Glossary of Internet Terms

ARPANet ARPANet: Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. -- The precursor to the Internet. Developed in the late 60's and early 70's by the US Department of Defense as an experiment in wide-area-networking that would survive a nuclear war.
ASCII ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange -- This is the de facto world-wide standard for the code numbers used by computers to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. There are 128 standard ASCII codes each of which can be represented by a 7 digit binary number: 0000000 through 1111111. (In ASCII, the letter "A" is stored as 01000001, whether the computer is made by IBM, Apple or Commodore.)
Baud The speed at which modems transfer data. One baud is roughly equal to one bit per second. It takes eight bits to make up one letter or character. Modems rarely transfer data at exactly the same speed as their listed baud rate because of static or computer problems. More expensive modems use systems, such as Microcom Network Protocol (MNP), which can correct for these errors or which "compress" data to speed up transmission.
BBS Bulletin Board System. A computerized meeting and announcement system that allows people to carry on discussions, upload and download files, and make announcements without the people being connected to the computer at the same time.
Binhex BINary HEXadecimal. A method for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII. This is needed because Internet e-mail can only handle ASCII
BITNet BITNet: Because It's Time NETwork or Because It's There NETwork. An academically oriented, international computer network, which uses a different set of computer instructions to move data. It is easily accessible to Internet users through e-mail, and provides a large number of conferences and databases. Its name comes from "Because It's Time."
Bps Bps: Bits-Per-Second. A measurement of how fast data is moved from one place to another. A 28.8 modem can move 28,800 bits per second
Browser Browser is a client program (software) that is used to look at various kinds of Internet resources. Netscape, e.g., is a browser which navigates web pages.
CGI CGI: Common Gateway Interface. -- A set of rules that describe how a Web Server communicates with another piece of software on the same machine, and how the other piece of software (the 'CGI program') talks to the web server. Any piece of software can be a CGI program if it handles input and output according to the CGI standard. Usually a CGI program is a small program that takes data from a web server and does something with it, like putting the content of a form into an e-mail message, or turning the data into a database query.
Client Client is 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.
Communications Software A program that tells a modem how to work.
Cyberspace 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.
DTD Document Type Definition -- this is a specific markup language, written using SGML.
Domain Domain name is 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.
edu : educational institution (Hunter College:
com : commercial business (CNN:
org : non profit organization (United Nations:
net : for companies or organizations that run large networks (Teachers Net:
gov : government (US Dept. of Edu.:
mil: military agencies (US Navy:
There are also two letter international country codes (Geographical Domain names) as part of domain names. (In the U.S. counrty codes are not used in Higher education) -- (Ex: us, ca, uk, de, tr, at, jp, il, etc.)


Copy a file from a host system to your computer. There are several different methods, or protocols, for downloading files, most of which periodically check the file as it is being copied to ensure no information is inadvertently destroyed or damaged during the process.

Copy a file from your computer to a host system.

E-mail 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. This is the most widely used feature of the Internet, allowing users to transfer typewritten messages, with or without attached files.
Ethernet A very common method of networking computers in a LAN. Ethernet will handle about 10,000,000 bits-per-second and can be used with almost any kind of computer.
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions. FAQs are documents that list and answer the 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.
FDDI Fiber Distributed Data Interface. A standard for transmitting data on optical fiber cables at a rate of around 100,000,000 bits-per-second (10 times as fast as Ethernet, about twice as fast as T-3).
Finger An Internet program that lets you get some bit of information about another user, provided they have first created a `.plan' file.
Flame Online yelling and/or ranting directed at somebody else. Often results in flame wars, which occasionally turn into holy wars.
Flame War When an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debators, rather than discussion of their positions. A heated exchange.
Follow-up A Usenet posting that is a response to an earlier message.


Software that doesn't cost anything.

Software that is freely available on the Net. If you like and use the software, you should send in the fee requested by the author, whose name and address will be found in a file distributed with the software.

FTP File Transfer Protocol. The standard protocol for transferring files from one computer to another over the Internet. A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special 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.
Gigabyte 1000 Megabytes.
Gopher A program that gives you easy access to dozens of other online databases and services by making selections on a menu.
GIF A graphic image file format (Graphics Interchange Format). A format developed in the mid-1980s by CompuServe for use in photo-quality graphics images. Now commonly used everywhere online.
Hacker On the Net, unlike among the general public, this is not a bad person; it is simply somebody who enjoys stretching hardware and software to their limits, seeing just what they can get their computers to do. What many people call hackers, net.denizens refer to as crackers.
Home Page

Web Page

The www page first encountered for a given site or user. Another sloppier use of the term refers to practically any web page as a homepage.

An "html" document accessible on the web.

Host System A public-access site; provides Net access to people outside the research and government community.
HTML HyperText Markup Language. The coding language (or format) used for creating hypertext documents on the World Wide Web. In practical terms, HTML is a collection of styles (indicated by markup tags) that define the various components of a World Wide Web document.
HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol -- an information retrieval mechanism for html documents. (Used to transfer web pages between computers)
Hypertext 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.
Internet A worldwide system for linking smaller computer networks together. Networks connected through the Internet use a particular set of communications standards to communicate, known as TCP/IP.
Intranet An intranet is a network that exists exclusively within an organization and that is based on Internet technology. Because an intranet is based on Internet technology, it can have thousands of users across many locations and still be private.
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. Most machines also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember.
IRC Internet Relay Chat, a CB simulator that lets you have live keyboard chats with people around the world. It provides a mechanism for holding typed conversations between groups of Internet users.
ISDN Integrated Services Digital Network. Basically a way to move more data over existing regular phone lines. ISDN is rapidly becoming available to much of the USA and in most markets it is priced very comparably to standard analog phone circuits. It can provide speeds of roughly 128,000 bits-per-second over regular phone lines. In practice, most people will be limited to 56,000 or 64,000 bits-per-second.
ISP Internet Service Provider. An institution that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.
Java Java is a network-oriented programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that is specifically designed for writing programs that can be safely downloaded to your computer through the Internet and immediately run without fear of viruses or other harm to your computer or files. Using small Java programs (called "Applets"), Web pages can include functions such as animations, calculators, and other fancy tricks.
JPEG/JPG A graphic image file format.
LAN Local Area Network. A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of a building.
Log on/log in

Log off

Connect to a host system or public-access site.

Disconnect from a host system.

Mailing List Essentially a conference in which messages are delivered right to your mailbox, instead of to a Usenet newsgroup. You get on these by sending a message to a specific e-mail address, which is often that of a computer that automates the process.
Meta Site A web page containing a directory of other pages (such as Yahoo!)
Modem MOdulator, DEModulator. A device that you connect to your computer and to a phone line, that allows the computer to talk to other computers through the phone system. Basically, modems do for computers what a telephone does for humans.
Network A communications system that links two or more computers. It can be as simple as a cable strung between two computers a few feet apart or as complex as hundreds of thousands of computers around the world linked through fiber optic cables, phone lines and satellites.


When your computer is not connected to a host system or the Net, you are offline.

When your computer is connected to an online service, bulletin-board system or public-access site.

Plug-in A (usually small) piece of software that adds features to a larger piece of software. Common examples are plug-ins for the Netscape browser and web server. Adobe Photoshop also uses plug-ins. The idea behind plug-in's is that a small piece of software is loaded into memory by the larger program, adding a new feature, and that users need only install the few plug-ins that they need, out of a much larger pool of possibilities. Plug-ins are usually created by people other than the publishers of the software the plug-in works with.
Post To Compose a message for a Usenet newsgroup and then send it out for others to see.
Postmaster The person to contact at a particular site to ask for information about the site or complain about one of his/her user's behavior.
Protocol The method used to transfer a file between a host system and your computer.

Point-to-Point-Protocol. Most well known as a protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make TCP/IP connections and thus be really and truly on the Internet.

Serial Line Internet Protocol. A standard for using a regular telephone line (a serial line) and a modem to connect a computer as a real Internet site. SLIP is gradually being replaced by PPP.

SGML Standard Generalized Markup Language -- this is a standard for describing markup languages.
Search Engine A web page having ability to conduct searches of other web pages.
Server A computer that can distribute information or files automatically in response to specifically worded e-mail requests.
SMTP Simple Mail Transport Protocol. The main protocol used to send electronic mail on the Internet. SMTP consists of a set of rules for how a program sending mail and a program receiving mail should interact.
Snail mail Mail that comes through a slot in your front door or a box mounted outside your house.
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.
Sysadmin The system administrator; the person who runs a host system or public-access site.
Sysop A system operator. Somebody who runs a bulletin-board system.
TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP is the software used on the Internet to pass information from machine to machine and from network to network. It contains two components, Internet Protocol (IP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).
Telnet A program that lets you connect to other computers on the Internet (login from one Internet site to another). The telnet command/program gets you to the login: prompt of another host.
URL URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is the standard way to give the address of any resource (files, images, etc.) on the Internet that is accessible through the World Wide Web (WWW). URLs tell you what kind of site you are accessing (Web page, gopher site, ftp site, telnet link, etc.) and where the site is located. Examples include the following:
User name On most host systems, the first time you connect you are asked to supply a one-word user name. This can be any combination of letters and numbers.
Veronica Very Easy Rodent Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives. Developed at the University of Nevada, Veronica is a constantly updated database of the names of almost every menu item on thousands of gopher servers. The Veronica database can be searched from most major gopher menus.
WAIS Wide Area Information Server; a program that can search dozens of databases in one search.
Web Server The computer that processes www access for a given site.
Web Site An Internet node capable of responding to "http" requests.
World Wide Web -- WWW World Wide Web (a.k.a. Web or WWW) is the multimedia part of the Internet. The web is the graphical Internet service that provides a network of interactive documents and the software to access them.

Shorthands Used In Online Communication:

In online communications, humor and sarcasm are best used cautiously. It's all too easy to be misunderstood, or to misunderstand others.

A.K.A Also Known As...
BTW By The Way. A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum.
FCOL For Crying Out Loud
FYI For Your Information. For Your Interest.
GMTA Great Minds Think Alike
IHA I Humbly Ask.
IMHO In My Humble Opinion. A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum, IMHO indicates that the writer is aware that they are expressing a debatable view, probably on a subject already under discussion. One of many such shorthands in common use online, especially in discussion forums.
LOL Laughing Out Loud
OTOH On The Other Hand
ROTFL Rolling on the Floor Laughing. How to respond to a particularly funny comment.
RTFM Read the, uh, you know, Manual. Often used in flames against people who ask computer-related questions that could be easily answered with a few minutes with a manual. More politely: RTM.
TAFN That's All For Now
TTFN Ta Ta For Now
TTYL Talk To You Later

Introduction Electronic Mail Telnet FTP Gopher Web Browsers Glossary Sources Table of Contents

Last Updated: June 1, 1997