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SiteMaster Internet Services

Glossary of common computer and Internet words and phrases

Copyright 2000 Alan Chard - you are welcome to link to this page


404 error

The error indication given by web servers when the particular page which was requested cannot be found

ActiveX (and ADO)

An alternative to Java Applets developed by Microsoft

Address Book

A place within an email application to keep e-mail addresses which you use often

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line)

A way of using existing copper telephone wires to send and receive data at high speed. ADSL circuits are many times faster than conventional phone lines,but have to be set up to connect two specific locations,this is like a leased line. As the name suggests (Asymmetric) the connection is faster in one direction (download) than the other (upload). This type of connection is readily available in the US, but at the time of writing was not available in the UK.

Affiliate programme

An agreement by the operator of a website A to pay commission to the operator of website B who displays an advert so that visitors are either directed to or make purchases from website A. Affiliate programmes account for the plethora of adverts for certain companies which can be found on so many websites.


Another name for something. For example an abbreviation.

Animated gif

A graphics files in gif format which contains several frames which when viewed using a web browser shows the frames to produce animation.

Anonymous ftp

A way of using an ftp site without giving your real name, instead you give user name as "anonymous" and use your e-mail address as password. ftp sites normally keep a log of activities.

AOL Instant Messenger

A part of America On Line, which allows users to pass messages (chat) directly in real time with others users of the service.


A free, public-domain web server developed by a group of programmers. It was based on original software from NCSA, together with a number of patches, and originally know as 'a patchy server' hence Apache! Apache is the most popular web server on the Internet.


A Java program (usually small) which is embedded in web page. Applets can only perform a restricted subset of instructions. This restriction is to provide security and confidence for users. Do not confuse with JavaScript.


A program which runs on a computer. Typically applications performs tasks such as word processing, accounting, spreadsheets etc.


A method of searching for files on the Internet which has been largely superseded in popular use by the major search engines.

ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency)

ARPAnet was an experimental network, established in the 1970s in the US. It was expanded and developed and became the Internet of today.

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

A way of representing text as numbers in the range 0 to 256 so that it can be transferred between computers. It was originally used on Teletypes and Telex machines. ASCII text is sometimes called plain text (as opposed to encrypted text).

ASCII file

An ASCII file contains characters used on a typewriter keyboard. ASCII files can be sent and received by e-mail as attachments. Other types of file, for instance graphics files, will contain other information which will not necessarily be passed through the Internet email system without corruption because only text is expected. This means that graphics and other file formats must be converted to ASCII before they can be sent as attachments and then decoded when they have been received. This can result in difficulties as there is no single standard for this coding.

ASP (Active Server Pages)

A combination of HTML, ActiveX and ODBC with scripts which can be used to create dynamic (as opposed to static) web pages. ASP pages have file names that end in .asp. ASP was developed by Microsoft.


A file that is attached, and therefore send with an e-mail message. Recently attachments have been used to transmit viruses, particularly using Microsoft applications.


Acceptable use policy - statement of what is considered acceptable use of copyright material


When one computer wants to access another computer or network, an authentication process takes place. This verifies that the computer making the request has been authorised to use the facility. On the Internet are PAP and CHAP authentication are used.

Autoresponder (Infobot)

A response which is sent automatically when an email is received. Usually in the form of an email giving information such as when a full response will be sent.


The percentage of time when a peice of equipment (such as a web server) is fully functional. E.g. 99% availability means that an average the server will be unavailable (or down) for 3.65 days per year.

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Business to business - websites aimed at other businesses


Business to consumer/customer - websites aimed at the eventual user/consumer of a product


The Internet backbone is a very high bandwidth (capacity) "data highway" which most ISPs connect to either directly or indirectly. The backbone can be thought of as the motorway of the Internet, with junctions to ISPs (A roads) and narrower roads which eventually reach individual computers. As with roads, the closer you are to the motorway junctions the better you communications will be.


A measurement of how much information can be carried by a data connection, often measured in bits per second (BPS). A fast modem can move about 56,000 bits in one second, however the actual speed of data transfer can be much lower than the connection speed due to factors such as noisy telephone lines.

Banner advertising

The placement of a advert in a prominent position of a web page in the hope that interested viewers will click on it and visit the advertiser's website.

Banner exchange

The displaying of a banner advert on a webpage in exchange for your banner advert being displayed on another web page. The process is normally arranged through an intermediary who uses software to ensure equal treatment.

Banner rotation

Displaying different banner adverts in a predefined or random order


The number of signals (transitions) sent per second, usually by a modem although any type of signalling device can be used. Each transition is a change of state, so by defining different states and transitions between them higher data rates become possible. Baud rates should not be confused with bits per second, which is an absolute measure.

BBS (Bulletin Board System)

At one time these were dial-in computers that provided communication facilities - often live, between members. Many BBSs have disappeared or evolved into ISPs as the Internet has evolved.

bcc (blind carbon copy)

A copy of an e-mail message sent to a someone without their address in the message.


A numbering system consisting of zeros and ones. A simple count from zero to decimal 10, in binary would be 0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, 1010

Binary File

A file contain containing data in a binary format. Before this is of use it must be interpreted according to a set of rules for any particular type of file. For example and ASCII file is binary data interpreted as text. Similarly there are other types of file such as spreadsheets, video, images etc.


An encoding standard allowing Apple Macintosh files to be encoded and sent across the Internet. Like all encoded files, BinHex files cannot be used until they have been decoded. The Macintosh file system holds information about the file type within the file itself rather than as an extension (.xxx .pdf etc.). This makes it easier for Macintosh files to be called by any name and for the appropriate application(s) which can use the file to be identified automatically.


A single information unit which can have just two states, on/off, zero or one, and forming the basic building blocks of the binary numbering system used in computers. Eight bits are called a byte, and ASCII code uses a byte to represent each character of text.


A mechanism used by Web Browsers to save the URL (location) of a site so you can go back there quickly and easily. Bookmarks are also found in other programs such as ftp e.g. Fetch. Also called "Favorites" by Microsoft Internet Explorer (another example of a certain company imposing its way?) and "HotList" by some Mosaic variants.


A branch of mathematics dealing with items which can only have two states - like on/off, yes/no. Most programming languages have Boolean variables which can represent these states and allow them to be manipulated with operators such as AND, OR, NOT. It can also be used to describe database searches which incorporate the idea of one condition AND another being met.


A contraction of robot, referring to certain types of computer program. Also called a spider , crawler or scooter, it is a program which runs (usually on a server) and accesses websites to collect information off the pages. Many of the well-know search engines use Bots or Scooters to index other websites. Other types of bot exist, for example the IRCBOT which runs on a server and enables Internet Relay Chat facilities.


Email which is returned because the recipient cannot be located is said to bounce.

BPS (bits per second)

The number of bits of data sent per second over a transport medium. Don't confuse with baud rate.


A device which connects two or more parts of a network which are in different physical locations, for example on different floors of the same building


Looking at documents and Internet sites on the World Wide Web often called surfing the net or surfing the super highway. Browsing software is called a browser. One often begins looking for information by performing a search with one of the major search engines, then moving from site to site (like an animal feeding here are there) looking at the detailed information available.


A computer program you use to view documents on the World Wide Web. The original browser was called Mosaic, which was developed and forms the basis of Netscape Communicator, newer ones include iCab. Originally Netscape products were not free, but charged for, then with the introduction of Microsoft Internet Explorer which was free a fierce competition developed called the Browser Wars. Eventually Microsoft was found guilty anti-competitive practice - a case which is still being appealed at the time of writing.

Browser safe colours

Apple Macintosh and PCs both use 256 colours to display images, however, only 216 of these colours are the same, these are the so-called browser-safe colours or web-safe colours. See also palette


Short for By The Way, often used in email. There are other contractions of a similar type. Much more popular in the early days of the Internet when modem speeds were very slow so anything which reduced the size of messages was very helpful.

Buddy List

A list of people that one chats to on a regular basis using AOL's Instant Messenger. Rather like bookmarks in a browser.


Each byte consists of 8 bits and could be shown in binary bits as (for example) 10001000. In numerical terms a byte contains a decimal number in the range 0 to 255. Thus 1 byte can represent the 256 different characters in ASCII although not all of them are printable. Half a byte (4 bits) is a nibble! In computing at numbers are based on powers of 2, which is why there are so many 16s, 32s, 64s etc.

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Cascading style sheet

see CSS

Case sensitivity

The ability of a computer system to differentiate between upper case (e.g. ABCD) and lower case (abcd) letters. For example if a password is AbCdEf6, then a case sensitive system will require exactly AbCdEf6 whereas one which is not case sensitive will accept abcdef6, ABCDEF6, or any combination.

cc (carbon copy)

A copy of an e-mail message sent to someone other than the main recipient.

cgi (Common Gateway Interface) Perl and CGI faqs page

A method that allows a web server to communicate and interact with another program on the web server and vice versa. cgi gives the webmaster the ability to have truly interactive pages on a website by allowing the viewer of the page to send information back to the site. Decisions can then be taken by programs running on the server and different pages displayed - for example database access.

CHAP (Challenge Authentication Protocol)

A way of authenticating a user. CHAP encodes the user name and password making it more secure than PAP.

Chat (see also IRC)

IRC, AOL Instant Messenger are two examples of Chat services, they allow a number of users to communicate with each other. Some use the metaphor of chat rooms. If you want to chat you 'enter' a room and can then see chat all the other people in that room are saying and can join in the conversation. These use large amounts of computer resources when running and are banned from many commercial servers.


Used to describe text or images (or just parts of images) which can be clicked on with a mouse pointer to cause some action to take place

Clickthrough, clickthru

Being transferred from one website to another after clicking on a link - normally used to denote responses to adverts in the context of high or low clickthrough rates. See also pay per click


One computer which connects to and users the services provided by a server. The software used on the client computers is called a client program and the software on the server is called a server program. When you connect to the Internet via a modem your computer is the client and the computer at the other end acts as the server.

Client Program

Computer software which allows one computer (the client) to connect to another computer (server) and use facilities provided by the server. One example is email, the email program which you use to send and receive email (e g Eudora, Claris Emailer, Outlook Express) is a client, while the program you connect to at your ISP is the mail server.


A way of allowing two computers to communicate with each other so that one (the client) can use the facilities provided by the other (the server). Often used to allow a low-power computer to communicate with a much more powerful computer.

COM port

A communications port which allows modems and printers to be connected to computers.

Connect Time

The length of time your computer is connected to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).


A small amount of data generated by a web server when you access a web site . Cookies are stored on your computer by your browser so that the data in the cookie and be sent back to the web server later. Cookies are used to hold information about your visit, for example the contents of your shopping basket, your user name and details so you don't have to enter them on your next visit to the same site, Cookies are necessary for some websites to function properly.


Copyright comes into existence when you create something, for example when you draw a doodle, take a photograph etc. It lasts for different times depending on what country you live in, in Europe it lasts until 70 years after your death so that you children and grandchildren can benefit from your creative efforts. It is therefore the legal ownership of published materials, and as such can be assigned from owner to owner. Most web sites and the materials contained therein are copyrighted and should only be used with the express permission of the owner. Generally if you work for an employer then your conditions of employment will state that any copyright in your work belongs to your employer.


A person who modifies a computer program to circumvent the program's mechanism which requires a valid serial number to be entered before the program will run correctly. Do not confuse with hacker.

Crawler (see spider)

CSS (Cascading style sheet)

A way of defining the properties of text (i.e. font, size, colour, weight etc) in one place so that web browser software can produce a consistent appearance over a whole website.


A prefix added to words to indicate Internet, computer or other high-tech use, hence cybercash. The term cyberspace was coined by William Gibson in a novel called Neuromancer (ISBN 0441569595)to refer to the whole 'space' provided by computer networks.

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A telephone line connection between two computers which is established by dialling a particular number.


Someone at the forefront of the digital revolution - (a contraction of digital and literati)

Digital Signature

A code which is used to guarantee that a communication has come from a particular sender. See also PGP.


A container used to hold data files and other lower-level directories on a computer system. In modern computer operating systems the metaphor of a folder is used to represent a directory.


When a particular colour cannot be shown accurately on a computer screen an approximation can be achieved by mixing small dots of different colours - by dithering the colours.

Dead link

A hypertext link which leads nowhere, usually because the website or text which it originally pointed to has been modified.

De listing

Removal from an Internet search facility, directory or index by the operator of the facility, often a sanction applied by operators for what they consider improper use of the facility.

Denial of service attack

Conduct directed towards a website or email recipient which has the objective of making it impossible for legitimate users of the website or email address to use the facility. This might take the form of using software to generate a very large number of requests for pages off the website, or sending a very large number of emails - mailbombing.


A district or area under someone's control. In Internet terms countries have two letter codes associated with them, for example uk for united kingdom, i.e. Ireland. These are called the top level domains. As the Internet began in the US, there is no specific country code for the US, so all .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov and .mil sites do not have a country domain. Within each top level domain there are second level domains, for example for the academic community within the uk.

Domain Name

A name which can be used to relate to a particular website. It consists of all the relevant parts from the top level downwards. For example, Domain names can be registered by different authorised registrars. Short and descriptive domain names can be very valuable items.

Domain Name System/Server (DNS)

On the Internet, computers have an IP address which is a purely numerical address (e.g. Such addresses are not easy for people to remember and are not descriptive of the website, so the Domain Name System was set up which converts meaningful domain names into numerical addresses. As the number of websites increases the current 12 digit IP addresses are running out. Most ISPs have a pool of IP addresses which are dynamically allocated to users each time the connect and then returned to the pool when then disconnect.

Doorway page (Hook page, gateway page)

A website page which is specially designed with the aim of achieving a position at or near the top of the list in a search engine when a particular search string is used


Transferring a copy of a file from a website or other server onto your local computer.

Dynamic HTML (DHTML)

A combination of technologies and standards which enables web pages to be generated as required and delivered immediately to your browser. Static pages are written using HTML which is simply delivered from the web server to your browser where it is interpreted and displayed as a page. Dynamic HTML uses cgi, Perl scripts, Active X, cookies, Java Applets, Java script and SSI (Server Side Includes).

Dynamic Web Pages

Web pages which use the techniques and technologies of Dynamic HTML (above). Such pages are generated as required and so can contain variable information which if different depending on the user's input - for example database searches.

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Easter egg

An undocumented feature of a computer program which is discovered, usually by holding down a combination of keys on the keyboard whilst clicking somewhere with the mouse

Electronic Mail (e-mail)

Sending and receiving messages via an email address - see below.

e-mail Address

The particular mailbox where the electronic mail will be delivered. Email is passed from one computer to another by varying routes until it is delivered to the final mailbox. The important result is that the mail arrives rather than taking the shortest route. Email addresses have the general form [email protected] for example [email protected]

e-mail Client

The piece of software which runs on your computer and allows you to send and receive email.

Emoticons ( see Smilies)

A way of expressing non-verbal communication in emails. E.g. ;-)


A way of converting one file format into another, for example binary file to ASCII format. UUencode, MIME binhex and AppleDouble are examples.


Converting readable information into a form which cannot easily be read by others by the use of secret codes and or passwords. Examples are PGP and SSL. Until recently the technology used by PGP was prohibited from being exported from the US because it is considered that breaking the code would take too long using the means which are currently available even to major governments.


A communication standard for networks which allows digital information to be sent at either 10 million bits per second or 100 million bits per second. This capacity is shared by all users of the network. Ethernet can be carried by different type of wiring, 'thin' Ethernet using coaxial cable which is a linear network visiting all hosts on the network, 10BaseT Ethernet using pairs of thin wire like telephone cable and connected to a central exchange device called a hub.


A larger form of intranet which allows not just people within a company, but also selected outsides to access it.


An electronic magazine-like communication delivered by email.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

A document containing a list of questions which have been asked about a particular topic. It is good practice always to read the FAQ files before you email questions to a website, you will often find the answer to your question more quickly and without making any work for the webmaster.

Favorites (see bookmarks)


An ftp client program for the Apple Macintosh


A collection of data on a computer filing system which has a unique name. It can be used by programs in different ways.

File Compression

A way of reducing the size of computer files usually by looking for repeated patterns of data in the original file and replacing them by codes. Dramatic reductions are possible with some graphic files being reduced to a 5 to 10 % of their original size. The reduced file size also makes transmission over the Internet faster if the files are sent as attachments to emails. A copy of the application program for expanding the compressed file can be incorporated with the data to form a self-extracting file.


A way of finding people on the Internet, originally a Unix command.


Firefox is a web browser that has an intuitive interface and blocks viruses, spyware, and popup ads. Easy to install and import your bookmarks (favorites).


A means by which unauthorised users are prevented from interfering with a computer or network. This may take the form of only allowing connections from known IP addresses.


A concerted personal derogatory attack on one person usually in a discussion group or forum.

Flame War

When one person is attacked or flamed in a discussion group they may retaliate in a like manner which results in a flame war. Tempers can soon become frayed and insults fly freely. To outside observers this may seem amusing but it's no fun for the participants. There are misguided individuals who try to start flame wars just for fun.

Folder (see Directory)


Typeface. The set of characters in a particular style which are used to display text. A document may contain many different fonts.


A way of dividing up a web page into two or more independent areas. Useful to allow certain elements of the page to remain visible at all times, for instance navigation buttons


Software which the author has designed at being available without charge, it is usually subject to use restrictions and is still copyright Before using Freeware it's worth checking that the author is still the copyright holder just in case (s)he was paid to produce the software for someone else who actually owns the copyright.

ftp (File Transfer Protocol)

The protocol used for moving files from one computer to another, usually up or downloading.

ftp Site

A site that allows files to be transferred using the ftp protocol. May specialise is providing certain types of software available for downloading.

FYI - For Your Information

Abbreviation often used in emails

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A connection or link between two networks.

Gateway page

See doorway page

.gif (Graphic Interchange Format)

A format for image files developed when modem speeds were slow (2400 bits per second!) to allow images to be displayed. It analyses the colors used in the image and selects the 256 most used colours and discards the rest. It can have transparent areas, and a later variant allows animation.

Gigabyte (Gb)

one thousand megabytes ( 1000 x 1Mb), a megabyte being a million bytes. (Strictly 1024 x 1024 but the distinction has become blurred)


A menu-based system for retrieving files from a server, it's name is a corruption of "go for", created at the University of Minnesota. Largely outdated now that browsers have become more powerful. Each Gopher server presents a unique menu of files, and in general can only be accessed using a Gopher client.

GUI (Graphical User Interface)

Pronounced gooey! A set of standards which allows a user to interact with a computer system using pictorial icons instead of typing commands into a command line interface.

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Hacker (Do not confuse with cracker)

Someone who uses or attempts to use a computer system which they are not entitled to use.

Helper Applications

Programs which are needed when web browsers do not have the capability to handle a file. For instance sound or video files. These are passed from the browser to the helper application where they are decoded and processed. Helper applications can be upgraded more frequently and easily then whole browsers.


A numbering system which is based on 16 rather than 10 as in decimal. The hexadecimal numbers therefore go


A hexadecimal number needs 4 binary bits to represent it. Often abbreviated to hex.


The number of files transferred from a web server to the web browser. As a means of gauging a website's popularity hits is of little use because each page will generate many hits. For example if a page contains text plus 10 graphics, then the browser will cause 11 hits while it displays the page. A much more reliable way of measuring a site's popularity is to ask about the number of unique sites served or the number of page views. This eliminates multiple visits from the same source.

Home Page

Originally the first page shown in a browser, but now the means the entry point (entry page) to a web site.

Hook page

see doorway page


In true networking terms a host is simply a device on a network, thus a computer, printer etc are all hosts. It has come to mean a computer that provides facilities (applications) to others on networks.

html (Hypertext Markup Language)

The standard which allows web pages to be written as text files with references to images which are to be embedded in the pages. It consists of the text which is to be displayed together with special tags which turn various formatting features (e.g. bold type) on and off. HTML is stored in text files which are transferred to browsers where the text and tags and converted into a visible form.

http (Hypertext Transport Protocol)

The communication protocol used by web browsers and web servers to transfer html and other files.


A device used for interconnecting devices on a network where one cable goes from the hub to each device producing a 'star' topology. Hubs can be connected to other hubs to expand networks a process called cascading, in Ethernet networks a signal should not pass through more than three hubs.


A way of allowing access from one item in a hypertext document to another item. Practically this means that any text, image or part of an image can be used as a link to text in the same document, or any other document on the Internet. Hyperlinks are usually denoted by underlining and a particular color - often blue, although there is no requirement for either of these.


Text that uses hyperlinks to link to other text in the same document or other documents. Apple's HyperCard software was one of the first programs based on this technology.

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IAB (Internet Architecture Board)

An official body which regulates the standards used on the Internet.


An Internet chat and messaging system.

IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force)

A voluntary group for the resolution of technical matters which works in conjunction with the IAB.


Abbreviation for If I Remember Correctly

Image Map

A way of using the whole or parts or an image displayed on a web page as hypertext links. It allows such things as maps to be clickable to access pages for different areas or countries.


An email standard sometimes used as a n alternative to POP3.


Shorthand - In My Humble/Honest Opinion.


A notional postoffice box into which email is placed on a server so that it can be accessed by users. This method of access is necessary because most computers are not permanently connected to the Internet and so cannot contain true mailboxes. It allows ISPs to hold mail until the next time the user connects and asks for their mail.


See autoresponder

Information Superhighway

Another term for the Internet


A world-wide collection of computers linked together by networks using the TCP/IP protocol. Computers can join and leave easily using dial-up connections or may be permanently connected.

Internet Address

The unique numerical address IP Address which identifies any computer on the Internet See DNS for details about converting from names to these addresses.


An organization that originally administered the registration of domain names for the United States. During the early part of 2000 InterNic lost its monopoly and the cost of registering a US domain name plummeted from US $ 70 for two years to around US $ 30 or even less.

IP (Internet Protocol)

IP is one of the protocols which specify how data must packaged for transmission across the Internet See also TCP/IP.

IP Address (Number)

A unique number which identifies a computer on the Internet This has the form i.e. four groups of three digits in the range zero to 255.


A network inside an organization that uses the same kinds of software and protocols as the Internet. This may be linked to the outside world and called an Extranet.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat)

The original chat format providing text-based communication between users.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)

A digital communication system which gives two channels each capable of carrying 64 K Bytes per second. It allows users to dial a number and be connected to another ISDN user. Often used for Internet connection and the high-speed transfer of large data files direct from one user to another. Its main advantage over a modem is that the connection is always at 64 k bps and is established in a couple of seconds. In the UK it is difficult to obtain modem connections better than 44 k BPS and these take over 30 seconds to establish. In the UK it is an expensive service and likely to be superseded by ADSL in the letter part of 2000.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

An organization providing Internet access via dial-up connections. ISPs will normally be connected to the Internet backbone via a very high speed connection. Charges for access vary from free - where the user pays only for the telephone call, to expensive. Compare with Web Hosting

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A computer programming language, similar to C++. Java is a full programming language which can be used for large computer systems as well as providing a subset which is available for writing java applets which can be embedded into web pages. Not to be confused with Javascript.


A programming method which allows added functionality to be added to web pages, developed by Netscape. The javascript is embedded is html documents,to give extra functions - for example rollover buttons (Buttons which change in some way when the mouse pointer passes over them).

.jpeg, .jpg (JAY-peg)

A standard for the compression of images which was created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. There is some loss of data when the image is compressed. Typically images can be compressed to 10% of their original size without visual distortion becoming apparent. image files stored in JPEG format normally have the extension .jpg

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kbps (kilobits per second)

A measure of how fast data is being transferred over a communications link. A kilobit is made up of 1,024 bits


Words defined in the Meta Tags of a web page which tell search engines how to index the page

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Local Area Network, a group of computers at a single location connected by a network. Compare WAN, wide area network.

Link(s) (see hyperlink)


An open source version of the Unix operating system.


List server - a program which provides broadcast email facilities so that groups can hold discussions by email.


It can mean either a user's name (user login) which is used to gain access to a computer or network, or refer to the process of connecting to a computer and being authenticated.

Lurk, lurking

Viewing the discussions in a newsgroup or forum on a regular basis without contributing anything. Often done to gauge whether or not the group would be suitable to join.

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Sending a very large number of emails which all have the same content or very sikilar content to one recipient. This has the effect of blocking up the recipient's mailbox which makes it difficult to receive legitimate email. It may be part of a denial of service attack.

Mailing List

A collection of email addresses which can be treated as a whole by an email client program. This allows the same email to be sent to everyone on the list at the same time.

Message Header

Information at the top of an e-mail which says who sent it, where it came from, what path it took together with time-stamping information. This information can be used to track the message as it was sent from computer to computer across the Internet and identify the senders of bulk unsolicited email, know as spam.

Meta Tags

Special HTML tags which are used in web pages to convey additional information which is not visible on the page, for example keywords, author, character set used.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

The web browser Microsoft has produced. Installed on all Windows based computers it led to Microsoft being found guilty of using its dominant position to stifle competition and innovation, at the time of writing this judgement is being challenged by Microsoft.

Internet Explorer version 6 is a serious holdup in the use of standards on the internet. This version does not show pages correctly when cascading stylesheets are used. Microsoft has decided that no updates will be made to IE6 which means that because approximately 80% of people are using the Microsoft browser that web designers are forced to limit their designs and introduce extra coding to accommodate the deficiencies of Microsoft's software.

This problem can be eliminated by using a standards compliant browser, at the time of writing Firefox is the best browser.

Midi (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)

A standard for connecting electronic musical instruments to computers so that information can be exchanged in either direction. Also a file format for the storage of music which can be exchanged over the Internet or played by browsers, such files have a .mid extension.

MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension)

A set of standards for encoding non-ASCII data files for attachment to emails. These have been widely adopted and now come to mean formats used for Internet media in general.


Mirror websites are copies of original sites which are kept up-to-date. Their purpose is to allow users to assess information or files closer to home or prevent a single website being overwhelmed by demand.


Modulator / demodulator which converts digital data into a narrow range of analogue signals capable of being carried by a telephone connection. Modems use agreed standards to communicate and negotiate connection speeds with each other. Some examples are 56kbps v.90 and 33.6kbps e v.34 .

Modem Speed

These are expressed in BPS or kbps and give the maximum possible data transfer rates. Because of poor telephone lines the maximum speed which can be reliably sustained in the UK is about 44 kbps even with a 56 kbps modem.


Developed at NCSA this was the original web browser which later became Netscape Navigator and evolved into Netscape communicator.

MPEG (.mpeg .mpg)

A standard for compressing video which was developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group. Files stored in this format usually have the extension .mpg


Abbreviation - more to follow


Text type formats for game playing over the Internet MUD - Multi-user Dungeon, role play similar to dungeons and dragons.


Text, graphics, video and sound coming together in one communication.

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The process of moving from page to page within a website, or from website to website.

NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications)

University of Illinois organisation responsible for Mosaic the original web browser.


Internet etiquette - a rapidly changing concept of how Internet users should interact with each other. For example Hello is currently considered as a rather formal start to an email, whereas Hi is considered rather informal. We are all able to contribute to the development of what will be the 'Dear sir" and 'Yours sincerely' of the future.


Generally a person who follows good Netiquette.

Netscape Communicator (Navigator)

A popular web browser, developed from Mosaic. Netscape was bought out by AOL after Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer and took much of Netscape's business. This led to Microsoft being found guilty of using its dominant position to stifle innovation and competition in 1999.


A hardware/software system allowing two or more computers and other devices such as printers to be connected and work together.


Internet newcomer. Normally used by old hands as a term of abuse for people who do not use netiquette.


A discussion group which stores its messages on a news server from where members and non-members can view them. Depending on the group you may need to become a member before you can post messages.


Software which allows you to access and use newsgroups. Most browsers now incorporate this function.


4 binary bits. Half a byte. Can be used to hold a number in the range 0 to 31 decimal, often used for one hexadecimal character.


The protocol used by newsgroup servers.

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ODBC (Open DataBase Connectivity)

A standard for access to databases. It allows different software to access databases which would otherwise be inaccessible.


Not connected. This can apply to connection between a computer and another device such as a printer, or between a client computer and a server - for example you might connect to an email server, download your emails and then read them off-line, i.e. while disconnected.


Connected. See off-line above.

Online Services

A service providing information to users, normally on a fee-paying or subscription basis.

Open source

A computer software application or operating system for which the source code is in the public domain. This enables anyone to develop the code as long as they make their enhancements available to everyone else. Linux is a prime example.

Operating System (OS)

Computer software which controls the basic hardware and provides services to other programs. Examples are MacOS, UNIX, Linux and Windows. UNIX and Linux, are the most popular operating systems for servers on the Internet


Abbreviation - On The Other Hand


Temporary storage for outgoing emails so that they can be composed off-line for sending later.

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The basic unit by which information is moved from computer to computer across the Internet

Paid-rank search engine (See also pay per click)

A search facility whose results are ranked according to the amount which advertisers pay.

Palette, colour palette

The particular group of colours being used by an image. See also web safe colours.

PAP (Password Authentication Protocol)

A way of authenticating users who try to log into a computer system on the Internet The other is CHAP.


A group of characters which are used to verify the identity of a user.


A modification to a piece of software which is made without recompiling the original. It works by adding additional instructions with appropriate jumps. Definitely not for novices as it requires a deep understanding of how the actual code works.

Pay per click (See also clickthrough)

A method of charging for advertising based on results. An advert is displayed on a website inviting interested viewers to click on it, which takes them to the advertiser's website. The advertiser is charged each time a visitor clicks on the advert - hence pay per click. Some search engines work exclusively in this way listing those advertisers who bid the highest price per click at the top of their listings of results for any particular search string.


Portable document format. A format for writing files so that they can be viewed or printed using a viewer program and will appear the same on any computer. Developed by Adobe.

Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language)

A programming language which is especially suited to text handling, which makes it ideal for running on web servers and handling the interaction between visitors and the server. We have a special faqs section for Perl.

Permissive email (Permission email)

An email communication which is sent only to email addresses where the recipients have indicated that they are willing to receive the messages. For example many websites offer visitors the option to join their mailing list, those who join in this way are added to a permissive mailing list.

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) Devised by Phil Zimmermann

A way of encrypting data based on two keys, a public key and a private key know only to the owner. Anyone can encrypt messages and data using the public key and these will only be readable by the person with the private key. Similarly you can encrypt with your private key and others can decrypt with a combination of your public key and their private keys. This is a very secure method of encryption which is believed to be capable on withstanding the resources of major governments.


A free photo management application. It searches your hard disk and finds every image file then arranges them logically. Easily customised to omit folders. Full backup facilities, downloads photos from digital cameras.


A physical computer which is capable of running software. For instance an Apple Macintosh. a PC etc.


Software which adds functionality to an existing piece of software. Plug-ins use predefined interfaces between the main software and the plug-in. Typical examples are extra filters for Adobe's Photoshop and video or Macromedia's Shockwave plug-in for web browsers.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol, version 3)

The communication protocol used between email servers and client programs.


A location where data is exchanged. In general system users never need to specify ports they are set up at standard locations and do not need to change.

PPP (Point to Point Protocol)

A means by which a computer can connect to the Internet using a modem and telephone line, it is more stable than the alternative which is SLIP .


A program or application runs on a computer. Typically programs perform tasks such as word processing, accounting, spreadsheets etc.

Propagation (propagation delay)

The process of updating all the domain name servers on the Internet with changes to the relationship between domain names and the relevant IP addresses. When these change it can take up to 7 days before all the domain name servers have the new information.


The rules (standards) which govern how communication will take place between computers and other devices. Unless these are followed exactly no communication can take place.


A means of access to the Internet which ensures security (i.e. prevents unauthorised access) - normal only on large networks.

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Devised by Apple Computer, a sound and video compression and playback standard, now the standard used on the Internet

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RFC (Request for Comment)

A document containing a specification (for example a standard), together with a request for interested parties to make comments before a certain dates so that those comments can be considered in the standards-making process.

Robot (may be contracted to Bot)

Also called a spider , crawler or scooter, it is a program which runs (usually on a server) and accesses websites to collect information off the pages. Many of the well-know search engines use robots or Scooters to index other websites. Other types of bot exist, for example the IRCBOT which runs on a server and enables Internet Relay Chat facilities.


A device which connects two networks - for example two remote networks connected by ISDN lines. The routers recognise that the information is on the other network and take care of sending the packets of information to the other network. Used in large numbers to handle traffic on the Interent.


Abbreviation - Read The Fine Manual - or words to that effect!

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SCSI (pronounced scuzzy) (Small Computer System Interface)

A standard for connecting devices such as disc drives, scanners etc to computers. Up to 7 devices can operate on one SCSI connection.

Search Engine

A website which provides a searchable database of webpages on the Internet You can enter search criteria which enable the search engine to locate pages which contain the items you are looking for. Not to be confused with directories which arrange links to other websites by subject area.

Search string

Text submitted to a search engine to be the subject of a search

Self-extracting Archive

A file which contains compressed data (one or more files) together with an application program which will expand the data back to its full size. On Apple Macintosh computers the most common format is Stuffit (files with a .sit or .sea extension) and on PCs .zip extensions. Other formats are used on UNIX and other operating systems.


A computer which runs server software which allows client software to access it, or the term may refer to the server software alone, for instance an email server application.

Server Program

See server above..


Software with limited functionality which is provided by the author so that it can be tried out by users. The idea is that if you continue to use the product after the initial trial period you should pay the licence fee. Copyright exists in all shareware. In general shareware is limited in a variety of ways, sometimes by delaying the startup by 15 seconds, by annoying noises or annoying reminders. The fees requested for shareware are usually trivial and should be paid promptly to reward the author for their work.

Shopping Cart / Shopping basket

A system for keeping track of what a visitor wants to buy on a web site, analogous to a supermarket trolley. Allows all the prospective purchases to be collected and then paid for in one transaction.


Text added automatically to the end of an email before it is sent, useful for adding your contact information, witty sayings. Many users have a selection of signatures and the email program adds one at random before each email is sent.


See self extracting archive files for more information. .sit is a file extension denoting a Stuffit file on apple Macintosh computers

SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol)

Superseded by PPP a method of connecting to the Internet


A way of expressing non-verbal communication in emails using combinations of characters for example

:-) happy and smiling,

:-( sad,

:-| indifferent,

=|:-)= Uncle Sam

Other combinations of letters are also used as shorthand, LOL laughing out loud, BTW by the way and many others

SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol)

Protocol for communication between email servers and also between email servers and clients.

Snail Mail

Stamped mail sent via the Royal Mail in the UK or other postal services elsewhere.


Sending hundreds or thousands of unsolicited emails. Spam got its name from a Monty Python Flying Circus sketch where one of the participants kept repeating spam, spam, spam everywhere spam - or similar. It can be a serious problem when your mailbox is loaded with emails inviting you to dubious websites or requesting money for equally dubious business ventures like selling reports. In many cases it is not worth replying and asking to be removed from the mailing list because all you doing is providing confirmation that someone does actually read that email.


A robot program which accesses websites and collects information for indexing by search engines. May also be called a crawler or bot.

SSI (Server Side Includes)

A method of adding information to web pages as they are served - for example time and date, headers, footers. If SSIs are used carefully then many pages or a whole site can be updated with little effort.

SSL (Secure Socket Layer)

A method of encrypting data as it is transferred between a browser and Internet server. Useful for the transfer of sensitive information like credit card details.

Standalone Program

An application program which performs a function without the need for any other program except the operating system of the computer.

Start Page

The page which your browser displays which it is launched - a good idea is to set this to a blank page unless you always want to go to a certain page.


Adjective used to describe whether a website has the characteristics which encourage visitors to continue looking at pages on the site rather than leaving to look at another site.


A method of sending either a sound or video file across the Internet which enables it to start playing immediately rather than waiting until the whole file has been sent.

Style sheet

A description of how particular paragraphs of text are to be displayed e.g. font, size, weight, etc, used as part of cascading style sheets.

Surfing the Internet

Browsing web pages.


Contraction of System operator. May be the person who looks after a discussion group of forum (also known as a moderator) or could be the operator in charge of a large computer system

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A 1500kbps (1.5 million bits per second) data connection. Generally a US standard rather then a European standard.


A 45000kbps (4.5 million bits per second) data connection.


A file compression format used on UNIX and Linux systems, performs the same function as winzip on PCs, disc doubler and compact pro on Macs


Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The communication standards used on the Internet, it allows different computers to communicate with each other. Without TCP/IP there would be no Internet


An application program which enables you to login in to a remote computer and use a command-line interface as if you were working on a terminal attached to the remote computer. This can be referred to as a Telnet session.

Text File

A file containing ASCII characters.

Threaded Messages

Messages which follow each other on a particular topic - normally presented in a graphical way so that you can visualise the sequence of replies.

Token ring

Type of networking standard. All devices are connected together, a token is passed from device to device, only the device with the token can transmit data.


Posting outrageous messages to newsgroups (or sending outrageous emails to many recipients) to generate many irate responses, or similar conduct

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A stable operating system which uses a command line interface rather than a graphical user interface GUI OS. UNIX and the free variant Linux are the most common operating systems found on web servers. This OS has a reputation for being very stable and resistant to system malfunctions, keeping running under adverse conditions. It also has a reputation for being difficult to learn and configure. Linux is seen by many as a serious threat to Microsoft's domination of the PC operating system market.


The opposite of download - moving a file from your computer to a remote computer. For instance all web pages have to be uploaded to a server before they can be served. .

URL (Uniform/Universal Resource Locator)

An example is which will locate SiteMaster's homepage if typed into any browser anywhere on the Internet


A collection of newsgroups, which can be accessed using the capabilities of modern browsers. Some newsgroup conversations bear a close resemblance to CB radio, although there are many where serious conversations take place, you need to investigate subject which are of interest and read the conversations to get a feel for the group.

User ID

User identification - what you need to log into a remote computer system.


An encoding method for non-ACSII data. (UNIX to UNIX encoding).

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An international communication standard for fax modems defining half- and full-duplex transmission at speeds up to 9600bps using leased circuits.


An international communication standard for modems transmitting at speeds up to 14,400 BPS over leased or dial-up lines.


An international standard for full-duplex transmission at speeds up to 33,600bps. These modems will automatically renegotiate their speed to compensate for the quality of the phone line.


An international standard for error-detection between modems.


An international standard for data compression giving speeds up to 34,000bps.


An international standard for data transmissions at speeds up to 56,000bp.

Veronica (Very Easy Rodent Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerised Archives)

A way to search gopher sites for specific information.


A program which can reproduce itself on a user's computer and may be destructive. There are different types of virus some of which lie dormant waiting for a particular date before they perform their dirty work. Specific viruses can be "caught' from emails which include text attachments containing Microsoft Word files because these have a macro facility which can be executed when the document is opened. A mechanism has now been incorporated into Word to combat this type of virus.

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Wide area network - see also Local area network LAN.

WareZ (pronounced wares like pairs)

Illegal copies of software.

WAV (.wav)

A format for audio files (pronounced Wave) which normally have .wav as their file extension.

Web hosting

The provision of computer facilities for the storage and delivery of an Internet site, note, this does not include provision telephone or other means of connecting to the Internet. Compare to Internet Service Provider

Web ring

A confederation of websites on a similar theme who all display a series of hyperlinks (usually near the bottom of a page) which allow visitors to pass from site to site

Web safe colours

See browser safe colours, also colour palette

Web Server

A computer or the software that "serves" web sites.

Web Site

The combination of computer files held on a computer attached to the Internet which can be served to browsers.


The person responsible for creating and or maintaining a website. It has been commented that there is no such thing as a webmaster we are all 'webslaves'.


Internet magazine


A query made on a database which holds information about domain names to determine whether or not a particular domain name has been registered or to obtain details of the person or entity that registered the name.


Collection of binary bits used in a computer. Whilst bytes (8 bits each) are very common, older computers used to handle either 16 bit words, 32 bit words etc, this parlance has largely fallen from favour in recent years in favour of taking about a number of bits which a processor can handle e.g. a 64 bits version of a particular processor.

World Wide Web (www)

Part of the Internet using graphical pages to present information.

WYSIWYG (Wizzy wig)

What you see is what you get - originally coined to indicate that what you saw on the computer screen would be exactly reproduced when you printed it out, now interpreted in a wider context. Has also been corrupted to WYSIWYFUNG - wizzy fun wig - what you see is what you flipping nearly get!

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The common archive format for UNIX. gzip is the archive program used to create this.


Contraction of magazine which may be used in combination with other abbreviations, hence e-zine, electronic magazine.

.zip (Zip File)

A file extension used to indicate PC files stored in a compressed format which cn be expanded by applications such as PKZIP and WINZIP. (Do not confuse with ZIP drives, which are removable disks having a capacity of 100 Mb and more recently 250 Mb. These can be attached to both Macs and PCs)