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The lingua franca of the Internet



Computing and Information Technology

(CNN) -- The rapid integration of the Internet and World Wide Web into daily life has added an array of new words, acronyms and even alternative forms of language to the human lexicon. Click on the words for definitions of some basic Internet jargon.

Connect | Infrastructure | Use | Hazards | Communicate


Broadband is the term used for high-speed Internet connections that allow users to connect to Web sites and download content at a faster speed. Broadband has paved the way for high-quality streaming video as well as more interactive content.

Cable modem
A cable modem is a high-speed Internet connection that uses the same wire as the one that brings cable television into homes. Unlike DSL, cable-based Internet services aren't as restricted by distance and offer similar speeds (currently up to 6 Mbps or about 100 times the speed of dial-up). But a cable connection is shared bandwidth, so if several users in a given area are all using their connection at the same time, speeds will drop.

A dial-up Internet connection is one in which a modem is used to dial into the ISP via a telephone line. Connection speeds are limited to 56 Kbps, making download speeds very slow. While the telephone line is in use to connect to the Internet, standard voice calls cannot be made.

A Digital Subscriber Line is a high-speed Internet connection that uses copper telephone lines available in most home and businesses. DSL requires the end user to be relatively close to the central office, or origin of the DSL signal, which limits the area DSL can cover. DSL speeds can range between 256 Kbps (about five times faster than dial-up) and 6 Mbps (more than 100 times faster than dial-up), depending on what level of service is purchased and available in a particular area.

The Domain Name system, or server, is the system that allows an Internet user to use a name for a Web site instead of the IP address consisting of a series of numbers, and is thus easier to remember and use. So instead of typing, a user types in the name of the site -- -- and the DNS directs your request seamlessly to the numerical address of the site.

An Internet service provider is a company that provides an end user with a connection to the Internet and other similar services, such as e-mail. Examples include EarthLink and AOL. Like, AOL is a unit of Time Warner.

VoIP, short for Voice over Internet Protocol, is a technology that allows the use of a broadband Internet connection to make voice telephone calls. A special adapter is used to send a voice call in a digital form using the Internet rather than the traditional voice system.

Wi-Fi is short for "Wireless Fidelity" and is a set of standards for wireless local area networks based on the specifications known as 802.11. It was originally developed for use by wireless devices and local networks, but it is now used for Internet access as well. If you access the Internet wirelessly from your computer or personal digital assistant, chances are you are using a flavor of Wi-Fi.


Short for robot, bots are applications designed with a limited amount of artificial intelligence and set to do a specific automated task. One example would be to index Web sites for search engines. A more malevolent example would be a bot designed to mine information from sites -- such as e-mail addresses -- which then can be added to mailing lists, contributing to spam.

This is another word for the Internet and the society that revolves around it. The term was originally coined by author William Gibson in the novel "Neuromancer."

Domain name
This is the name that constitutes an address of a Web site (i.e. The last part of the domain name is called a Top Level Domain. This part of the name indicates a particular kind of site. For example, .com designates commerce, .org designates an organization and .gov designates a government Web site.

File Transfer Protocol is the standard for uploading and downloading files on the Internet. This is the main method to upload files on a server when building a Web site. Some sites allow users to connect to an FTP site to download public files (like support files or documentation) through anonymous FTP, which uses "anonymous" as the user name and an e-mail address as the password.

A firewall is a hardware or software security system that acts as a barrier between a computer or network and the Internet. The firewall blocks all traffic between the computer or network and the Internet that hasn't been specifically allowed. The intention is to keep out malevolent requests. How secure a firewall is depends on how it is set. If the settings are too stringent, some activities (like instant messaging) can be blocked. If set too loosely, the firewalls protective nature is circumvented, allowing others to potentially connect to the computer or network and perform unauthorized functions.

Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, is the language or code used to construct Web pages. HTML uses tags (a command or instruction) to tell the browser how to display information. HTML instructs browsers how to display graphics or images, text and other features that make up a site. This includes hyperlinks or links that send the browser to another page.

The basic unit of data sent across the Internet. As data -- such as an e-mail -- is sent, it is broken into packets and each packet is individually numbered (so it can be reassembled once all packets arrive at the destination). It includes information such as origin, destination and length.

A browser window -- usually smaller -- that "pops up" separate from the main window. Most often this term refers to advertising that appears with no interaction from the user. Another variation of this is the "pop-under" where the window appears under the main browser and becomes visible only when that window is closed.

This is a specific address defined for different purposes. Different services on the Internet "listen" at different predefined ports. For example, port 80 is defined for HTTP (or Web) services. Other ports can be identified for other purposes or specific applications. When a nonstandard port is used, it is included in the URL or address.

A router is a hardware device that connects one network to another and directs traffic on the Internet by filtering packets of data and sending them to their correct destination. Packets of information usually move from one router to the next until they reach their destination.

A host is the starting point of information downloaded from the Internet, and where information is sent if you are uploading data. It is the place where the data that makes up a Web site resides. Host/hosting can also refer to the company that provides the server for a Web site to reside on.

Telnet is a utility program that allows a user to connect to a remote (via the Internet or another network) computer and enter commands that will be executed as if the user were logged into that computer directly. While telnet is insecure, a similar technology is SSH or secure shell, which provides a secure method for logging in to a remote computer and issuing commands.

Short for Uniform Resource Locator, the URL is the actual address of a Web site. (i.e. The first part of the address is HTTP, which stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol, which is the protocol for transferring files over the World Wide Web. In other words, it is the established manner for a Web browser to connect to a server and receive HTML pages.

USENET is a collection of online message boards that are sorted by topic, where people post messages. They cover a variety of topics (ranging from casual to serious), and are read and posted to by people all over the world.

World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is the vast collection of graphical pages on the Internet and is what most people think of when they think of being online. The Web is made up of Web sites, which are a collection of Web pages that include text, images and other components formatted in HTML.


A browser is a software program that allows a user to access, or "surf, " the Internet. Browsers read HTML and render it into a Web site. Early browsers like Mosaic (the first Web browser) and Lynx (which was text only) have been replaced with browsers with many advanced features. Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox are some of the well-known browsers today.

Cookies are information stored on a user's computer and on a Web site's server that identifies the user to Web sites the user has previously visited. This information can include preferences set for that site and personal information entered (including address or login information). Cookies allow for a certain amount of personalization for a user when repeatedly visiting a site.

Digital music
Music formatted in such a way to listen to it on a computer or a portable device. The most common format is MP3 (short for MPEG layer three), which became popular due to its small size and availability for download in the Internet. Other formats such as Windows Media and AAC contain digital right management (DRM) encoding to prevent unlawful distribution and are used as legal methods for downloading music.

Download means to copy a file from a server on the Internet -- or another network -- to a local computer.

A Netizen is a citizen of the Internet -- someone who spends a great deal of time online and is an experienced user of the Internet.

Short for peer to peer, P2P is a form of file sharing where users trade files with each other, versus downloading them from a centralized server. Peer-to-peer networking employs a system in which each user can see the files that every other connected user has to share.

A plug-in is an additional piece of software that increases functionality of by allowing it to read a format that wasn't supported in its base form. A common example would be the Flash plug-in, which when added to a particular browser, would allow that browser to correctly read and display Flash content. This modular approach allows for the easy support of quickly developing technology.

Podcasting involves making an audio file (usually in MP3 format) of content that is updated frequently (i.e. a weekly radio program) available for automatic download so users can listen to the file at their convenience. The term Podcasting comes from the popular iPod music player from Apple Computer, however the technology is not limited to using an iPod.

Short for Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Summary), RSS is a method of publishing content on frequently updated Web sites. A user will access headlines and see Web site updates via an RSS reader, an application that displays a short summary and provides links to the full article or update on the Web site. This allows a user to "subscribe" to a site or a group of sites so that they can quickly scan the updated headlines or material and then go to the specific articles that interest them. Some browsers also include the RSS reading functions.

Search engine
A search engine is a specially designed site to help users find other Web sites. Some popular ones include Google and Yahoo!. Some search engines have evolved into portals, or sites designed to aggregate information, and are used as a starting point or home base on the web. GOPHER is an early form of a text-based searching tool on the Internet that allowed users to find information from a variety of sources without knowing the actual location of those sources.

Shareware, careware, freeware, wareZ
Shareware is software designed to be shared or passed on by users. The programs are often distributed online for free or a small fee for those who find the program useful under a "try then buy" philosophy. Some variations include freeware (completely free), and careware or donation-ware (where the publisher asks that you donate to a group or charity). WareZ is a term that is used to describe commercial software that has been altered to remove the need to register the product or includes registration information to avoid paying for the software

This is a process, used with audio and video, where a file is played as it is being downloaded, minimizing the amount of time a user must wait to experience the clip. The entire length of the clip doesn't need to be downloaded for the user to begin watching or listening to the file.


Denial of service
Denial of service is an attack on a site or service that overwhelms a Web site's servers with requests or messages, thus preventing users making legitimate requests.

Hacker/cracker/script kiddie
A hacker is a skilled computer programmer who enjoys pushing the limits of computer systems. The term hacker has come to have a negative connotation, implying that all those who "hack" mean to do harm. Cracker is the term created by the hacker community to describe those who break the security of a computer system -- usually with malevolent intent. A script kiddie (also script kitty or script bunny) is someone with little experience who slightly alters code written by others. For more about hacking, visit the Jargon Fileexternal link.

This is unsolicited e-mail, usually sent out in mass or bulk to several recipients. Spam is largely made up of advertising for various sites and products, including pornography, and other methods to separate unsuspecting users from their money. The term originated from a Monty Python skit referring to the canned meat product of the same name. Phishing is a method where spammers use legitimate looking e-mails (appearing to come from a credit card company, for example) in attempt to get personal information that can be used to steal a user's identity.

These are applications that are usually downloaded unknowingly, often included in a "free download" of some kind. These programs can overtake a computer's available resources (memory, hard drive space and Internet bandwidth), adversely affecting its performance. Spyware is an application designed to collect information on a user, usually to build a marketing profile. Adware refers to a program that will "pop up" advertising on a users computer. A user's surfing habits can trigger this advertising, so that the ad better targets the user.

Virus/worm/Trojan horse
These prorams are designed to disrupt the use of a users machine. They are often downloaded unknowingly from Web sites or as attachments in e-mail. A Trojan horse is a program that is not what it appears to be. For example it may purport to be a program to play a certain kind of video, and then will do some harmful action instead. A worm is a program designed to replicate itself and infect as many systems as possible.


Acronyms and abbreviations are frequently used in online communication -- most commonly in chat rooms and while instant messaging -- as a shorthand for commonly used phrases.

Lol -- laugh out loud
Rofl -- rolling on floor laughing
Lmao -- laughing my ass off
Rtfm -- read the f****** manual
Stf -- search the forum
NFBSK -- not for British school kids (disturbing material)
NSFW -- not safe for work (usually pornographic material, but also disturbing)
IMHO -- in my humble opinion

A blog is an online journal where users post thoughts, comments or news in a chronological format. Updates are often frequent and done on a regular basis.

Probably the No. 1 application of the Internet, electronic mail, or e-mail, is a way of transmitting messages via computer or similar device. E-mail is mainly text based, but as e-mail systems have advanced, attaching images and even using HTML formatting has become popular. Ray Tomlinson invented e-mail in 1971. Tomlinson developed the program based on the popularity of another program that only allowed you to leave messages on a local computer. He devised the username@computer designation so that the sending computer would know what user to send the message to "at" what computer.

The widespread use of e-mail, also generated the term snail mail -- referring to letters sent through the postal service and their relatively slow arrival time.

Emoticon symbols are used to indicate mood. Since most online communication is text based, they are a way to show humor or other emotions to other users. Initially emoticons consisted of typed characters (also known as ASCII-grams) that implied a facial expression. For example, using a colon, dash and close parentheses mark like this -- :-) -- represents a smiling face. Later programs such as AOL's Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger started including graphical representations. Emoticons got their start in 1982 when Scott E. Falhman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested using :-) as an indicator for humorous posts on the university's bulletin board system.

A flame is an e-mail message or a message posted on a forum, bulletin board or newsgroup intended to make fun of humiliate another user. Flame messages are usually in response to something (a silly or misinformed post, for example), and often spawn "flame-wars" where users go back and forth, posting messages and egging each other on.

Instant messaging/chat room
Instant message is a program that allows users to send messages back and forth in real time or close to real time, thus allowing a spontaneous conversation to take place. Chat rooms are similar, in that conversations take place and messages appear quickly, but more users are involved and they are normally centered on discussing a particular topic (an ongoing sporting event for example).

Leet/L33t /1337 among others
These refer to "elite" -- a subculture form of English where nonalphabet characters are substituted for letters. Here are some examples:

K3wl -- cool
p@wn3d/pwn/pwnd -- owned -- to beat or dominate an opponent.
teh suck -- the suck -- as in it's not good
r0x0r -- rock -- something was good or cool
w00t! -- An interjections showing joy or excitement
squee -- a sound of excitement

A troll is a user of a newsgroup, forum or message board that posts messages with the intent of inciting an argument or flame-war.

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