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Internet terminology

Internet terminology can be confusing. The following definitions will help clarify various terms relating to the internet.

Internet and website terminology

  • Bandwidth. The capacity of a data connection, usually measured in kilobits per second (kbps) or megabits per second (mbps). In terms of website hosting, bandwidth can refer to a monthly allocation data that can be transferred (browsed, for example) from a website.
  • Bit. A single piece of computer information - either 0 or 1 (off or on).
  • Blog. A blog (short for "web log") is a discussion forum where you can make posts and others can post comments in response. With news feeds and syndication (such as RSS), readers and aggregators can easily monitor a number of blogs. An aggregator is a blog reader client that can monitor a number of different blogs and feeds in order to provide you with the most recent posts from the various feeds.
  • Browser. A browser allows you to view web pages on the internet. This may involve bi-directional communication, such as viewing of a website, making a purchase, or posting on a blog. Many different browsers exist, including Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, and Netscape. There are dozens of older browser versions, many of which render web pages differently or incorrectly. Modern browsers are more standards-compliant; Firefox is arguably the most standards-compliant browser.
  • Bulletin board system (BBS). Bulletin boards or forums were in existence long before blogs. They are generally more structured than blogs - a bulletin board can have many sub-forums, each dedicated to a specific issue or location. For example, a bulletin board could have a forum for each individual state.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS are used to define the presentation of web pages. They can define colors, fonts, and positional layout. CSS are important in that they separate the presentation of a web page from content, which is specified in HTML. CSS allow presentation features (for example, font size and color) of many pages of a website to be changed in one central location.
  • Client. An end-user program that primarily downloads files and information from a server. A web browser is a client, as is an email program. This arrangement is called client-server.
  • Comp (Comprehensive Layout). In graphic design, a comp is a layout of a page or website, without the actual textual content. A comp can vary from a hand sketch to a detailed graphic image. A comp shows the positions of images, text and titles and serves as the template or framework to which the actual content is added.
  • Content. The visible text and associated images on your website, not including banners and navigation. Textual content is often referred to as "copy".
  • Database. A structured collection of data, typically contained in tables which in turn contain rows of data. In the context of websites, a website may use one or more databases contained on the website server. Stores, blogs, and bulletin boards typically store their data in a database. Data in a database is typically accesses via SQL (Structured Query Language) or MySQL, which is an "open source" version of the language.
  • Disk storage. A disk drive (or hard drive) contains rotating magnetically-coated platters on which data is stored. Disk drives have increased in capacity over the years. Capacity is measured in bytes, where a byte loosely corresponds with one character. Common measures of bytes are:
    kilobyte (KB): 1,024 bytes (210 or
    approximately 1,000 bytes)
    megabyte (MB): 1,048,576 bytes (220 or
    approximately 1,000,000 bytes)
    gigabyte (GB): 1,073,741,824 bytes (230 or
    approximately 1,000,000,000 bytes)
    terabyte (TB): 1,099,511,627,776 bytes (240 or
    approximately 1,000,000,000,000 bytes)
  • Directory or folder. A directory is a collection of files on a computer that is given a specific name. Over time, directories have also become known as folders.
  • Domain name. A website typically is hosted under a domain name, such as www.domain.org. A domain name provides a user-friendly way of denoting a website. Technically, domain names are resolved to IP address that identify the physical server where a website resides. A domain can be registered from a domain registrar for a term varying from one to ten years, and then renewed after that.
  • Domain name front-running. Some domain registrars will engage in domain name front running. This is where, if you search for domain name using the registrar's own whois domain name lookup facility, the registrar will automatically register the domain name in their own name and hold it for four days. Thus, you will have to purchase the domain name from that specific registrar, at their prices which will likely be higher than competitive rates.
  • Domain name park or alias. A method of making a domain name bring up a website that is referenced by another domain name. For example, www.mydomain.org could be parked or aliased to www.mydomain.com. "Parking" a domain name also refers to registering it, but not associating the domain with a specific website.
  • Domain name private registration. Standard registration allows your contact information to be viewed by anyone via the whois lookup facility. (Spammers also "harvest" this information). Private registration, usually for an additional fee, hides your contact information.
  • Domain name redirect. A method of making a domain name bring up a website that is referenced by another domain name. For example, www.mydomain.org could be redirected to www.mydomain.com. Because of the behavior of search engines, redirection is preferred over domain parking.
  • Domain name registrar. A domain can be registered from a domain registrar for a term varying from one to ten years, and then renewed after that. The registrar is typically a different company than the website hosting company.
  • Domain Name System (DNS). DNS is a system that catalogs all website domain names, along with their corresponding IP addresses. When a domain is registered and a corresponding website is set up, the domain's DNS record is configured to point to the website server's IP address.
  • Email alias. An email alias is a forwarding mechanism configured with a website. Email sent to the alias will be forwarded to a different email address, which can be configured as an email account on a different website server. For example, "info@mydomain.com" could be configured to forward to "bob@somewhere.com".
  • Email. Email, or electronic mail, is one component of the internet that facilitates sending messages across the internet. A website is often created with one or more email accounts, using Post Office Protocol (POP or POP3) accounts or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) accounts. Email sent to those accounts resides on the website server until downloaded by an email client on an end-user's computer, or read by a web-based email system.
  • Email campaign. An email campaign is a one or more emails sent to a group of recipients who have opted in to an email list. A timed or "drip" campaign will send out emails at regular intervals (perhaps once per week). The stream of timed emails will be triggered by a specific action by each recipient - usually by the recipient signing up to receive the emails. An email campaign autoresponder will send a follow-up email to a response from an original recipient. This cycle may be repeated for a specified number of iterations.
  • Email list. An email list is mechanism for sending email to a large number of recipients. An announcement list allows email to be sent from a select few, while a discussion list allows recipients to reply, thus sending their responses to everyone on the list.
  • E-commerce (Electronic Commerce). E-commerce (or eCommerce) is the offering and purchasing of products over the internet. It typically requires a website with a store and a payment mechanism involving a merchant account and/or a third-party payment facilitator.
  • File. A file is a self-contained collection of computer data and has a unique name. A web page is typically maintained as a file on a server and is downloaded when you browse it. Audio and video are also contained in files (which can become very large).
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol). FTP is a component of the internet that facilitates data transfer via uploading and downloading of files between your computer and a server.
  • Firewall. A program that generally typically resides on your computer in order to block unauthorized access via the internet. A firewall is essential if you are constantly connected to the internet, for example, via DSL or cable modem.
  • Flash. Flash is multimedia capability that allows you to add animations and interactivity to your website. Most graphic animation is done with Flash. In addition, playing of a sizeable proportion of the audio and video on the web is controlled via Flash. Flash animations are typically created using vector graphics, which makes them fast to download and scalable in size.
  • Graphic Design. This is the process of creating visual products and presentations. A graphic artist is one who does the graphic design. With respect to the web, a person versed in graphic design creates the layout of your website.
  • Group. A group is an email list that also can be accessed via a browser, using a web-based interface to read and send email. Usenet newsgroups are a separate component of the internet that are accessed with a newsgroup client (often built into web browsers). Companies such as Google now offer web based groups along with web-based archives of Usenet newsgroup posts.
  • Hosting. When a website is created, it is typically hosted on a commercial server, which is connected to the internet. This is known as hosting.
  • HyperText Markup Language (HTML). HTML is a language (actually a collection of tags) that define the content of a web page. HTML is used to specify titles, textual content, list items, images, and other information presented on a page.
  • Image. An image is a file that contains visual information, such as a chart, graph, icon, or photograph. An image typically represents a graph, chart, photo, or icon (small graphic pictograph) that can be included on a web page. Images are commonly represented in jpeg format (good for photographs), and gif and png format (good for charts, graphs, and icons).
  • Internet Service Provider (ISP). An ISP is a company that acts as a liaison between you and the internet. It serves as your gateway to the internet. There are several types of ISPs: traditional ISPs, which give you full access to the internet, and portals, like AOL, who give a more packaged presentation of the internet. Connection to an ISP is typically via telephone dial-up, telephone company DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), cable modem, and wireless connectivity.
  • Internet. The internet is a global system of interconnected computers. Your computer connects to an ISP, who then connects to the internet. Millions of other computers are also connected to the internet, making it a huge - and rather nebulous - network. The internet actually consists of a number of service components, including email, the world wide web, and file transfer protocol.
  • Internet backbone. The backbone consists of a multitude of various high-speed networks that are connected together to form one virtual internet. The internet is resilient because of redundancy built into the network, which is able to route around points of failure. An ISP or hosting company may have multiple connections to commercial networks that serve as part of the internet backbone. This redundancy is referred to as "multiple backbone connections".
  • IP. Internet Protocol is a communications protocol for transferring data on the internet using packet switching and the TCP/IP protocols. IP also commonly refers to an IP Address, which is a series of four sets of numbers separated by periods that defines the server where a website is hosted. An example is (which is the Wikipedia website).
  • Keyword research. Determining various phrases that people will use as search engine queries when looking for websites such as yours.
  • Link popularity. A measurement of the number of links from other websites to your website pages. More "inbound" links will give you a higher link popularity, with is an important factor that search engines use in determining your website's visibility in their search results. (Also see page rank.)
  • Meta tags. Web pages can contain meta tags, which are hidden from view, but can convey information useful to search engines. Meta Keyword Tags are a common example.
  • Merchant account. A merchant account is an arrangement that a company or organization makes with a bank in order to facilitate online sales and payment via credit card.
  • Navigation. On a website, navigational links are hyperlinks that go to other pages on the website. Navigational links are typically placed in the same area of each page on the website.
  • Opt-in. Referring to email mailing lists, opt-in means that a list owner will only add you to their mailing list if you request it.
  • Opt-out. Referring to email mailing lists, opt-out means that a list owner will remove you from their mailing list if you request it. In some cases, list owners may add you without your permission and then allow you to opt-out from future mailings.
  • Page rank. Page rank has a unique meaning within the context of the Google search engine. Page rank is one of many factors in determining the visibility of your web pages. The fundamental principle of page ranking is that web pages that link to your web pages give your web pages a higher page rank. If the page rank of a page linking to your page is relatively high, the page rank of your pages will be boosted. Thus, getting quality websites in the same line of business to link to your website helps your page rank, which helps increase page visibility. (The term page rank is often confused with page visibility.)
  • Page visibility. Page visibility or search engine visibility is the relative position of a web page or website in the list of search engine results (SER) returned when someone queries a search engine with a search term. The process of achieving high page visibility (for many related search terms) is called search engine optimization.
  • Payment gateway. A payment gateway is an eCommerce service that authorizes online credit card payments. It is typically associated with the online store's a merchant account, and facilitates encrypted transfer of credit card and approval information back and forth between the store, the merchant bank, and the credit card processor. Merchant accounts are typically associated with a specific gateway provider. A payment gateway service is analogous to a physical credit point-of-sale device.
  • Podcast. A podcast is a broadcast of multimedia information (usually audio) over the internet. For example, music, lectures, and announcements are often podcast.
  • Program. Detailed and precise instructions telling a computer what do to. For example, a web browser and an accounting package are programs (or collections of them). The art and science of creating a program is called programming. Web-related programs are often written in the Php, Perl, and Javascript programming languages.
  • Script. A program typically relating to websites. There are many scripting languages. Javascript can be included on a web page to enhance the features and capability of the page. PHP and Perl are powerful scripting language usually run on website servers. Entire web pages can be produced from these scripts.
  • Search engine. A web search engine examines websites on the internet in order to provide a catalog of information contained on those websites. Although there are many search engines, Google is arguably the most successful.
    There are two primary types of search engines: search engines and search directories. Search engines, such as Google, AltaVista, and Excite, send out robots or spiders to index your website, after which your site is evaluated and cataloged in the search engine. With directories, such as Yahoo and LookSmart, human editors review most website's material and catalog it in the directory.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When a website or web page is cataloged by a search engine, it can be listed in search results when someone does a search engine query on terms that are contained in a website. Search Engine Optimization is the art and science of getting your web pages highly ranked and listed near the top of search engine results.
  • Server. A server is a computer that is connected to the internet in order to provide information to clients who request it over the internet. A website is typically hosted on a commercial server. The better hosting companies have multiple connections to internet backbones, secure data centers, uninterruptable power supplies, and full-time (24x7) technical support in the same facility (as opposed to overseas). Most commercial servers typically run the Unix or Linux operating system with the Apache web server, and a smaller proportion run as Microsoft Servers.
  • Spam. Spam is Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) or Unsolicited Bulk Email (UBE) that arrives in your mailbox. It is a serious problem on the internet, but sophisticated blocking techniques help keep it under control.
  • Streaming audio and video. Audio and video files are relatively large and require a noticeable amount of time to download before they can be viewed. This delay can be avoided by the use of streaming, where after a small portion of the file is downloaded, playing or viewing begins and the rest of the file continues to download. Real-time streaming involves the transmission of audio or video as it is being captured.
  • SSL certificate. A certificate is used primarily for online store websites. It confirms the identity of your website and allows you to encrypt payment transactions in 128-bit SSL (secure socket layer) encryption.
  • Text. In the context of a website, this refers to the visible text (or "copy") that you can read on a web page.
  • Top level domain. The rightmost part of a domain name. Top level domains include .com, .org, .net, .us and others.
  • Uniform Resource Locator (URL). A URL specifies where a web page resides on the web. A URL contains the website domain name or IP address. A browser has a URL field where you enter the URL of the web page to browse.
  • Upload and download. Uploading is sending a file up to a website on a server. Downloading is retrieving a file from a website. Common examples of downloads are music MP3s and video. When a webmaster creates a website, it is uploaded to the server where the website resides.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). A UPS filters electrical power, helps to prevent lightning damage, and provides battery backup in the event of a power failure. A small UPS will provide these benefits for your PC. Similarly, and on a much larger scale, a UPS protects servers in a data center and provides for continuous electrical power in the event of a power failure.
  • Website. A website consists of a collection of web pages that can be accessed from one place on the web. A website can be viewed using a browser and the website's URL, which contains the website domain name or IP address. A website is typically hosted on a commercial server for a monthly fee.
  • Webmaster. A webmaster is a person in charge of administrating a website. The webmaster is typically also the web designer of the website, although large websites often have many content contributors.
  • Web page. A web page is a presentation of information from a website, roughly analogous to a printed page. It contains title, headings, visible text, images and possibly other information. It is constructed using HTML.
  • Whois. A whois lookup determines whether a domain name is registered and if so, provides the contact information for the domain name (except in the case of private registration, where the contact information is hidden).
  • World Wide Web (WWW). The Web is one component of the internet. It consists of websites that you can view with a browser (such as Firefox).
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