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The original author and copyright holder is Matisse Enzer, and the current version of the Glossary is available at
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ILC Glossary of Internet Terms

Copyright © 1994-2008

Internet Literacy Consultants(tm)

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Last update: 09/12/96

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56k Line
A digital phone-line connection (leased line) capable of carrying 56,000 bits-per-second. At this speed, a Megabyte will take about 3 minutes to transfer. This is 4 times as fast as a 14,400bps modem.

See Also: Bandwidth , T-1

(Advanced Digital Network) -- Usually refers to a 56Kbps leased-line.

Anonymous FTP

See Also: FTP

A tool (software) for finding files stored on anonymous FTP sites. You need to know the exact file name or a substring of it.

(Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) -- The precursor to the Internet. Developed in the late 60's and early 70's by the US Department of Defense as an experiment in wide-area-networking that would survive a nuclear war.

See Also: Internet

(American Standard Code for Information Interchange) -- This is the de facto world-wide standard for the code numbers used by computers to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. There are 128 standard ASCII codes each of which can be represented by a 7 digit binary number: 0000000 through 1111111.

A high-speed line or series of connections that forms a major pathway within a network. The term is relative as a backbone in a small network will likely be much smaller than many non-backbone lines in a large network.

See Also: Network

How much stuff you can send through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.

See Also: 56k Line , Bps , Bit , T-1

In common usage the baud rate of a modem is how many bits it can send or receive per second. Technically, baud is the number of times per second that the carrier signal shifts value - for example a 1200 bit-per-second modem actually runs at 300 baud, but it moves 4 bits per baud (4 x 300 = 1200 bits per second).

See Also: Bit , Modem

(Bulletin Board System) -- A computerized meeting and announcement system that allows people to carry on discussions, upload and download files, and make announcements without the people being connected to the computer at the same time. There are many thousands (millions?) of BBS's around the world, most are very small, running on a single IBM clone PC with 1 or 2 phone lines. Some are very large and the line between a BBS and a system like CompuServe gets crossed at some point, but it is not clearly drawn.

(BINary HEXadecimal) -- A method for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII. This is needed because Internet e-mail can only handle ASCII.


(Binary DigIT) -- A single digit number in base-2, in other words, either a 1 or a zero. The smallest unit of computerized data. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second.

See Also: Bandwidth , Bps , Byte , Kilobyte , Megabyte

(Because It's Time NETwork (or Because It's There NETwork)) -- A network of educational sites separate from the Internet, but e-mail is freely exchanged between BITNET and the Internet. Listservs, the most popular form of e-mail discussion groups, originated on BITNET. BITNET machines are usually mainframes running the VMS operating system, and the network is probably the only international network that is shrinking.

(Bits-Per-Second) -- A measurement of how fast data is moved from one place to another. A 28.8 modem can move 28,800 bits per second.

See Also: Bandwidth , Bit

A client program (software) that is used to looking at various kinds of Internet resources.

See Also: Client , URL , WWW , Netscape , Mosaic

(By The Way) -- A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum.

See Also: IMHO , TTFN

A set of Bits that represent a single character. Usually there are 8 Bits in a Byte, sometimes more, depending on how the measurement is being made.

See Also: Bit

(Common Gateway Interface) -- A set of rules that describe how a Web Server communicates with another piece of software on the same machine, and how the other piece of software (the "CGI program") talks to the web server. Any piece of software can be a CGI program if it handles input and output according to the CGI standard.

Usually a CGI program is a small program that takes data from a web server and does something with it, like putting the content of a form into an e-mail message, or turning the data into a database query.

You can often see that a CGI program is being used by seeing "cgi-bin" in a URL, but not always.

See Also: cgi-bin , Web

The most common name of a directory on a web server in which CGI programs are stored.
The "bin" part of "cgi-bin" is a shorthand version of "binary", because once upon a time, most programs were refered to as "binaries". In real life, most programs found in cgi-bin directories are text files -- scripts that are executed by binaries located elsewhere on the same machine.

See Also: CGI

A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer, often across a great distance. Each Client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of Server programs, and each Server requires a specific kind of Client. A Web Browser is a specific kind of Client.

See Also: Browser , Server

A Cookie is a mechanism by which server side operations (such as CGI
scripts) can store and retrieve information on the client side of the
connection. In practice, this means that information submitted by a web
browser to a web server via a form or other interactive method can be stored
on the browser machine and resubmitted when the web server URL is accessed
at some point in the future. Examples would include login or registration
information, online "shopping carts" or user surveys. Since cookies can
store user information (on the user's own computer), they are used to
personalize the WWW experience by recognizing and acknowledging the user
when reentering a web site. Cookies are typically set to expire after a
predetermined amount of time. Cookies *do not* read your hard drive and send
your life story to the CIA.

Cyberpunk was originally a cultural sub-genre of science fiction taking place in a not-so-distant, dystopian, over-industrialized society. The term grew out of the work of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and has evolved into a cultural label encompassing many different kinds of human, machine, and punk attitudes. It includes clothing and lifestyle choices as well.

See Also: Cyberspace

Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer the word Cyberspace is currently used to describe the whole range of information resources available through computer networks.

The digital version of literati, it is a reference to a vague cloud of people seen to be knowledgeable, hip, or otherwise in-the-know in regards to the digital revolution.

Domain Name
The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine. Usually, all of the machines on a given Network will have the same thing as the right-hand portion of their Domain Names, e.g.

and so on. It is also possible for a Domain Name to exist but not be connected to an actual machine. This is often done so that a group or business can have an Internet e-mail address without having to establish a real Internet site. In these cases, some real Internet machine must handle the mail on behalf of the listed Domain Name.

See Also: IP Number

(Electronic Mail) -- Messages, usually text, sent from one person to another via computer. E-mail can also be sent automatically to a large number of addresses (Mailing List).

See Also: Listserv , Maillist

A very common method of networking computers in a LAN. Ethernet will handle about 10,000,000 bits-per-second and can be used with almost any kind of computer.

See Also: Bandwidth , LAN

(Frequently Asked Questions) -- FAQs are documents that list and answer the most common questions on a particular subject. There are hundreds of FAQs on subjects as diverse as Pet Grooming and Cryptography. FAQs are usually written by people who have tired of answering the same question over and over.

(Fiber Distributed Data Interface) -- A standard for transmitting data on optical fiber cables at a rate of around 100,000,000 bits-per-second (10 times as fast as Ethernet, about twice as fast as T-3).

See Also: Bandwidth , Ethernet , T-1 , T-3

An Internet software tool for locating people on other Internet sites. Finger is also sometimes used to give access to non-personal information, but the most common use is to see if a person has an account at a particular Internet site. Many sites do not allow incoming Finger requests, but many do.

Fire Wall
A combination of hardware and software that separates a LAN into two or more parts for security purposes.

See Also: Network , LAN

Originally, flame meant to carry forth in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flames most often involved the use of flowery language and flaming well was an art form. More recently flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory comment no matter how witless or crude.

See Also: Flame War

Flame War
When an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debators, rather than discussion of their positions. A heated exchange.

See Also: Flame

(File Transfer Protocol) -- A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. There are many Internet sites that have established publicly accessible repositories of material that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name anonymous, thus these sites are called anonymous ftp servers.

The technical meaning is a hardware or software set-up that translates between two dissimilar protocols, for example Prodigy has a gateway that translates between its internal, proprietary e-mail format and Internet e-mail format. Another, sloppier meaning of gateway is to describe any mechanism for providing access to another system, e.g. AOL might be called a gateway to the Internet.

A widely successful method of making menus of material available over the Internet. Gopher is a Client and Server style program, which requires that the user have a Gopher Client program. Although Gopher spread rapidly across the globe in only a couple of years, it has been largely supplanted by Hypertext, also known as WWW (World Wide Web). There are still thousands of Gopher Servers on the Internet and we can expect they will remain for a while.

See Also: Client , Server , WWW , Hypertext

Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET.

See Also: Node , Network

(HyperText Markup Language) -- The coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML looks a lot like old-fashioned typesetting code, where you surround a block of text with codes that indicate how it should appear, additionally, in HTML you can specify that a block of text, or a word, is linked to another file on the Internet. HTML files are meant to be viewed using a World Wide Web Client Program, such as Netscape or Mosaic.

See Also: Client , Server , WWW

(HyperText Transport Protocol) -- The protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet. Requires a HTTP client program on one end, and an HTTP server program on the other end. HTTP is the most important protocol used in the World Wide Web (WWW).

See Also: Client , Server , WWW

Generally, any text that contains links to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.

(In My Humble Opinion) -- A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum, IMHO indicates that the writer is aware that they are expressing a debatable view, probably on a subject already under discussion. One of may such shorthands in common use online, especially in discussion forums.

See Also: TTFN , BTW

(Upper case I) The vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the ARPANET of the late 60's and early 70's. The Internet now (July 1995) connects roughly 60,000 independent networks into a vast global internet.

See Also: internet

(Lower case i) Any time you connect 2 or more networks together, you have an internet - as in inter-national or inter-state.

See Also: Internet , Network

A private network inside a company or organization that uses the same kinds of software that you would find on the public Internet, but that is only for internal use.

As the Internet has become more popular many of the tools used on the Internet are being used in private networks, for example, many companies have web servers that are available only to employees.

Note that an Intranet may not actually be an internet -- it may simply be a network.

See Also: internet , Internet , Network

IP Number
Sometimes called a dotted quad. A unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots, e.g.

Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP number - if a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet. Most machines also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember.

See Also: Domain Name , Internet

(Internet Relay Chat) -- Basically a huge multi-user live chat facility. There are a number of major IRC servers around the world which are linked to each other. Anyone can create a channel and anything that anyone types in a given channel is seen by all others in the channel. Private channels can (and are) created for multi-person conference calls.

(Integrated Services Digital Network) -- Basically a way to move more data over existing regular phone lines. ISDN is rapidly becoming available to much of the USA and in most markets it is priced very comparably to standard analog phone circuits. It can provide speeds of roughly 128,000 bits-per-second over regular phone lines. In practice, most people will be limited to 56,000 or 64,000 bits-per-second.

(Internet Service Provider) -- An institution that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.

See Also: Internet

Java is a new programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that is specifically designed for writing programs that can be safely downloaded to your computer through the Internet and immediately run without fear of viruses or other harm to your computer or files. Using small Java programs (called "Applets"), Web pages can include functions such as animations, calculators, and other fancy tricks.

We can expect to see a huge variety of features added to the Web using Java, since you can write a Java program to do almost anything a regular computer program can do, and then include that Java program in a Web page.

A thousand bytes. Actually, usually 1024 (2^10) bytes.

See Also: Byte , Bit

(Local Area Network) -- A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of a building.

See Also: Ethernet

Refers to a phone line that is rented for exclusive 24-hour, 7 -days-a-week use from your location to another location. The highest speed data connections require a leased line.

See Also: 56k Line , T-1 , T-3

The most common kind of maillist, Listservs originated on BITNET but they are now common on the Internet.

See Also: BITNET , E-mail , Maillist

Noun or a verb. Noun: The account name used to gain access to a computer system. Not a secret (contrast with Password).
Verb: The act of entering into a computer system, e.g. Login to the WELL and then go to the GBN conference.

See Also: Password

(or Mailing List) A (usually automated) system that allows people to send e-mail to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the maillist. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.

A million bytes. A thousand kilobytes.

See Also: Byte , Bit , Kilobyte

(Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) -- The standard for attaching non-text files to standard Internet mail messages. Non-text files include graphics, spreadsheets, formatted word-processor documents, sound files, etc.

An email program is said to be MIME Compliant if it can both send and receive files using the MIME standard.

When non-text files are sent using the MIME standard they are converted (encoded) into text - although the resulting text is not really readable.

Generally speaking the MIME standard is a way of specifying both the type of file being sent (e.g. a Quicktime video file), and the method that should be used to turn it back into its original form.

Besides email software, the MIME standard is also universally used by Web Servers to identify the files they are sending to Web Clients, in this way new file formats can be accommodated simply by updating the Browsers' list of pairs of MIME-Types and appropriate software for handling each type.

See Also: Browser , Client , Server , Binhex , UUENCODE

(MOdulator, DEModulator) -- A device that you connect to your computer and to a phone line, that allows the computer to talk to other computers through the phone system. Basically, modems do for computers what a telephone does for humans.

(Mud, Object Oriented) -- One of several kinds of multi-user role-playing environments, so far only text-based.

See Also: MUD , MUSE

The first WWW browser that was available for the Macintosh, Windows, and UNIX all with the same interface. Mosaic really started the popularity of the Web. The source-code to Mosaic has been licensed by several companies and there are several other pieces of software as good or better than Mosaic, most notably, Netscape.

See Also: Browser , Client , WWW

(Multi-User Dungeon or Dimension) -- A (usually text-based) multi-user simulation environment. Some are purely for fun and flirting, others are used for serious software development, or education purposes and all that lies in between. A significant feature of most MUDs is that users can create things that stay after they leave and which other users can interact with in their absence, thus allowing a world to be built gradually and collectively.

See Also: MOO , MUSE

(Multi-User Simulated Environment) -- One kind of MUD - usually with little or no violence.

See Also: MOO , MUD

The etiquette on the Internet.

See Also: Internet

Derived from the term citizen, referring to a citizen of the Internet, or someone who uses networked resources. The term connotes civic responsibility and participation.

See Also: Internet

A WWW Browser and the name of a company. The Netscape (tm) browser was originally based on the Mosaic program developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

Netscape has grown in features rapidly and is widely recognized as the best and most popular web browser. Netscape corporation also produces web server software.

Netscape provided major improvements in speed and interface over other browsers, and has also engendered debate by creating new elements for the HTML language used by Web pages -- but the Netscape extensions to HTML are not universally supported.

The main author of Netscape, Mark Andreessen, was hired away from the NCSA by Jim Clark, and they founded a company called Mosaic Communications and soon changed the name to Netscape Communications Corporation.

See Also: Browser , Mosaic , Server , WWW

Any time you connect 2 or more computers together so that they can share resources, you have a computer network. Connect 2 or more networks together and you have an internet.

See Also: internet , Internet , Intranet

The name for discussion groups on USENET.

See Also: USENET

(Networked Information Center) -- Generally, any office that handles information for a network. The most famous of these on the Internet is the InterNIC, which is where new domain names are registered.

Any single computer connected to a network.

See Also: Network , Internet , internet

Packet Switching
The method used to move data around on the Internet. In packet switching, all the data coming out of a machine is broken up into chunks, each chunk has the address of where it came from and where it is going. This enables chunks of data from many different sources to co-mingle on the same lines, and be sorted and directed to different routes by special machines along the way. This way many people can use the same lines at the same time.

A code used to gain access to a locked system. Good passwords contain letters and non-letters and are not simple combinations such as virtue7. A good password might be:


See Also: Login

Two commonly used meanings: Point of Presence and Post Office Protocol. A Point of Presence usually means a city or location where a network can be connected to, often with dialup phone lines. So if an Internet company says they will soon have a POP in Belgrade, it means that they will soon have a local phone number in Belgrade and/or a place where leased lines can connect to their network. A second meaning, Post Office Protocol refers to the way e-mail software such as Eudora gets mail from a mail server. When you obtain a SLIP, PPP, or shell account you almost always get a POP account with it, and it is this POP account that you tell your e-mail software to use to get your mail.

See Also: SLIP , PPP

3 meanings. First and most generally, a place where information goes into or out of a computer, or both. E.g. the serial port on a personal computer is where a modem would be connected.

On the Internet port often refers to a number that is part of a URL, appearing after a colon (:) right after the domain name. Every service on an Internet server listens on a particular port number on that server. Most services have standard port numbers, e.g. Web servers normally listen on port 80. Services can also listen on non-standard ports, in which case the port number must be specified in a URL when accessing the server, so you might see a URL of the form:


shows a gopher server running on a non-standard port (the standard gopher port is 70).
Finally, port also refers to translating a piece of software to bring it from one type of computer system to another, e.g. to translate a Windows program so that is will run on a Macintosh.

See Also: Domain Name , Server , URL

A single message entered into a network communications system.

E.g. A single message posted to a newsgroup or message board.

See Also: Newsgroup

(Point to Point Protocol) -- Most well known as a protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make TCP/IP connections and thus be really and truly on the Internet.

See Also: IP Number , Internet , SLIP , TCP/IP

(Request For Comments) -- The name of the result and the process for creating a standard on the Internet. New standards are proposed and published on line, as a Request For Comments. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a consensus-building body that facilitates discussion, and eventually a new standard is established, but the reference number/name for the standard retains the acronym RFC, e.g. the official standard for e-mail is RFC 822.

A special-purpose computer (or software package) that handles the connection between 2 or more networks. Routers spend all their time looking at the destination addresses of the packets passing through them and deciding which route to send them on.

See Also: Network , Packet Switching

A computer, or a software package, that provides a specific kind of service to client software running on other computers. The term can refer to a particular piece of software, such as a WWW server, or to the machine on which the software is running, e.g.Our mail server is down today, that's why e-mail isn't getting out. A single server machine could have several different server software packages running on it, thus providing many different servers to clients on the network.

See Also: Client , Network

(Serial Line Internet Protocol) -- A standard for using a regular telephone line (a serial line) and a modem to connect a computer as a real Internet site. SLIP is gradually being replaced by PPP.

See Also: Internet , PPP

(Switched Multimegabit Data Service) -- A new standard for very high-speed data transfer.

Spam (or Spamming)
An inappropriate attempt to use a mailing list, or USENET or other networked communications facility as if it was a broadcast medium (which it is not) by sending the same message to a large number of people who didn't ask for it. The term probably comes from a famous Monty Python skit which featured the word spam repeated over and over. The term may also have come from someone's low opinion of the food product with the same name, which is generally perceived as a generic content-free waste of resources. (Spam is a registered trademark of Hormel Corporation, for its processed meat product.)

E.g. Mary spammed 50 USENET groups by posting the same message to each.

See Also: Maillist , USENET

(System Operator) -- Anyone responsible for the physical operations of a computer system or network resource. A System Administrator decides how often backups and maintenance should be performed and the System Operator performs those tasks.

A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 1,544,000 bits-per-second. At maximum theoretical capacity, a T-1 line could move a megabyte in less than 10 seconds. That is still not fast enough for full-screen, full-motion video, for which you need at least 10,000,000 bits-per-second. T-1 is the fastest speed commonly used to connect networks to the Internet.

See Also: 56k Line , Bandwidth , Bit , Byte , Ethernet , T-3

A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 44,736,000 bits-per-second. This is more than enough to do full-screen, full-motion video.

See Also: 56k Line , Bandwidth , Bit , Byte , Ethernet , T-1

(Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) -- This is the suite of protocols that defines the Internet. Originally designed for the UNIX operating system, TCP/IP software is now available for every major kind of computer operating system. To be truly on the Internet, your computer must have TCP/IP software.

See Also: IP Number , Internet , UNIX

The command and program used to login from one Internet site to another. The telnet command/program gets you to the login: prompt of another host.

A device that allows you to send commands to a computer somewhere else. At a minimum, this usually means a keyboard and a display screen and some simple circuitry. Usually you will use terminal software in a personal computer - the software pretends to be (emulates) a physical terminal and allows you to type commands to a computer somewhere else.

Terminal Server
A special purpose computer that has places to plug in many modems on one side, and a connection to a LAN or host machine on the other side. Thus the terminal server does the work of answering the calls and passes the connections on to the appropriate node. Most terminal servers can provide PPP or SLIP services if connected to the Internet.

See Also: LAN , Modem , Host , Node , PPP , SLIP

(Ta Ta For Now) -- A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum.

See Also: IMHO , BTW

A computer operating system (the basic software running on a computer, underneath things like word processors and spreadsheets). UNIX is designed to be used by many people at the same time (it is multi-user) and has TCP/IP built-in. It is the most common operating system for servers on the Internet.

(Uniform Resource Locator) -- The standard way to give the address of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web (WWW). A URL looks like this:
or telnet://
or news:new.newusers.questions

The most common way to use a URL is to enter into a WWW browser program, such as Netscape, or Lynx.

See Also: Browser , WWW

A world-wide system of discussion groups, with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Not all USENET machines are on the Internet, maybe half. USENET is completely decentralized, with over 10,000 discussion areas, called newsgroups.

See Also: Newsgroup

(Unix to Unix Encoding) -- A method for converting files from Binary to ASCII (text) so that they can be sent across the Internet via e-mail.

See Also: Binhex , MIME

(Very Easy Rodent Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives) -- Developed at the University of Nevada, Veronica is a constantly updated database of the names of almost every menu item on thousands of gopher servers. The Veronica database can be searched from most major gopher menus.

See Also: Gopher

(Wide Area Information Servers) -- A commercial software package that allows the indexing of huge quantities of information, and then making those indices searchable across networks such as the Internet. A prominent feature of WAIS is that the search results are ranked (scored) according to how relevant the hits are, and that subsequent searches can find more stuff like that last batch and thus refine the search process.

(Wide Area Network) -- Any internet or network that covers an area larger than a single building or campus.

See Also: Internet , internet , LAN , Network


See Also: WWW

(World Wide Web) -- Two meanings - First, loosely used: the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, telnet, USENET, WAIS and some other tools. Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers) which are the servers that allow text, graphics, sound files, etc. to be mixed together.

See Also: Browser , FTP , Gopher , HTTP , Telnet , URL , WAIS

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