behind the boat.
- UNIX - An operating system often used on servers, due to its reliability and power. See also Linux.
- URL - "Universal Resource Locator". The addressing scheme used on the World Wide Web.
- USB - "Universal Serial Bus", and is a way in which you can plug peripheral devices into your computer, without having to reboot, or install drivers. You simply plug the device in and begin using it. Data transfer rates are higher than, for instance, floppy disks, and many different devices exist, such as portable hard drives, mice, keyboards, scanners, digital cameras, and more. It is also possible to connect new devices to existing USB devices or to a USB hub, allowing up to 127 different devices at once.
- User - An individual that is using an application, a service, a machine, a network, etc. Not to be confused with client.
- Virus - A set of programming instructions designed to sabotage computer systems by causing annoying or occasionally damaging effects, usually having been written as a malicious prank. It gets its name from the fact that it infects programs with a copy of itself, thereby spreading to other computers.
- W3C - "World Wide Web Consortium", the non-profit body, established in 1994 by Internet-inventor Tim Berners-Lee to develop standards for the WWW. Most companies with online interests, such Microsoft, Sun, IBM, Netscape, Philips, are represented. See www.w3.org for more information.
- WWW - "World Wide Web". An aspect of the Internet, apart from email and newsgroups. WWW documents are written in HTML and viewed using a browser application. Their great attraction is that they can seamlessly display text and images in one document, and documents can be linked to one another through hyperlinks, creating a vast interlinked network of documents and information. Precisely because of this, it can be difficult to find one's way around the WWW, or to locate information effectively, but it remains a very useful communications tool.
- Web - See WWW.
- Web Standards - Standardized specifications for Internet markup languages such as HTML, CSS, and XML. Formulated by the W3 organisation, these standards enable people to create websites that will work in almost any browser or internet-enabled device, instead of being specific to certain versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.
- Web browser - see browser.
- Webmaster - The title for a person or persons who look after a particular web site. Should not be confused with postmaster.
- Website - A collection of "pages" or documents on the WWW that form (or are intended to form) a single system. Usually equates to a single company or individual's web presence. The term webpage is often used, although strictly this should refer to a single "page" or document.
- Windows - The most common operating system on home and office computers, developed by Microsoft. The most recent version, Windows XP, is installed on more than 50% of all computers in the world. The next generation, code-named Windows Longhorn, is expected to be released early 2007, and be substantially more secure than existing systems.
- Word Processor - A program which is used for entering and editing text documents on computer. The standard word processor for most people is Microsoft Word. Alternatives include StarOffice, OpenOffice, and WordPerfect.
- XML - "eXtensible Markup Language", a system of marking up that allows you to create your own language for displaying documents - for instance, an XML document can generate an HTML, PDF, and Word copy of the same file, enabling you to have just one master document to update.
- Yahoo - A Web search engine that categorises the results, found at www.yahoo.com.
- Zip file - A common type of compressed file (file extension .
zip) used to save space on disk. The word has developed a verbal use: to "unzip" a file is to uncompress it.