At one time you had to be a rocket scientist to use the Internet but now almost anyone with a computer, or Internet appliance, has access to it. The difficulty associated with connecting may have changed but the difficulty of understanding the language hasn’t.

Here are some of the basic terms that you will encounter when discussing the Internet.

A common system of logic that uses operators such as AND, OR, NOR, and NOT. Commonly used by search engines.

Bits Per Second. Measurement of the speed at which data can be transmitted over a telephone or network line.

An application that displays a Web page. Also known as a Web browser.

Equal to either 7 or 8 bits, depending on whether it requires an extra bit, called a parity bit, for error correction. A byte stores a single character of information such as the letter A.


Live communication over the Internet Relay Chat service or an online service. As one person enters text it appears on the other person’s screen in “real time”, or almost instantly.

A relationship between programs running on separate machine in a computer network. The server is the provider of services, while the client is the consumer of the services.

Data Encryption
A process that transforms information into random streams of bits to create a secret code for data security.

Domain Name
Denotes the name of a specific Internet area controlled by a company, school, or organization.

Electronic Mail. Text messages sent through a network to specified individual or group. Email messages can also carry attached files.

Frequently Asked Questions. A FAQ is generally a list of questions and answers about a specific subject. Most news groups have FAQ’s, which should be read before you post any message to them.

File Transfer Protocol. The Internet protocol that allow the viewing, downloading, and uploading of files on remote computers.

Software or hardware that limits certain kinds of access to a computer from a network or other outside source.

An argumentative Newsgroups posting or email message in response to another posting or message.

Graphic Interchange Format. A bit-mapped color graphics file format that is the preferred one to use if you want to put a graphic (as opposed to a photo) on a Web page.

Approximately one billion bytes, or one thousand megabytes.

A browsing and searching protocol that lets you find and retrieve text and files.

Helper App
Add-on applications that support sound, image, and other formats that your browser can’t support by itself.

Hypertext Markup Language. The standard for adding tags to a text file, so that the file is able to be interpreted by a Web browser.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The Internet protocol that the Web uses to send information to the client, so the client browser can view Web pages.

A small abstract graphic representation of an object or idea.

Image Map
A graphic image that’s used on a Web site as a navigational tool. It’s made up of two elements: The graphic that you see on the page through your browser, and a text file that contains the link information.

Interlaced GIF
A GIF that is written so that when it is downloaded, it looks like it is out of focus and then gradually comes into focus.

IP Address
The number that identifies your machine as unique on the Internet. Without it, you can not use any Internet protocols.

Internet Relay Chat. The Internet’s version of a CB radio, IRC lets you join a channel and converse in real-time with other people who are on the same channel, through text-based typing.

Integrated Services Digital Network. Digital telephony scheme that allows two simultaneous connections over the same wire; can include audio and data.

Internet Service Provider. A company that provides direct access to the Internet.

An object-oriented, cross-platform programming language, similar to C++, that is designed for building applications for the Internet.

Joint Photographic Expert Group. A file format using a compression technique to reduce the size of a graphics file by as much as 96 percent. JPEG is the preferred file format to use if you want to put a photograph on a Web page.

Local-Area Network. A group of computers, usually in one building, that are physically connected in a way that lets them communicate and interact with each other.

A word or phrase emphasized in a hypertext document that acts as a pointer to related information. Links in a Web browser are usually underlined and are a different color than the rest of the text.

Reading online messages or chat room conversations without taking part in the discussion. Users are encouraged to lurk in the Newsgroups or chat rooms until they have some idea what the discussion is about an the style is like.


Mailing List
Discussion groups over the Internet that link a group of people together with common interests. If you belong to a mailing list, you receive every message posted to that list via email.

Mail Server
A computer that holds email messages for clients on a network.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A standard that lets electronic musical devices communicate with each other. Music stored in MIDI format contains instructions for playing the music, rather than the digitized audio signal itself.

Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions. MIME types are extensions to files that tell your computer what kind of program to use to view the file.

A device that translates computer signals to analog signals suitable for send across cable or phone lines.

Slang for the unwritten rules of Internet courtesy.

An area on the Internet reserved for discussion of a certain topic. Messages are posted in the Newsgroups and replies are encouraged.

News Server
A remote computer that controls access to a Newsgroups in a group of interconnected computers.

A block of data that can be transmitted from one computer to another on a network like the Internet. A packet contains data to be transmitted, data to guide the packet, and data that corrects errors along the way.

Portable Document Format. A standard used by Adobe Acrobat to display any sort of document on any computer. The Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded as freeware.

The default graphics format on Macintoshes.

A fancy name for the “start-up” page of a Web browser. This is an entry point for the Web.

Point-to-Point Protocol. A communications protocol that lets users connect their computers directly to the Internet through phone lines.

A helper app that allows you to download sound files over Web pages in real-time. The player can be downloaded as freeware.

A specialized machine that runs various protocols to direct network packets from one segment to another.

Search Engine
A utility that locates resources via searches for keywords and phrases. Click here for a large list of search engines.

Software distributed via the honor system. You download shareware from the Internet, try it out, and if you keep it, are expected to pay a shareware fee.

Shell Account
When you log into this kind of account, the computer you log into is connected to the Internet, but your computer isn’t.

Slip/PPP Account
When you log into this kind of account, your computer is actually connected to the Internet, and so is fully capable of all the TCP/IP services available.

Unsolicited email messages or Newsgroups postings, usually advertising a product.

A type of data connection able to transmit a digital signal at 1.544 megabits per second.

Transport Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The protocol suite that make Telnet, FTP, email, and other services possible among computers that aren’t on the same local area network.

The Protocol for remote terminal connection service. It lets someone at one site interact with a remote computer as if that user’s terminal were directly connected to the remote site.

Transparent GIF
A GIF that has one of its colors set to be transparent. When displayed against a background tile or color, the image will appear to float above it.

An operating system invented in 1969 at AT&T Bell Laboratories that was made available to researchers and students in 1973. It was used to develop the Internet’s communication protocols.

Uniform Resource Locator. Describes the location and access method of a resource on the Internet. This is also known as the “Web site address.”

Usenet Newsgroups
Subject-specific discussion forums stored on remote computers.

Virtual Reality Language Modeling. An emerging standard that will let you model and move around in 3-D environments on the Internet.

World Wide Web
A collection of electronic documents loosely knit by a concept called “hypertext.” Documents connect to each other by clickable “hyperlinks.” You need to run a browser program to access the Web.