Internet Tutorials | John Faughnan | Robert Elson

Glossary - Introductory

For terms not listed here, see the CNet Glossary of Computer Terms (less technical) and the Computing Dictionary (more technical). I also have a more technical glossary, related to web applications (Internet Medical Record): IMR Glossary.

A proprietary Microsoft technology for building more powerful web pages and web applications.
Berners-Lee, Tim
The person generally considered to be the creator of the World Wide Web at CERN in Switzerland. He did not become wealthy from his creation, but neither did Guttenberg. Scientific American Profile 12/97.
Browser, Web Browser, Web Client
An application which can use HTTP to receive documents written in HTML (web pages) from a Web Server, and display those documents with hyperlinks for a human to read.
Cable Modem
A form of high-speed access using television cables. Older cable installations need to work alongside a phone line connection as well (yech).
Party lines on the Internet, analogous to ham or CB radio. It's hard to image much of a use for chat services, but they are popular amongst some college students and people who avoid sunlight and garlic.
Content Providers
People and companies who produce the content that we read and/or use. Content on the web may be free (this site), or it may require an additional fee (Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Wall Street Journal). Some ISPs are also content providers (Prodigy Internet, Microsoft Network, America Online), but the trend is to separate content provision from Internet access.
Cookies are small files that are placed on a user's local drive when the user is visiting certain web sites.. They are stored within the browser's folder. A web site that creates such a cookie can later use it to identify the user as a registered user, or the cookie might store the user's preferences.
Data Lock
Data Lock means that your data is locked down, and not moveable by you. If you have all of your email addresses in a proprietary file format, and there's no export function, then you experience data lock. Vendors love to get customers into a data lock, because it's very hard to switch away. Always fear data lock.
A summary of List messages, typically sent out every few days to digest version subscribers.
DSL (Digital Signal Line)
A kind of high speed "always-on" access to the Internet. Uses a standard phone line, but, incredibly, you can still use the line for voice even while your computer is working over it.
Modern browsers support an arrangement of web pages called "frames". A frame means that a single window is divided up into rectangular portions, each of which holds a separate page. Although frames can be very useful, particulary for holding menus and controls, they can also be very confusing. For example, there's only one "location" bar in a browser, but if there are three web pages being displayed, what location should it show? (It shows the location of the "frameset", which defines the frames.) Many web users wish frames had been done differently, and there is still hope that we may come up with better ways to do the things that frames do.
File Transfer Protocol. An older protocol, used for transferring files between computers. (HTTP, a more recent protocol, can also be used for transferring files.)
A somewhat derogative term for someone who is very comfortable with computers, and may be imagined to be less comfortable with formal society. As a certified geek (nerd, etc), I consider it a form of ethnicity :-).
Gopher was developed at the University of Minnesota for the display of plain text documents over the Internet and to support forms based applications. It was superseded by the web and is largely obsolete. Most web browsers will display gopher documents.
Helper Apps
Applications which help a browser manage web content. Adobe Acrobat is a typical helper app. When a file with extension .pdf is encountered by the browser, the file is handed off to Adobe Acrobat for display. Unlike Plug-Ins Helper Apps run outside of the browser and tend to cause fewer problems.
HyperText Markup Language. The standard used to create documents that web browsers (Netscape, Internet Explorer) can interpret. Standard HTML is defined by the W3 Consortium. Netscape and Microsoft have created proprietary extensions to HTML. See also XML.
HyperText Transfer Protocol. The standard for sending HTML and other web content between a web browser (Netscape) and a Web Server. HTTP 1.0 is a stateless protocol; the web server has no simple way to know the status of the client (web browser). HTTP is also sometimes (confusingly) called connectionless, meaning that it the client browser is only connected to the server for brief intervals. HTTP 1.0 connections also require quite a bit of overhead, consuming server resources. Displaying a single web page may require many of these transactions. HTTP 1.1 addresses many of these problems. See W3C Recommendations Reduce World Wide Wait.
An item in a web document, typically a string of text or an image, that when activated will bring up a different related document.
Internet (Intranet, Extranet, Shmextranet)
The Internet is the set of all connected computers and other devices that have Internet naming authority IP addresses and that send IP packets to one another.. An intranet is a private network; the IP addresses may be assigned internally. The rest is all marketing.
Internet Protocol (IP)
The most basic (defining) foundation of the Internet. A way of naming things that are a part of the Internet, and the definition of an Internet packet (unit of transmitted information). IP is going to be replaced in time by IPv6 (also called IPNG). IPv6 will provide better security, a vastly increased ability to name things, and the ability to differentiate between high priority and lower priority network traffic.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
These companies provide your connection to the Internet. Most often you will use a "modem" and a phone line to connect to an ISP's modems. ISPs almost always provide email services as well as an Internet connection, and most provide personal web page services. All ISPs tend to charge $20-$25/month for "unlimited" access, with other plans for less intense use or for business use. There are probably about 20-30 ISPs that are serious national providers -- meaning that they serve users throughout the United States. Many more ISPs serve a smaller area, such as a city or region. These local ISPs provide similar net access and services, and may have better service or lower rates.
An interpreted programming language developed by Sun. Java resembles C, with some additions from C++ and Smalltalk. It's strengths as an Internet language come from its security model, class library, and its support across many platforms from a digital TV controller to a top level IBM mainframe. For Java references see Java.
The name given an ongoing open-ended discussion carried out through email, (aka "mailing lists"). Lists resemble talk radio conducted by mail. Software, often called "listserv" software, accepts submitted ("posted") messages and sends them via email to all subscribers. Lists typically focus on topic area, such as computers in family medicine (Fam-Med) or academic family medicine (Family-L).
Newsgroup (Bulletin Board, Forum, Conference)
These are different names for rather similar things. All of them are software tools that store and display messages, usually organized by topic and chronology. Newsgroups are vast public discussion groups hosted on the Internet. They have very little to do with "news" in the usual sense of the word.
Unlike email, newsgroup messages do not (currently) automatically get sent to you. You have to "go and get them". Internet newsgroups are read using newsreader software.
The term Bulletin Boards is usually applied to systems that use proprietary standards, and aren't necessarily accessible through the Internet (First Class, many others). Forums and Conferences are sometimes applied to web-based software for sharing messages.
Newsreader (news client, newsgroup client)
Software that is used to read Newsgroup messages.
Personal Information Manager. A category of software that, over the past 10 years, has had many, many, wonderful failures. Microsoft's Outlook, bundled with Office 97 and probably Windows 98, may succeed by dint of Microsoft's fiat. (see Why IE?)
Software that extends the capabilities of a web browser. There are hundreds of Plug-Ins, but only 2-3 are widely used. If you need one to access net resources, the site will usually tell you where to get it. Unlike Helper Apps Plug-Ins work inside the browser and cannot be used without it.
A web site which tries to be an 'entranceway' to the web (mixed metaphor warning!). Portals present a range of services so that users set their browser to always begin with the Portal's main page. Typical portal services include a search engine, indices, free web-based email, calendaring, news services, weather, auctions,  stock and financial data, and anything else you might imagine. Portals are almost always financed through advertising.
Push, Netcasting
IE 4 and NS 4 can automate retrieving changed web pages from specialized web servers. If one chooses to "subscribe" to such sites, then one's web browser will periodically check for changed web pages and download those that have changed. Very convenient for news services. Push was "big" in 1997, but quite dead in 1998. I think it's potentially very useful, but usage has been limited due to a lack of standards and general technology fatigue.
Unsolicited commercial email. A blight on the net. Typically used to sell pornography or fraudulent services. See my spam page.
Style Sheets
Style sheets are relatively new additions to the web. They allow much better control over how web pages look to different users. See Style Sheets for references.
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The language spoken by the computers that make up the Internet. TCP/IP is the "roadway" upon which email, web exchanges (http), and other net traffic travels. Its components are IP and TCP (error correction). "I don't know what protocol the network of the future will use, but it will be called TCP/IP." (anon)
Uniform Resource Locator. A standard way of identifying and locating something on the Internet. jfhomepage is a URL that identifies and locates my web page.
W3C or W3 Consortium.
The standards body for the World Wide Web. Specifies what is standard HTML based on its own work and on adjudicating Microsoft and Netscape extensions to HTML. Berners-Lee is an active leader.
Web Forum
A web application that supports threaded messaging and requires a web browser to view. Similar to a Newsgroup.
Web Server
A networked computer and software that can receive HTTP requests (typically from a web client/browser, like Netscape) and return HTML (web pages).
World Wide Web (WWW)
A term applied to a number of things which all together produce the Web.
XML (Extended Markup Language)
XML is a more generalized markup language than HTML.   Along with Style Sheets it will take the web to the new level of abilities and utility. For XML references, see XML (Extended Markup Language).

Last Revised: 01 Feb 2002. Author: John G. Faughnan M.D. and Robert Elson M.D. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this and related pages are strictly those of the page authors. Anyone may link to or print out any of these pages.