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Internet Terminology

What do all these acronyms and terms mean?

World Wide Web  | Email  |  General

World Wide Web Terms

Banner Advertising  The term used for ads that appear usually on the top of the screen of a web page.  Usually will show up first when you load a page, and usually is flashy.  Sometimes additional window(s) will open up automatically leading you to full web pages for a particular product.  Clicking on this ad will usually open up at least one additional window to a web site that wants to sell you something (usually somehow related to your search or web page you have found).  In general, for this course, I'd recommend you NOT click on these ads as they sometimes open multiple windows and can eventually crash your computer.  They can also waste your time.

Blackboard  A product name for courseware.  Courseware is a software program an instructor uses to deliver a course through the World Wide Web.  Other examples of courseware include WebCT, Course Compass, and Etudes. 

Blog  Short for Web log, a blog is a Web page that serves as a publicly-accessible personal journal for an individual. Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author.  Sometimes a blog functions like a discussion board because users are often invited to respond to the author's comments and create an online discussion.

Browser  The name for software packages that allows us to explore the World Wide Web.  Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer are two such browsers.

Cookie  A message given to a Web browser by a Web server. The browser stores the message in a text file called cookie.txt. The message is then sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server.
    The main purpose of cookies is to identify users and possibly prepare customized Web pages for them. When you enter a Web site using cookies, you may be asked to fill out a form providing such information as your name and interests. This information is packaged into a cookie and sent to your Web browser which stores it for later use. The next time you go to the same Web site, your browser will send the cookie to the Web server. The server can use this information to present you with custom Web pages. So, for example, instead of seeing just a generic welcome page you might see a welcome page with your name on it.

Domain  Look under General

HTML  (Hypertext Markup Language)  The programming language that is used to create web pages.  It is a coding language where a block of text is surrounded by codes to indicate how should the text appear.  It also provides commands as to where items from other files should be placed, such as images.  Files that end with .htm or .html are files that contain Hypertext Markup Languages and can be viewed through a Browser.

(Hypertext Transfer Protocol) The primary protocol for the World Wide Web.  With this protocol, you can access any web page on any public World Wide Web Server on the Internet.


Hypertext  Generally, any text that contains "links" to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by the user and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.  The text is usually underlined or highlighted.


Invisible Web  The term used to describe those web sites that search engines CANNOT pick up, usually because to get to these sites you need to be at a particular site or domain, first.  For example, you can only retrieve certain census documents by first going to the United States census web site.    They are filed in a way that each individual page CANNOT be retrieved except from the site's database.  Also, sites that are not HTML files, such as FTP files and PDF files (the latter, those picked up by Adobe Acrobat), will also NOT be picked up by most search engines  (Google, at present can pick up SOME PDF files).   Special web directories called Invisible Web directories are now being created to simply index the various specialized DATABASES a lot of particular web sites have out there.

Paid for Inclusion Advertising  A new trend where search engines charge money to companies or organizations or persons who want to make sure their web page is listed in the search results page.  Sometimes, there is an automatic guarantee the web site will be listed, but others may require a payment just for consideration.  Usually, these sites are placed in a special category and may be so marked that they are "Sponsored" web sites, but not always.  Often, they will be placed on top of the list and usually will be in bigger fonts.  The following search engines/web directories use this practice: (all its listings), LookSmart (sponsored ads are listed under "Featured Listings"), all search engines that use the Inktomi database, Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista, FAST (AlltheWeb), Google, and others.  (In Google, sponsored sites are in a blue box field).  To avoid simply going to sites that are "bought" rather than those that may be of better quality, users are encouraged to get to know the INTERFACE of each search engine and web directory's search results screen.

Portal  (Sometimes the term "metasite," "megasite," or "webliography" is used for such sites).  From having the scope of every subject to just to a particular subject, a Portal is a  web site where the creator(s) have taken time to find sites that are considered useful, may be rich in information, and are of fine quality.  Some portals actually have a rating system, but most simply list the sites deemed valuable.  Portals include such sites as INFOMINE, Academic Info and Librarians' Index to the Internet.  Many libraries' web sites have subject guides and online reference directories that would definitely fit this category.  Users should judge and evaluate the quality of a portal, just like any other web page.  Sometimes a portal will have a search engine as well.  Note: a portal is NOT the same as a web directory (one which only indexes the World Wide Web).

Search Engine  Sites that aid users in finding Web pages relating to chosen topics.  For example: Google, Yahoo, and Infoseek.  These sites contain programs that allow users to search through at least one database that searches for words throughout the internet.  Web directories are those that actually index the Web (usually only a portion), and those such as Yahoo! lead you to the indexed sites, first, before searching the World Wide Web as a whole.  Portals or meta sites are those that select web sites that are of considerable quality, sometimes based on particular subjects.  Those containing search engines will lead you to a list of sites that are indexed.  A meta-search engine is a search engine that acts as an interface as it searches more than one of the other search engines at once.  For example, Dogpile will search the databases of Yahoo!, Altavista, and Hotbot at once.

(Uniform Resource Locator)  A web address.  This is an addressing scheme that allows you to locate Internet documents on the World Wide Web and other places on the Internet

A URL looks like this:

A URL can also be very long.  For example, the URL for this page is:

Web Directory  Usually a type of search engine, a web directory indexes a portion of the World Wide Web (that portion contains sites that were registered directly to the search engine's company and/or found by people employed by the search engine's company).  The indexing is usually done by humans and a controlled vocabulary is given so that web sites on similar subjects can be grouped together.  Because the World Wide Web is always growing and URLs are always changing, Web Directories usually can only index a small portion of the Web.  Yahoo!, LookSmart, and Open Directory are web directories.  A web directory could sometimes also have the elements of a meta-site or a portal as well



E-Mail Terms

Attachment  A file attached to an e-mail message. Many e-mail systems only support sending text files as e-mail. If the attachment is a binary file or formatted text file (such as a MS-Word document), it must be encoded before it is sent and  decoded once it is received.  Recent versions of Email software such as Hotmail and Eudora most often do the encoding and decoding automatically.

Domain  Look under General

Emoticon   An acronym for emotion icon, a small icon composed of punctuation characters that indicates how an e-mail message should be interpreted (that is,  the writer's mood). For example, a :-) emoticon indicates that the message is  meant as a joke and shouldn't be taken seriously.  An emoticon is also called a smiley.  

                                   Emoticon                                        Meaning

:-)  Joking 
:-0 Bored 
;-) Winking 
:-( Sad 
:-< Frowning

An automatic mailing list server developed by Eric Thomas for BITNET in 1986. When e-mail is addressed to a LISTSERV mailing list, it is automatically  broadcast to everyone on the list. The result is similar to a newsgroup or forum, except that the messages are transmitted as e-mail and are therefore available only to individuals on the list.


Mailbox  An area in memory or on a storage device where e-mail is placed.   In e-mail systems, each user has a private mailbox. When the user receives e-mail, the mail system automatically puts it in the mailbox.

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 by sending the same message to a large number of people who didn't ask for it.  Mass junk Email.

Urban Legends  The term used for emails you will often receive that usually will have some type of warning or some type of story and may encourage you to send this message to many others.  Often, stories are made up or taken out of context or are simply not true, or there to serve like spam, where you send multiple messages to other people.  These emails can often be seen as "tall tales" or may be simply "pulling your leg."  Some virus warnings are really urban legends (and often untrue).  Some Email chain letters are also Urban Legends.

Virus  Look under General

Worm  Look under General


General Internet Terms

Cyberspace  A metaphor for describing the non-physical terrain created by computer systems. Online systems, for example, create a cyberspace within which people can communicate with one another (via e-mail), do research, or simply window shop. Like physical space, cyberspace contains objects (files, mail messages, graphics, etc.) and different modes of transportation and delivery. Unlike real space, though, exploring cyberspace does not require any physical movement other than pressing keys on a keyboard or moving a mouse.

Discussion Boards  Also known as Bulletin Boards or Discussion Groups, Discussion Boards are online forums where users can post messages.  Messages are usually grouped by topics and such topic groups are usually called threads

Domain  Typically the last three letters of an Internet address represent the domain or particular section of the Internet.  If you notice, both Email and Web addresses end with these suffixes.  Domain suffixes include:  

.edu Educational Institutions
.gov U.S. Government
.com  Commercial (Business)
.net Network Infrastructure Organizations
.org Usually a Non-Profit Organization
.mil Military Organization
.store Businesses offering goods
.info Information Services
.nom Individuals with personal sites
.firm Businesses or Firms
.web entities emphasizing the World Wide Web
.arts Cultural Groups
.rec Recreational or Entertainment Activities
.us or
.ca or
Recognized by only two letters, these domains have codes that represent particular countries (such as .il for Italy and .jp for Japan).  As of right now, web addresses that have the domains such as .com or .org most often identify United States businesses, organizations, etc (though that is slowly changing).  A web site with the address that has a country domain can be ANY of the types of entities listed above. 

To take information from one computer to another computer or to a floppy disk.  On the Internet, when you download you are taking information from a remote computer.


FTP (File Transfer Protocol)  The protocol used on the Internet for sending files.  These files can be from any program and the only way they can be viewed is if you have the program that matches the particular file, or what is called a "viewer" to see them.  For example, a PowerPoint presentation that is not converted to html can only open up if you're in PowerPoint or your web browser has a type of plugin which can view PowerPoint presentations.

ISP (Internet Service Provider) An institution (usually a private company) that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.

LAN (Local Area Network)  A computer network limited to the immediate area, sometimes to the same floor or same building.

Netiquette  Network etiquette, or the etiquette of the Internet.

Network  Any time you connect two or more computers together so that they can share resources, you have a computer network

Newsgroup  USENET.  A forum or an on-line discussion group, usually covering any conceivable interest.  To view and post messages to a newsgroup, you need a news reader, a program that runs on your computer and connects you to a news server on the Internet.

Plugin  A hardware or software module that adds a specific feature or service to a larger system. For example, there are a number of plug-ins for the Netscape Navigator browser that enable it to display different types of audio or video messages.

Server  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, as a WWW server, or to the machine on which the software is running.

Telnet  The command and program used to login from one internet site to another.  The telnet command/program gets you to the "login" prompt of another host computer.  A typical telnet screen is one with a plain background (usually black or white) and does not contain any graphics.

UNIX  A computer operating system (the basic software running on a computer, underneath things like word processors and spreadsheets).  It is the most common operating system for servers on the Internet.

Virus A program or piece of code that is loaded onto your computer without your knowledge and runs against your wishes. Most viruses can also replicate themselves. All computer viruses are manmade. A simple virus that can make a copy of itself over and over again is relatively easy to produce. Even such a simple virus is dangerous because it will quickly use all available memory and bring the system to a halt. An even more dangerous type of virus is one capable of transmitting itself across networks and bypassing security systems.

Worm    (1) A worm is a special type of virus that can replicate itself and use memory, but cannot attach itself to other programs.  (2)  A term used loosely for more recent viruses that are sent through Email and affect Email software programs such as Microsoft Outlook.  Once the virus is opened, the sender unknowingly sends the virus to anyone they are emailing (usually as a separate message).  Or, in some Email software programs, a message can be automatically sent to all addresses in the user's address book without the user ever knowing.  The infamous I Love You, Melissa, and Happy99 viruses are called worms, mainly because they fit definition one, and the "layman" began thinking of these type of Email viruses as "worms."

Definitions adapted from previous "Internet Skills" courses at Chabot, the PC Webopedia and from the University of Arizona Library's "Internet Jargon and Terms"

                                                                                              NB 10/10/03