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Internet Term Glossary

This is a partial list of Internet terms and phrases which should help you understand some of the "techno-babble" which runs rampant on the Internet. If there is something you don't understand, don't worry, few do.

Address (email):
Just as with postal delivery in the Real World, all correspondence requires an address describing its intended destination   Email addresses are composed of two parts -- your username, such as info, and your site address (see Address (Internet)), such as gccgroup.com. Thus to send email to info, you would use the address info@gccgroup.com.
Address (Internet):
Used to identify a particular site, or location (such as ANET); they come in two forms -- as a set of four numbers, such as 205.139.236.2, and as a set of names, such as gccgroup.com.
Address (email):
Just as with postal delivery in the Real World, all correspondence requires an address describing its intended destination   Email addresses are composed of two parts -- your username, such as info, and your site address (see Address (Internet)), such as gccgroup.com. Thus to send email to info, you would use the address info@gccgroup.com.
Bandwidth:
How much "stuff" you can send through a connection, usually measured in bits-per-second (BPS). Most people now use a modem capable of transmitting between 14,400 and 28,800 BPS (by way of comparison, a full page of English text is about 16,000 bits, so the average modem would be able to transfer the equivalent of 60 pages a minute). Due to the limits that transfer speed places on communication, especially regarding very large graphic files or other `heavy use' services (such as digitized sound or video, which require huge amounts of storage space), bandwidth is treated as something of a valued resource, such that users may be chided for `wasting bandwidth' when they engage in activities like uploading unnecessarily large files to newsgroups, or even just spouting off-topic discussion (see flame and spam). This kind of warning can often escalate into a flame war.
Bookmark:
Usually associated with a browser for the World Wide Web, this is a means of 'marking' or recording a particular location, most often a single Web page. Bookmarks help you keep track of your favorite or most-frequently visited sites on the World Wide Web, as well as for some other services (eg. FTP).
Browser:
A software program that is used to interact with various kinds of Internet services; most commonly associated with the World Wide Web).
Cross-Posting:
Sending the same message to more than one mailing list or discussion group. It is usually discouraged unless the posting is specifically appropriate for each separate group, and there is reasonable expectation that each group addressed represents a substantially different audience. In practice, this means that if you have a baffling problem you're having with connecting your computer, it is reasonable you may want to post a message about it to both a hardware-specific and communications-specific group. Cross-posting is often abused, however, and can become a major nuisance to other users who have to read the same message multiple times or read about something totally unrelated to the discussion at hand (see flame and spam).
Dial-up:
A connection to a computer that is accomplished by using a modem to call over a phone line; except for large universities and businesses who can afford dedicated connections, this is the primary means of access to the Internet for most residential users.
Email (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 (see Mailing List).
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions):
Because new users are starting out on the Internet all the time, many newsgroups and mailing lists have put together a document containing the basic facts about their topic and/or group to try and cover the `frequently asked questions' that are the province of new users and the bane of long-time members; these FAQ files are often posted to the relevant newsgroups on a regular basis, and archives of many FAQs are available for browsing.
Flame:
Originally, flame meant to carry forth in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable dissent, typically couched in elaborate and flowery language; at that time, flaming well was considered a mark of breeding and culture. More recently, the flame (or the act of flaming) has come to refer to any kind of derogatory comment, no matter how ignorant or crude; flames are usually the province of newsgroups, and in fact a newsgroup called alt.flame has even been created to allow devout practitioners the opportunity to hone their craft. An inconsiderate response to a naive question is a common theme for a flame, as is a vehement attack on anyone choosing to post off-topic (see flame war). The best response to a flame directed at you is not to take personal offense (after all, how well is your virtual opponent likely to know you?) and avoid the conflict as best you can. Newsgroups are generally an unmoderated forum, so flames are an occupational hazard of online discussion; try not to let them overshadow the real merits of global discussion, however.
Flame War:
Basically an extended series of flame postings in a discussion forum. Regardless of the original topic or cause for dissent, flame wars inevitably degenerate into a series of personal attacks against the debaters (ad hominem), rather than discussion of their positions; essentially a protracted verbal brawl. The best way to respond to a flame war is to just avoid it and not `feed the flames' with your own contribution. Some users intentionally post trolls, or inflammatory messages calculated to inspire empassioned disagreement, simply to rile other users into starting a flame war. Flame wars are like any other dispute between any two groups adamantly opposed to compromise ‹ fueled more by self-righteousness than a grasp of the facts, and therefore unlikely to be defused by rational argument. Don't waste your time; the Internet has plenty of other things to offer. Then again, if you like a good argument, no matter how futile...
FTP (File Transfer Protocol):
A very common method of moving files between two computers on the Internet. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of transferring files. There are many Internet sites that have established as public archives of material that can be obtained using FTP, simply by logging in using the account name "anonymous"; thus these sites are called anonymous FTP servers.
Gopher:
A service for finding and retrieving information through a series of hierachical menus; each menu may contain links to files, other menus or Gopher sites, or search engines for various databases. Gopher was the most popular browsing service prior to the World Wide Web, and it still offers a convenient interface for research tasks.
HTML (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 tags that indicate how it should be arranged on the page, although in HTML you can also include graphics and specify that a section of your document, such as a related word, be "linked" to another file or location on the Internet. This phenomenon of linking is what has given rise to the avocation of `net-surfing', which usually involves following a never-ending trail of links through the `cyberspace' of the Web. HTML files are viewed using a Web browser such as Mosaic or Netscape Navigator.
HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol):
The standard protocol for transferring information from World Wide Web sites to your browser software; that is, how the browser interacts with the Web server. Most users only encounter this as a consequence of typing "http://" at the beginning of a Web URL.
Hypertext:
Generally, any text that contains "links" to other documents -- words or phrases in the document that can be selected by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed. Think of it as a sort of `living' Table of Contents, where clicking on a section heading takes you to that section, or selecting an unknown word in a document calls up its respective dictionary entry (as with this glossary). Hypertext can be very useful (as demonstrated in this Glossary), but it can also prove very confusing to navigate; having copious amounts of bookmarks will give you some landmarks to help you in your net-surfing.
Internet:
Literally a network of networks (inter-net). Contemporary use (eg. 'the Net') refers to the vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the same network 'language' (TCP/IP) and that evolved from the military and educational networks of the late 60's and early '70s. The Internet (as of July 1995) connects roughly 60,000 independent networks into a vast global Inter-network.
IRC (Internet Relay Chat):
A real-time online discussion forum, sort of the `backyard fence' for the Internet. Various IRC servers carry all the global chat `traffic' on a host of different topics, so you can potentially communicate (via keyboard; voice communication is still in the rudimentary stages due to its heavy bandwidth requirements) with any of tens of thousands of active users on the most serious or trivial of topics (divided into channels, just like TV or radio). IRC is to newsgroups what the telephone was to the telegraph, offering users the near illusion of parlor gossip or study room chatter.
ISP (Internet Service Provider):
A utility company similar to a telephone company that offers connections to the Internet, either via dial-up accounts or dedicated connections (which are much faster but also much more expensive; hence they are usually only used by large universities and businesses). ISPs vary widely in their rates for services and range of support, much like long-distance carriers in today's deregulated telecommunications market, so it's best to shop around for one best suited for your needs. Local ISPs offer some advantages over national providers, such as more personalized service and responsive support, while national ISPs have wider service areas and tend to have more resources available to them.
Mailing List:
A (usually automated) system that allows people to send e-mail to a common address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the mailing list. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in virtual `round-table' discussions together. The main distinction between these and newsgroups is that mailing lists distribute everything contributed to them (unless moderated), while newsgroups allows you more selection in choosing which threads of a discussion to read.
Newsgroups:
The name for discussion groups on Usenet, these vary in topic from the very technical, to the very casual, to the downright bizarre. Newsgroups are organized according to a hierarchical system of domains, which grow increasingly specific; the major common top-level domains are alt.* (Alternative), comp.* (Computers), news.* (Usenet announcements), rec.* (Recreation), and talk.* (general discussion), as well as multiple regional domains such as stl.* (for St.Louis) or dfw.* (for Dallas-Fort Worth). (Parents concerned about regulating the content their children see on Internet newsgroups and Web sites can buy software that provides them with the ability to 'lock out' undesired material just as they can buy equipment to let them Œlock' channels on their TV.) Most everything that can be discussed has its own newsgroup, and if it doesn't have one yet, you can always make a request that it be created.
PPP (Point to Point Protocol):
A dial-up protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make a connection to the Internet. PPP is gradually replacing SLIP, an earlier type of dial-up protocol, for this purpose.
Server:
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 World Wide Web server, or to the machine on which the software is running, e.g. "Our mail server is down today." A single server machine could have several different server software packages running on it, thus providing many different services to clients on the network.
Shell account:
A UNIX-based Internet account in which you have to use UNIX commands from a prompt to access the various Internet services. A Shell account is usually offered as an inexpensive alternative to a PPP or SLIP connection, which offers full graphic access; one easy way to distinguish them is to think of the Shell as DOS compared to PPP/SLIP as Windows.
SLIP (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, a more robust type of dial-up protocol.
Spam:
Posting commercial advertisements in any but the designated newsgroups; since Usenet is a largely non-commercial forum, `spamming' is heavily discouraged, and is likely to result in the offender being flamed.
Thread:
A series of articles in a newsgroup related to a certain sub-topic; generally, any replies to a post on a certain topic become a part of that post's thread. Most newsreader software lets you view or select whole threads rather than having to deal with the various related articles individually.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator):
The standard address format of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web. A URL such as http://www.gccgroup.com/about.htm will direct your browser software to access that Web page (in this case, Gold Coast Consulting's Recruiting and Job Placement Services). Each Web page has its own unique URL, as do any of the other various services included in the World Wide Web, such as FTP, Telnet, and Usenet.
Usenet (User's Network):
A global system of discussion groups, with articles passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Usenet is completely decentralized, with over 20,000 discussion areas, called newsgroups. Newsgroups are distributed via news servers, so which newsgroups are available to you depends on which ones are supported by your local server. Many ISPs filter out most non-local groups, ie. those not conducted in the regional language (English in the case of the US), and some even censor out controversial groups such as in sensitive or more Œadultą hierarchies.
WWW (World Wide Web):
Technically, the World Wide Web encompasses the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using services such as Gopher, FTP, Telnet, Usenet, WAIS and others, but it has become most closely associated with the network of Web servers (see HTTP) which mix text, graphics, sound, and other electronic media together in a common document. This HTTP-based network, linked together via hypertext links, can be envisioned as a literal `web' of information, hence its name. To help you navigate within this Web, users can use bookmarks to keep track of certain sites as `landmarks', as well as employ search engines like Yahoo and Alta Vista, which are interactive databases that help you track down Web sites related to various topics or based on keywords. The Web and the other services available via WWW require some sort of browser software, such as Mosaic or Netscape Navigator.

Special thanks to Greg Ray, Webmaster of ANET, a St. Louis based Internet Service Provider, who did such a great job assembling this glossary of terms.

Some selections adapted from Surfing the Internet with Netscape, by Daniel A. Tauber and Brenda Kienan (1995), and the Internet Literacy Consultants' Internet Glossary (© 1994-95 by Matisse Enzer and ILC

 
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