Internet Glossary Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Internet Glossary

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Like Java and JavaScript, ActiveX is a programming language that runs within a page. Unlike JavaScript it is the Microsoft standard, and can thus be expected to eat Java, spit it out and crash your system almost immediately. Note that, unlike Java, once an ActiveX control is running it can do anything to your system that it likes, so be careful. Make sure you have your browser set to warn you before it runs any ActiveX controls, and make sure that the controls are signed and certified.


Like a normal address this refers to a location, for our purposes on the Internet. There are various types of addresses, such as email addresses, web addresses and IP addresses, and these are used to specify the locations of email accounts for people, web pages and computers respectively. If the address has a '@' sign in it, it is probably an email address. If the address has 'www' in it or starts with 'http://', it is probably a web address (also known as a URL). If the address is a string of abbreviations like '', it is a newsgroup location within Usenet. If the address looks like four numbers separated by dots, it's an IP address. If the address starts with 'gopher://', then it is hopelessly antiquated and using a protocol named after the mascot at Minnesota State University.


A technology that uses existing copper phone lines to transmit data to homes much more quickly than normal modems allow. It stands for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line.


A place-holder indicating a spot on a particular page that is either a link source (i.e. a hyperlink) or a link destination (an area that can be linked to directly).


A little Java program downloadable from the Internet. Unlike ActiveX controls, applets must obey certain rules while running, which attempt to stop them damaging computers. (However, sometimes even trying to run an applet will cause your browser to crash.)


The 'ARPA' bit is an acronym for Advanced Research Projects Administration, and the folks funding the research are the DOD, or the Department of Defense. Though the ARPAnet didn't go on its first jaunt down the information highway as the information highway until 1969, its first chin-related rub had occurred with Sputnik in 1957, and the affectionate term 'online' had been coined by 1962. And of course it wasn't until 1969 after the system had been set up on four computers (three in California and one in Utah just to give the whole thing a little frission) that the first message was sent by one Charlie Kline at UCLA. He managed to crash the entire system with the letter 'G' of 'LOGIN'.

Three years later the four computers had turned into 23, and a year after that the first email program was written. The following year, 1973, saw 75% of the Internet being taken up by personal emails, and it only took the Defense Department four more years to work out that maybe they needed to be somewhere else. They then forked the ARPAnet into the civilian version which retained the name, and created MILnet for the military (a name many have felt was a nod towards military headwear which continues to be both modish and flattering).

The ARPAnet and MILnet remained connected by IP (Internet Protocol), hence the first whisper of that magic word: Internet.

Sadly, for a variety of reasons both technical and political, ARPAnet was outmoded by the NSFnet (the National Science Foundation's answer to the ARPAnet) and went where all good cowboys go in 1990. Now even the NSFnet has been pretty much overwhelmed by commercial servers. So long, farewell and goodbye to any governing body with direct control of content.


Another acronym, this one standing for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Which is one hell of a mouthful for something which translates on your computer to 'plain text'.


A file included with email. These come in many different forms and you mustn't be frightened of them (unless they're programs, which could do nasty things to your computer when you're not looking). Expect them to be frequently unsuccessful and not entirely worth opening if sent from a mate's mailing list. (More information available here.)



Variously described as a set of links to handle long haul traffic and as a set of links that hooks together various Internet providers, the backbone is actually more of a little herd of backbones (think Africa without the lions and not as much grazing). They are very, very large and fast connections that hold the Internet together.


This refers to the size of the data pipeline, and the broader the pipe, the better, because it means you can send data faster.


This refers to the number of times a modem's signal changes per second, or rather the number of times a different symbol is sent down the phone line. Confused? Even more confusing is that 'baud' is often mixed up with 'bps'. Bps refers to the rate at which data is sent down the phone line, usually communicated (shout if this sounds familiar) by signal changes, referred to as 'bps' (bits per second). (Fail to see a difference? Welcome to some very fine company indeed.) The actual difference is that you can send more than one bit using one signal change event, so even though most of today's modems run at an ancient-sounding 2400 baud, they can send data at 56,000 bps.


Bulletin Board System. You've probably already bumped into a number of these without being aware of what they are. BBSs are simply computer systems accessible from your modem on which you can play games, exchange email, chat and generally hang out. AOL, CompuServe and Online Service do essentially the same thing, and most large Internet Services now are almost indistinguishable from a good BBS.


You'll find this at the top of your email program near the 'To' section. It means 'Blind Carbon Copy' and is extremely useful if you want to send an email to several people but you don't want anyone to know you're doing a multiple mail shoot, or you just don't want your friends to know who each other are. (More information available here.)

Binary File

Any file not strictly to do with text. Images, sounds, word processing documents (it's the formatting that does it), spreadsheets, virtual streaming video, whatever. Binary files are in most cases larger and slower to load than text.


Binary-to-hexadecimal. Another means of file-encoding, most popular with Mac users. Often found as un-openable attachments in finicky emailers.


Like the name would suggest, it's the smallest unit of measurement for computer data. Bits come in ones and zeros (on and off) and get all mixed up and swirled around to represent different types of information.


Yes, it involves bits, but the name refers to a different sort of bit. In this case, little dots of light put together to make a picture. The most popular type of bitmap on the Internet is the GIF format.


An early Internet network which, because of a lack of imagination on the part of its creators, could do absolutely nothing but ship messages back and forth. Then its users, in a triumph of brain over boredom, streamlined and reinvented the magic of mailing lists and invented LISTSERV, the foremost program for dealing with mailing lists. And yes, clunky old BITNET is still around but, like everything in cyber-ooze, it has been sucked up and assimilated.


This is what happens when an email address is entered incorrectly or ceases to exist. Unlike snail-mail, on the Internet there is no friendly postal worker to help with your redirect. So when the mail can't find its box, it comes back to you with a bunch of goo at the top. You then have to scroll down and try to work out exactly what the message was in the first place, and whom it was intended for.


The thing you're not supposed to confuse with baud, bps stands for bits per second, and is often used to describe modem speed. For instance, a 14,400 modem will be able to handle (in prime conditions) 14,400 signal changes (bits) per second. It sounds like a lot, but it isn't. Get something faster.


The lovely thing this page came up on, probably Mozilla or Internet Explorer, but maybe even Opera or Lynx.


A group of eight bits. Also the typical unit in which computer memory is measured.



Temporary storage space which is often used by web browsers to store information about recently-visited web pages to avoid having to do a full reload if the page is revisited. Also useful if browsing through a site on which many of the same bitmaps are used on multiple pages.


A rare and expensive process whereby you're given a big spiky thing called a 'cable modem' that runs information to and from your computer at roughly the rate of God.


As with the 'cc' at the top of a regular letter, it stands for 'carbon copy' and means that the email went not only to the person it was sent to but also the people listed under 'cc'. Unlike a BCC (blind carbon copy) all recipients can see who else received the missive.


The old name for the ITU-T, the committee responsible for setting standards of worldwide communication.


A term which has, rather unhelpfully, been nabbed to mean three different things on the Internet. In a typical IRC, channel refers to the group of folks chatting together. In a server like AOL, 'channel' means a major interest area. In certain incarnations of Microsoft software, 'channel' refers to a web site to which you've subscribed.


If you're in a chat room not monitored by an Internet service like AOL or CompuServe and the rooms are referred to as 'channels', then somewhere behind the scenes there's someone referring to themselves as a 'chanop' or 'channel operator'. They're supposed to do things like act as bouncers for unwanted ishmus (Internet shmucks).


I system by which you can type live to a group of people hanging around in a channel, or room. To do so you need an IRC program, mIRC and Microsoft IRC being popular, or you can sign on with AOL or CompuServe who've got it all set up inside their software. There are also many, many sites on the WWW with chat features. (More information available here.)


A computer or program (involving at some point a person using it) that uses the services of a server. If you've visited a web page, downloaded an FTP file, burrowed with a gopher or hung out in a newsgroup, your computer has been someone's client.


The most commonly used suffix at the end of web and email addresses, it indicates that address you are contacting or have been contacted by is owned by a commercial organization, most likely in the USA.


What happens to programs or entire systems when a piece of information goes dramatically awry. It is almost certainly not your fault, and in the case of the Internet, you can just about bet that if your browser 'quits unexpectedly' it's just been made to swallow some bad Java or JavaScript.


A little snippet of plain text (thus non-virus carrying) stored on your computer by a web site to remind it of certain bits of information about you for the next time you return. Many people feel a little skittish about this, as it diminishes some of the sense of anonymity to have the site pop up with the words 'Hi Bob!' every time you nip in. (But be assured that the site won't know that you're called Bob or what your email address is unless you explicitly tell it.)


A term coined by Mr William 'Clever Pants' Gibson to refer to the whole virtual world created by computers linked together and inhabited by, well, us.


Dial-up Networking

The communications program built in to Windows that is supposed to sound really official and more than slightly frightening. However, it's just the system of settings and little control programs used by Windows to dial into your ISP.


Often when you're on a mailing list you can specify to receive the information for a certain period in one go, rather than in little dribbles. This will usually have a table of contents at the start, and so on.


An acronym for Domain Name System. The DNS is made up of Domain Name Servers (rather confusingly also abbreviated to DNS) which translate hostnames (e.g. into IP addresses (e.g.


An area on the Internet which groups hosts by name. Domains can contain other domains (sub-domains) inside them; for example, the domain (Leeds University) is a sub-domain of the domain (British academic institutions), which in turn is a sub-domain of the .uk domain (Britain). In the case of an email address, the domain name is what comes after the '@'. In a web address, it's everything that comes between the 'www' and the first forward slash.


It means pretty much what you'd think: to retrieve information or copy a file from the Internet. If you were sending something in the other direction (say an email or your own web site) you'd be uploading.



An address suffix referring to an educational organization, usually in the USA.


Recognized as the most popular use for the Internet within months of its invention, email is the high tech version of just about anything that's ever happened on paper ever before. (More information available here.)

Email Address

The address referring to a particular user on the Internet. An address takes the form of 'somebody@somedomain', e.g. '[email protected]'.


A program that you can use to read and send email. (More information available here.)


A popular emailer for both PC and Mac which is slowly being pushed out by free programs with the same sort of features. Eudora Light is free and is available for downloading, but extra must be paid for the full version of the program.


A network connected by actual hardware (a series of cables) rather than phone lines.


Say a company got on the Internet, then decided to start an intranet for all the people in the office with computer terminals. And say that this proves to be so popular with the company employees that the company decides to bring its business contacts into the intimate little loop, so it does. This would be an 'extranet' - a private network extended to several physical locations.



Stands for Frequently Asked Questions and refers to a document that answers questions that come up frequently (who'd have thought it?). Most newsgroups and mailing lists have their own little list of FAQs, and you can read them in full by entering '' into your web browser or FTP program. (Note: if you're using FTP type in 'anonymous' under user name and your email address as your password.)


A list of addresses that can be saved in your web browser for easy reference later. In Netscape these are called 'bookmarks'.


Any single chunk of data stored on a computer, whether it be an image, a word processing document or a program.


A program that acts as a barrier between a private network and the Internet for security reasons. Usually email can travel through the firewall without much fuss, but other transmissions of data in and out of the intranet are carefully regulated by the protective software.


Typically an incredibly unreasonable and unreasoning personal attack on someone who has posted a (typically misunderstood) message which has for whatever reason deeply insulted the flamer. An excellent way to give someone the creepy crawlies.

Flame War

When more than one person has the ability to type mean words (and uses it) this is called a flame war. In real life it might be called a slagging match. The difference is, in real life you are forced to deal with a real person. It's much easier to forget that when you're in the throes of insulting a computer.


A data format often encountered on the Web which, true to its name, lets your browser give you all sorts of whizzy spinning graphics and noises to accompany many web sites. However, you'll probably need to download the Flash plug-in from Macromedia in order to get your browser to display Flash properly.


Available on the net or often in the disks taped to the front of magazines, freeware is indeed free - to a point. True freeware (that doesn't nag you to pay money for it and is fully functional) is often not that great, and can be full of bugs that monkey around with your computer until you get rid of it. Worse yet, freeware downloaded from an unfamiliar source can contain viruses. Make sure you scan it before you run it.


Stands for File Tranfer Protocol, a method of transferring files from one computer to another. FTP is a popular means of downloading software from the Internet, and it's important to make sure you've got an updated virus checker on your computer before downloading or opening any programs.

FTP Server

The computer or program that makes files available for download by FTP.



A graphics file originally created by CompuServe, GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. All GIF files end with the suffix '.gif'. They are probably still the most widely used graphics on the net (they can do cool things like be transparent) but tend to be larger in data size than their closest counterparts, JPEGs. The correct pronunciation of 'GIF' continues to be hotly debated.


Not nearly as cool as 'google-' but still better than 'mega-', this is a prefix meaning 1 billion (that's an American billion to you, Bubba: 1,000,000,000).


Named after the mascot at Minnesota State University, gopher is an Internet system that allows you to find information by using a menu. Pretty much outmoded by both the web and by FTP, there are still a few educational institutions that insist on archiving information in this format. Gophers are sorted through by Veronicas.


A rather optimistic attempt to make the word 'gopher' sound hip and sexy, gopherspace refers to gopher menus (I'll have mine in cream sauce). As you move from menu to menu you are said to be 'sailing through gopherspace'. A messy image by anyone's reckoning.


A suffix meaning that the address belongs to a government organization, usually US-based.


Graphical User Interface. An intimidating way of talking about the collections of buttons and other whizzy graphics that programs let you click on.



While most people think that "hacker" means "someone who illegally breaks into computers and causes all sorts of mischief", it actually refers to someone who enjoys exploring and programming computer systems and trying to push them to new limits (and staying within legal boundaries). Real hackers got so annoyed by the media using the term "hacker" the wrong way that they came up with a new term for those who set out to break system security: crackers.


A nickname or screen name you'd use to identify yourself in a chat. (More information available here.)


The top part of an email address that contains things like the subject, to and from addresses, dates and so on. Header also refers to all of the information (most commonly completely illegible) that goes along with a packet of information to make sure that it behaves itself.

Home page

Home page either refers to the first page you see when you open your browser (this is most often preprogrammed but can be changed in the preferences menu), a personal page belonging to a particular person, or the first page of any web site.


Any computer that's connected to the Internet and provides or uses Internet services.


Hypertext Markup Language. This is the code in which all web sites are written, and contains information on where to find images for the page, what the font's going to be like and what colour the page will be. You won't need to know any of this when browsing the web, and probably wouldn't even need it to write a web site. The latest web-authoring software is generally friendly enough that you rarely even need to patch up the bad HTML code your program slotted in when it thought it was being clever. (More information available here.).


Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Refers to the way in which web pages are transferred over the net. All URLs for web pages start with the prefix 'http://'.


The system which allows text to be linked in various ways to other documents and objects. All of the words on this page you see underlined (probably in blue, depending on your browser specifications) are hypertext links.



The Internet Engineering Task Force. The group responsible for developing new technological standards for the net.

Image Map

An image within a web page that links up to different pages depending on where it is on the image that you click.


A protocol by which you can read and store your mail on the Internet.. If you read your mail from several different computers then you might prefer it to POP3 since IMAP lets you store your mail folders on the remote mail server (rather than on the computer you're using), which means that you can see them and file emails in them from anywhere.


A bunch of computers linked together in a massive tangle all linked by common languages (like Esperanto but with little risk of offending small island nations with proud cultures). (Oh, so much more information available here.)

Internet Explorer

The controversial Microsoft browser which most of us grudgingly admit is pretty all right on all counts. Darn. (Download it from here.)

Internet Services

Companies like AOL or CompuServe who provide community and information services along with connection.

Internet Society

An organization promoting growth and change online. (Click here to there.)

Internet Telephony

Still in its teething phase, Internet Telephony is simply using the Internet to carry voices in a similar way to how it carries data, thus allowing all phone calls to be charged at the local rate. (More information available here.)


The Internet Network Information Center. The people who take care of making sure that no two people have the same address. You can also go there to register your own domain name before someone else gets it. (Click here to there.)


Like the Internet but an in-house affair. Information is exchanged on a network using email, browsers and the like, and is usually hooked up to the Internet via a firewall.


IP stands for, rather unilluminatingly, 'Internet Protocol'. It basically defines different locations to help packets of information, whether they be email or something else, get to the right place.

IP Address

Like a phone number for a computer, every host on the Internet has an IP address which is used to contact it. They look like four numbers separated by dots, as in Fortunately you should never have to try and memorise them, thanks to DNS which lets you use names like '' instead.


Internet Relay Chat. A network chat system where many people can congregate together, type fast and use emoticons. (More information available here.)


Integrated Services Digital Network. An internationally standardized digital phone system which allows you to send information at a rate as high as 128 kilobits per second. Which is damn fast. However, it can also be damn expensive, depending on where in the world you are. Beyond the cost of the installation and monthly running of an ISDN line, you may have to pay your service provider an extra fee as well.


Internet Service Provider. The guys who sold you your access (and may thus have bought your soul).


Information Technology. Anything that involves switches and facial hair.



An innocuous-sounding computer language invented by Sun Microsystems that can be used on any platform (you can use it on a Windows, Mac or even UNIX shell machines). For this reason it is ideal for delivering programs online, and is famed for its uncanny ability to crash systems the world over.


Joint Photographic Experts Group (well I didn't name it). An image file found all over the net, suffixed either by .jpg or .jpeg. While JPEGs (pronounced jay-peg) aren't as versatile as GIFs because they are "lossy" (i.e. they lose information from the picture to achieve good compression rates) they are highly efficient, and download quickly. They're better for large photos than small iconic graphics.



Often used as a measure of a computer's hard disk storage or memory, or of file size. Refers to units of 1,024 bytes and is most often written as 'K' or sometimes 'KB'.


A prefix meaning 1,000. However, perversely, with computers it typically means 1,024.

Kill File

A file in your Usenet reader specifications which allows you to specify the blockage of certain articles and addresses of particularly dull or offensive contributors.



Local Area Network. This refers to a small network, usually in an office.


The length of time it takes a packet of data to reach its destination. A word that is used in an exasperated tone for those who are online gaming and getting kicked in the gut by monsters because of lag time.

Leased Line

A permanent connection between a computer or a LAN and the Internet. Incredibly expensive and best suited to businesses with employees who spend entirely too much time sending external mail and surfing the net.


All of the underlined words on this page are links, and will take you either to a new page, to a different spot on this page or to something else like a software download. Links can also be pictures or 'buttons', and are often 'broken', meaning that the file indicated cannot be found. This appears as a '404 Fault' and is not in fact your fault.


In terms of live and evolving operating systems at the moment, there are three main ones: Windows, Mac OS and UNIX. Linux is a free and open version of UNIX and is constantly being evolved by a large band of enthusiasts.

Log in/Log on

To connect to a network. The term was derived from the idea of a proper paper log that uses ink and stuff.


To hang around a chat room/group or subscribe to a mailing list or newsgroup without actually contributing in any way. It's a little like that creepy guy who's always hanging around the park staring at women's legs as they walk to work. But far less dangerous and much less likely to prompt lawsuits.



Often shortened to 'MacBin', it's yet another binary encoding system popular on, you guessed it, Macs.


Not nearly as exciting as it sounds, a mailbot is just a computer program that automatically sends and answers mail. If you were away from computers for a while and wanted your friends to know about it, you might have a mailbot set up to let them know. And no, mailbots have no arms or legs and are not likely to speak directly to you.

Mailing List

A system by which all mail going to a certain point automatically forwards to everyone on a certain list. Recipients can then respond to that email, which then goes to the same point, which then sends it on to everyone else... you get the picture.


A prefix meaning one million. As in 'I have 192 megabytes of RAM and my flatmate reckons I could run NASA out of my bedroom'.


Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This is a method of tying computers to synthesisers and other musical instruments and getting them to play happily together. There are also MIDI files, which are small files of music instructions which can get your computer to play rather flat-sounding tunes.


An address suffix that indicates it as being part of the US military.


MILnet is close to what the Department of Defense had in mind when they invented the ARPAnet. It lives on even after its quickie divorce from ARPAnet in the eighties, and works pretty much like commercial servers do.


Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension. Yet another way of encoding binary messages to be sent along by email as attachments.


An FTP site or web page that is identical to another on the Internet. Useful to help spread out the traffic on busier sites and avoid traffic jams.


MOdulator/DEModulator. A gadget that allows your computer to communicate online by changing digital computer signals into analogue signals that can be shipped across phone lines and vice versa. And the faster the better. There is no point in having a fast computer to browse the Internet with if you've got a slow modem. It would be like getting a mule to tow along a Maserati (before Maserati was bought by Crysler).


The first graphical browser for the WWW.


Short for MPEG-1 Layer 3. A type of music file that can store lots of high-quality music in a small space, and is thus good for moving music around the Internet easily. Since it makes it very easy to copy and distribute music to lots of people cheaply, the record companies (who like to charge people lots of money for their music) are Rather Worried.


Stands for Motion Picture Experts Group and is a suffix for certain types of video or audio file formats found frequently on the Internet.


Multi-user Dungeon. A community on which you can play a multi-user game with more people than you can squeeze into your bedroom safely. (More information available here.)


The ability to process more than one task at a time. Netscape and Internet Explorer are multithreaded in that they can do things like download FTP, pick up email and browse the web all at the same time.


Name Server

See DNS.


When written in lowercase it refers to any network. When capitalized it refers to the Internet. When written as a suffix (.net) to an address it refers to networking organizations, typically ISPs.

Netscape Navigator

A popular web browser available on all major platforms - Windows, Mac and UNIX. Usually available in a larger package called Netscape Communicator (which includes an emailer and other things). Unlike Internet Explorer, people don't tend to raise their eyebrows when referring to it, or spit when its name is mentioned. (Click here to download it)

Network Computer

A computer that doesn't have its own hard disk but instead gets all of its data from server machines on a network.


Any one who's green to the Internet. The folks who are most likely to be hit up for their passwords via email. And the people who are most likely to give their password out.

News Server

Like a mail server, a news server is a computer that receives all of the articles slotted into Usenet newsgroups and hangs onto them so you can read them (or whatever).


An area of the Internet relating more to gossip and opinions about various issues, ideas and television sitcoms than news. Newsgroup addresses appear in the form of (More information available here.)


A program that allows you to read and respond to messages in newsgroups. Both Netscape and Explorer have these programs integrated into their companion emailers, and a good online newsreader and archiver is the ever popular DejaNews.


In chat and sometimes in newsgroups also, your nickname is what you identify yourself by. Many people choose not to use their real names to give them freedom to say and do wildly inappropriate things in the name of curiosity. Also called a screen name or a handle.


Online Services

Something like AOL or CompuServe which attempts to consolidate all of your Internet requirements into a single package. A good, easy choice for a beginner as it's all right there provided that you have a modem and that it's plugged in.


A suffix in an address indicating that the address is owned by a non-profit company that is most likely (you guessed it) in the US.



A unit of data sent over a network. An email would travel as a cluster of packets, for instance. All packets travel with their address pinned to them (where they came from, where they're going), and a little note to identify what they are.

Packet Loss

A very boring thing that happens when data doesn't transfer correctly from one computer to another. It can make data retrieval very slow and potentially impossible. The data will probably show up intact (if rumpled and breathless) later on, but in the case of something particularly dependent on speed (online gaming perhaps) it may be too late.


An HTML document downloadable from the World Wide Web. This glossary, for instance, is a page. A page can contain images, video, sound, text, whatever. A web site is made up of lots of pages.


Like it sounds, it is a temporary program for fixing up dud software. If you think your software isn't behaving as it should, it probably isn't. Go to the web site of the company that made it and hit them up for a patch (usually in the "downloads" or "support" section, if they have one).


Portable Document Format - a file format that many documents are distributed in. After opening the document with Adobe Acrobat, it behaves very much like a page might in a web browser.


Though I'm not entirely convinced that anyone would want to have a look at any of my email, it is generally accepted that sending one across the net is like sending a postcard. If this worries you, you may want to encrypt your mail, which codes it up in a special way so that only the intended recipient can read it. The best option for encryption is PGP (pretty good privacy). (Go here for more information.)


Platform for Internet Content Selection. Mostly intended as a ratings system to keep kids away from sites they shouldn't necessarily be viewing. You can take advantage of the system by controlling the settings in your browser's preferences (usually kicking around the bottom of the edit menu somewhere).


A short message sent to discover whether a computer is online and if so, what's taking it so long.


Your computer's operating system, like Windows 98, Mac OS 8.5 or UNIX.


A little program-ette designed to help your browser deal with various types of data pulled off the World Wide Web.


A graphics file format created to get around various nasty patent problems associated with GIF. Like most things created on the Internet by a non-commercial group of people, it's way better than the original but is also taking much longer to be adopted. Most modern browsers can display PNGs but a lot of them don't do it terribly well yet.


Post Office Protocol. A system by which you can pick up mail from your server and download it onto your computer. Excellent when you're away from your home computer as you can pick up mail using someone else's machine. (However, it'll stay on that person's machine unless you delete it.)


A public message sent to a newsgroup or mailing list.


Point-to-Point Protocol. A means of connecting computers via a phone line (hooking your computer to the net). It takes care of how and when to deal with the IP address, allowing you to log-in as a full user of the Internet.


The agreed means by which computers talk to each other. Discussions are usually about as insightful as 'got it', 'sent it' and 'try again'.

Push Technology

A system by which you're sent information over the Internet without actually having requested it first. Email is push technology, but the term usually refers to things like the channel subscriptions that Microsoft keeps trying to foist on people ('push' being short for 'pushy').



One of the most popular multi-player games on the Internet, it holds true to most gaming stereotypes by being incredibly violent and having an almost totally male fan-base. (However, the girls who play it often tend to give the boys a serious whipping.)


A video file format that also shows up as a program on your computer. It seems to have an uncanny knack for realising when it's required, and then not working properly.



The Internet standard for streaming audio file format (listening to music). The format is supported by (can be run on) newer browsers, though you may need to grab the RealAudio plug-in.


An overzealous name for something that is simply an automated computer program that deals with mundane tasks like sorting mailing lists and returning misdirected mail.


Search Engines

The army of databases that help you find various documents on the Internet. Many are specialized within a particular interest group, and some search engines are infinitely better than others. (More information available here.)

Secure Server

A server, typically used on shopping sites, which is designed to make all transactions encrypted, so that it's harder for mischievous hackers to grab your credit card number. (Oddly enough, in a marriage between tat and technology, some encrypters have found the lava lamp to be an excellent tool for choosing random numbers.)


A computer that makes services (email, Usenet, FTP, Internet access) available.


A wide variety of software that is readily available to anyone who wants to give it a go. It is passed on with the understanding that, should the user want to keep it, they'll submit something to the kitty of the person or persons responsible for the program


Another program for viewing interactive media online. You can pick up the necessary plug-in here.


Essentially the same thing as PPP, but where PPP can handle dynamic IP addresses, SLIP requires that the node has a fixed IP address. It has now been largely outmoded.


The online equivalent of dotting your 'i's with love hearts or doodling teddy bears in the margins of a letter. ;-). (See here for more smileys.)


Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. A STMP server is where your email program sends your emails, from where they are sent on to the appropriate location.


Named for the Monty Python sketch where a bunch of vikings are chanting the word 'spam', thus drowning out everything else that's going on. Spam is the generic term for any unnecessary, unsolicited and irrelevant postings to newsgroups and email addresses. These might include chain letters, get rich quick schemes and the like. If you spam, expect to get flamed and suspended by your ISP.


The process by which a large binary file, such as video or audio, is delivered in real time - this means that your computer can start playing it almost immediately rather than waiting for the whole thing to download.


To cruise from one web page to another by clicking on links. Hell, who needs water?



Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The vast majority of your communication with the Internet (including web, mail and FTP) will be done using this underlying protocol. Fortunately, because it's pretty hidden, you don't have to worry about it too much.


A program that allows you to login to another computer on a network and use it. (Note that you can't login to any computer - it has to allow telnet access.)


In the days of mainframes a terminal was basically just a monitor and a keyboard hooked up to a big processor. Now with personal computers you can run a program which will allow your computer to hook up to a big computer somewhere and act brainless. These programs are usually called terminal emulators or terminal programs.

Text Files

Files that are purely text-based, not binary like images or video. Sometimes called ASCII files. Web pages, once you've stripped away the Java and the images, are text files.


As in a conversation, when you contribute to a Usenet discussion you are picking up the 'thread'. So it refers to the article and the follow on to the article and the follow on to that article...


A beastly little newsgroup message posted to get a rise out of members of the group.



An uber-geek operating system that's renowned for being very powerful and horribly complicated. Mainly used by big companies, web sites and universites, though versions such as Linux are starting to be used more in the home (mainly by uber-geeks).


To copy your stuff onto a remote computer. When you FTP your site onto your server you are uploading.


Stands for Uniform Resource Locator - the addressing system for the world wide web. See the line in the box at the top of your browser window that starts with the letters 'http'? That 'http' and everything after it is the URL for this page. The URL specifies which protocol to use (HTTP), which machine to go to ( and which page on that machine to fetch (the rest of the URL)


User's Network. The collection of newsgroups in which articles are collected. You would read the article with a newsreader. (More information available here.)


Another means of sending binary files via email. Most of the newer emailers will be able to convert these files quickly and automatically into whatever it is they really are.



The main file format for Windows sound files. The suffix '.wav'.

The Web (World Wide Web or WWW)

The whole worldwide network of sites which use HTTP to provide web pages written in HTML and connected together with links of various success. A single page is called a 'web page'. A collection of related linked pages is called a 'web site'. (More information available here.)

Web Authoring

Designing and writing web pages using HTML. (More information available here.)

Web Page

Any file written in HTML on the World Wide Web. (More information available here.)


An Internet service that connects through your television instead of through a computer. It involves a box and a remote control and reportedly makes a person crave the real thing.


The function by which someone in a chat room can ask another participant for a private conversation. (More information available here.)



This is a file format used to pack several files up into one and compress them tightly so they download faster. You can spot a zip file by the '.zip' at the end of the name. To use zip files (or make your own), get Winzip for Windows or Stuffit for the Mac. (Note that zip files have nothing to do with Zip Drives or Zip Disks, which are bits of hardware also used for transporting files easily. Blame Iomega for muddying the waters.)


The bit after the last dot (or two) on an email or web address. Favourites are .com,, .org and .net. All attempt to give some sort of indication as to the sort of organization behind the address, and where it might be based. Also known as a TLD (Top-Level Domain). (More information available here.)

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