Glossary of Internet Terms

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How much stuff you can send through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second (bps.) A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 57,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.

Blog (weB LOG)

A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger." Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog.

Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in chronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominently.

It is common for blogs to be available as RSS feeds.


A Client program (software) that is used to look at various kinds of Internet resources.

Certificate Authority

An issuer of Security Certificates used in SSL connections.


A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer, often across a great distance. Each Client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of Server programs, and each Server requires a specific kind of Client. A Web Browser is a specific kind of Client.


The most common meaning of "Cookie" on the Internet refers to a piece of information sent by a Web Server to a Web Browser that the Browser software is expected to save and to send back to the Server whenever the browser makes additional requests from the Server.

Depending on the type of Cookie used, and the Browsers' settings, the Browser may accept or not accept the Cookie, and may save the Cookie for either a short time or a long time.

Cookies might contain information such as login or registration information, online "shopping cart" information, user preferences, etc.

When a Server receives a request from a Browser that includes a Cookie, the Server is able to use the information stored in the Cookie. For example, the Server might customize what is sent back to the user, or keep a log of particular users' requests.

Cookies are usually set to expire after a predetermined amount of time and are usually saved in memory until the Browser software is closed down, at which time they may be saved to disk if their "expire time" has not been reached.

Cookies do not read your hard drive and send your life story to the CIA, but they can be used to gather more information about a user than would be possible without them.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet)

A standard for specifying the appearance of text and other elements. CSS was developed for use with HTML in Web pages but is also used in other situations, notably in applications built using XPFE. CSS is typically used to provide a single "library" of styles that are used over and over throughout a large number of related documents, as in a web site. A CSS file might specify that all numbered lists are to appear in italics. By changing that single specification the look of a large number of documents can be easily changed.


Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer the word Cyberspace is currently used to describe the whole range of information resources available through computer networks.

DHTML (Dynamic HyperText Markup Language)

DHTML refers to web pages that use a combination of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS to create features such as letting the user drag items around on the web page, some simple kinds of animation, and many more.

Domain Name

The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine. For example, the domain names:

Can all refer to the same machine, but each domain name can refer to no more than one machine.

Usually, all of the machines on a given Network will have the same thing as the right-hand portion of their Domain Names ( in the examples above). It is also possible for a Domain Name to exist but not be connected to an actual machine. This is often done so that a group or business can have an Internet e-mail address without having to establish a real Internet site. In these cases, some real Internet machine must handle the mail on behalf of the listed Domain Name.


Transferring data (usually a file) from a another computer to the computer you are are using. The opposite of upload.

Email (Electronic Mail)

Messages, usually text, sent from one person to another via computer. E-mail can also be sent automatically to a large number of addresses.


A very common method of networking computers in a LAN.

There is more than one type of Ethernet. By 2001 the standard type was "100-BaseT" which can handle up to about 100,000,000 bits-per-second and can be used with almost any kind of computer.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

FAQs are documents that list and answerthe most common questions on a particular subject. There are hundreds of FAQs on subjects as diverse as Pet Grooming and Cryptography. FAQs are usually written by people who have tired of answering the same question over and over.

Fire Wall

A combination of hardware and software that separates a Network into two or more parts for security purposes.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites.

FTP is a way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. There are many Internet sites that have established publicly accessible repositories of material that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name "anonymous", thus these sites are called "anonymous ftp servers".

FTP was invented and in wide use long before the advent of the World Wide Web and originally was always used from a text-only interface.


The technical meaning is a hardware or software set-up that translates between two dissimilar protocols, for example America Online has a gateway that translates between its internal, proprietary e-mail format and Internet e-mail format. Another, sloppier meaning of gateway is to describe any mechanism for providing access to another system, e.g. AOL might be called a gateway to the Internet.

GIF (Graphic Interchange Format)

A common format for image files, especially suitable for images containing large areas of the same color. GIF format files of simple images are often smaller than the same file would be if stored in JPEG format, but GIF format does not store photographic images as well as JPEG.

Home Page (or Homepage)

Several meanings. Originally, the web page that your browser is set to use when it starts up. The more common meaning refers to the main web page for a business, organization, person or simply the main page out of a collection of web pages, e.g. "Check out so-and-so's new Home Page."


Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as SMTP (email) and HTTP (web).

HTML (HyperText Markup Language)

The coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML looks a lot like old-fashioned typesetting code, where you surround a block of text with codes that indicate how it should appear.

The "hyper" in Hypertext comes from the fact that in HTML you can specify that a block of text, or an image, is linked to another file on the Internet. HTML files are meant to be viewed using a "Web Browser".

HTML is loosely based on a more comprehensive system for markup called SGML, and is expected to eventually be replaced by XML-based XHTML standards.


Generally, any text that contains links to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.

IP Number (Internet Protocol Number)

Sometimes called a dotted quad. A unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots, e.g.

Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP number - if a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet. Many machines (especially servers) also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

An institution that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.

IT (Information Technology)

A very general term referring to the entire field of Information Technology - anything from computer hardware to programming to network management. Most medium and large size companies have IT Departments.


Java is a network-friendly programming language invented by Sun Microsystems.

Java is often used to build large, complex systems that involve several different computers interacting across networks, for example transaction processing systems.

Java is also used to create software with graphical user interfaces such as editors, audio players, web browsers, etc.

Java is also popular for creating programs that run in small electronic devicws, such as mobile telephones.

Using small Java programs (called "Applets"), Web pages can include functions such as animations,calculators, and other fancy tricks.


JavaScript is a programming language that is mostly used in web pages, usually to add features that make the web page more interactive. When JavaScript is included in an HTML file it relies upon the browser to interpret the JavaScript. When JavaScript is combined with Cascading Style Sheets(CSS), and later versions of HTML (4.0 and later) the result is often called DHTML.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG is most commonly mentioned as a format for image files. JPEG format is preferred to the GIF format for photographic images as opposed to line art or simple logo art.

Maillist(or Mailing List)

A (usually automated) system that allows people to send e-mail to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the maillist. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.

Meta Tag

A specific kind of HTML tag that contains information not normally displayed to the user. Meta tags contan information about the page itself, hence the name ("meta" means "about this subject").

Typical uses of Meta tags are to include information for search engines to help them better categorize a page.

You can see the Meta tags in a page if you view the pages' source code.


Generally speaking, "to mirror" is to maintain an exact copy of something. Probably the most common use of the term on the Internet refers to "mirror sites" which are web sites, or FTP sites that maintain copies of material originated at another location, usually in order to provide more widespread access to the resource. For example, one site might create a library of software, and 5 other sites might maintain mirrors of that library.


Any time you connect 2 or more computers together so that they can share resources, you have a computer network. Connect 2 or more networks together and you have an internet.

Open Content

Copyrighted information (such as this Glossary) that is made available by the copyright owner to the general public under license terms that allow reuse of the material, often with the requirement (as with this Glossary) that the re-user grant the public the same rights to the modified version that the re-user received from the copyright owner.

Information that is in the Public Domain might also be considered a form of Open Content.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

A file format designed to enable printing and viewing of documents with all their formatting (typefaces, images, layout, etc.) appearing the same regardless of what operating system is used, so a PDF document should look the same on Windows, Macintosh, linux, OS/2, etc. The PDF format is based on the widely used Postcript document-description language. Both PDF and Postscript were developed by the Adobe Corporation.

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor)

PHP is a programming language used almost exclusively for creating software that is part of a web site. The PHP language is designed to be intermingled with the HTML that is used to create web pages. Unlike HTML, the PHP code is read and processed by the web server software (HTML is read and processed by the web browser software.)

PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

PNG is a graphics format specifically designed for use on the World Wide Web. PNG enable compression of images without any loss of quality, including high-resolution images. Another important feature of PNG is that anyone may create software that works with PNG images without paying any fees - the PNG standard is free of any licensing costs.


3 meanings. First and most generally, a place where information goes into or out of a computer, or both. E.g. the serial port on a personal computer is where a modem would be connected.

On the Internet port often refers to a number that is part of a URL, appearing after a colon (:) right after the domain name. Every service on an Internet server listens on a particular port number on that server. Most services have standard port numbers, e.g. Web servers normally listen on port 80. Services can also listen on non-standard ports, in which case the port number must be specified in a URL when accessing the server, so you might see a URL of the form:


This shows a gopher server running on a non-standard port (the standard gopher port is 70).

Finally, port also refers to translating a piece of software to bring it from one type of computer system to another, e.g. to translate a Windows program so that is will run on a Macintosh.


Usually used as a marketing term to described a Web site that is or is intended to be the first place people see when using the Web. Typically a "Portal site" has a catalog of web sites, a search engine, or both. A Portal site may also offer email and other service to entice people to use that site as their main "point of entry" (hence "portal") to the Web.


On the Internet "protocol" usually refers to a set of rules that define an exact format for communication between systems. For example the HTTP protocol defines the format for communication between web browsers and web servers, the IMAP protocol defines the format for communication between IMAP email servers and clients, and the SSL protocol defines a format for encrypted communications over the Internet.

Virtually all Internet protocls are defined in RFC documents.

Proxy Server

A Proxy Server sits in between a Client and the "real" Server that a Client is trying to use. Client's are sometimes configured to use a Proxy Server, usually an HTTP server. The clients makes all of it's requests from the Proxy Server, which then makes requests from the "real" server and passes the result back to the Client. Sometimes the Proxy server will store the results and give a stored result instead of making a new one (to reduce use of a Network). Proxy servers are commonly established on Local Area Networks.

RSS (Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication)

A commonly used protocol for syndication and sharing of .content, originally developed to facilitate the syndication of news articles, now widely used to share the contents of blogs. Mashups are often made using RSS feeds.

RSS is an XML-based summary of a web site, usually used for syndication and other kinds of content-sharing.

There are RSS "feeds" which are sources of RSS information about web sites, and RSS "readers" which read RSS feeds and display their content to users.

RSS is being overtaken by a newer, more complex protocol called Atom.

Search Engine

A (usually web-based) system for searching the information available on the Web.

Some search engines work by automatically searching the contents of other systems and creating a database of the results. Other search engines contains only material manually approved for inclusion in a database, and some combine the two approaches.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The practice of designing web pages so that they rank as high as possible in search results from search engines.

There is "good" SEO and "bad" SEO. Good SEO involves making the web page clearly describe its subject, making sure it contains truly useful information, including accurate information in Meta tags, and arranging for other web sites to make links to the page. Bad SEO involves attempting to deceive people into believing the page is more relevant than it truly is by doing things like adding inaccurate Meta tags to the page.


A computer, or a software package, that provides a specific kind of service to client software running on other computers. The term can refer to a particular piece of software, such as a WWW server, or to the machine on which the software is running, e.g. "Our mail server is down today, that's why e-mail isn't getting out."

A single server machine can (and often does) have several different server software packages running on it, thus providing many different servers to clients on the network.

Sometimes server software is designed so that additional capabilities can be added to the main program by adding small programs known as servlets.

Spam (or Spamming)

An inappropriate attempt to use a mailing list, or USENET or other networked communications facility as if it was a broadcast medium (which it is not) by sending the same message to a large number of people who didn?t ask for it. The term probably comes from a famous Monty Python skit which featured the word spam repeated over and over. The term may also have come from someone?s low opinion of the food product with the same name, which is generally perceived as a generic content-free waste of resources. (Spam® is a registered trademark of Hormel Corporation, for its processed meat product.)


A somewhat vague term generally referring to software that is secretly installed on a users computer and that monitors use of the computer in some way without the users' knowledge or consent.

Most spyware tries to get the user to view advertising and/or particular web pages. Some spyware also sends information about the user to another machine over the Internet.

Spyware is usually installed without a users' knowledge as part of the installation of other software, especially software such as music sharing software obtained via download.

SQL (Structured Query Language)

A specialized language for sending queries to databases. Most industrial-strength and many smaller database applications can be addressed using SQL. Each specific application will have its own slightly different version of SQL implementing features unique to that application, but all SQL-capable databases support a common subset of SQL.

A example of an SQL statement is:

SELECT name,email FROM people_table WHERE contry='uk'

TLD (Top Level Domain)

The last (right-hand) part of a complete Domain Name. For example in the domain name ".net" is the Top Level Domain.

There are a large number of TLD's, for example .biz, .com, .edu, .gov, .info, .int, .mil, .net, .org, and a collection of two-letter TLD's corresponding to the standard two-letter country codes, for example, .us, .ca, .jp, etc.


Transferring data (usually a file) from a the computer you are using to another computer. The opposite of download.


Short for "World Wide Web."


The entire collection of web pages and other information (such as images, sound, and video files, etc.) that are made available through what appears to users as a single web server. Typically all the of pages in a web site share the same basic URL, for example the following URLs are all for pages within the same web site:

The term has a somewhat informal nature since a large organization might have separate "web sites" for each division, but someone might talk informally about the organizations' "web site" when speaking of all of them.


A wiki is a web site for which the content can be easily edited and altered from the web browser in which you are viewing it. Typically there is an "edit" button on each page and the wiki is configured to allow either anyone or only people with passwords to edit each page. The word "wiki" comes from a Hawaiian word meaning "quick."

WWW -- (World Wide Web)

World Wide Web (or simply Web for short) is a term frequently used (incorrectly) when referring to "The Internet", WWW has two major meanings:

First, loosely used: the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP,telnet, USENET, WAIS and some other tools.

Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers), more commonly called "web servers", which are the servers that serve web pages to web browsers.

Creative Commons License
This Glossary of Internet Terms is licensed under the Creative Commons "Attribution-ShareAlike" license.
The original author and copyright holder is Matisse Enzer, and the current version of the Glossary is available at

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