Internet Terms and Definitions

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

Select the first letter of the word from the list above to jump to appropriate section of the glossary. If the term you are looking for starts with a digit or symbol, choose the '#' link. You may also search for a word or term from the AALBC Google search engine, located at the bottom of every page

Editor's Note: If there is a term that you would like to see added or heaven forbid -- an error, please drop us a line at

- A -

Anonymous FTP
Describes the process of connecting to a computer ("FTPing") to down load files or programs. Anonymous comes in to play here because you would normally need a password and an user ID to log into a computer. In this instance, one would use the word "Anonymous" as their user ID and typically their Email address as their password. As you can see anyone with access can then logon to the computer -- if it allows Anonymous FTP. Normally, Anonymous FTP access affords the user far less privileges than a "regular" user. Unless of course you are a hacker.
This is the software you need to find files stored on Anonymous FTP (Archie clients) sites. To use this software effectively you really should know the exact name of the file you are looking to download. This software predates the world wide web. It does not offer real-time and anything goes queries that you find at your Altavista, HotBot or Yahoo search engine. You're not likely to use this software unless you are a "real" researcher or have many years of experience with the Internet
Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. This network was really the start of the Internet. Was started in the late 60's, by the department of defense, as was designed to survive a nuclear holocaust. What we are using the Internet for today is probably far more rigorous test :-)
American Standard Code for Information Interchange (pronounced "ass-ski" or "as-key" you'll get away with either one) For all practical purposes this is the standard used across the planet for representing numbers, letters and characters in binary (only two, hence bi - 1 or 0) digits (bits) ASCII uses 7 bits as a result you can only get 128 characters using 1's and 0's -- every combination from 0000000, 0000001 to 1111111 (if you remembered anything from your high school math that would be 2 raised to the 7th power or 128 unique characters.
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- B -

A high-speed LAN, Network, line or series of connections that forms a major pathway within a network. The term is relative. A backbone in a small network will likely be much smaller than many non-backbone lines in a large network. Typically users are not connected directly to the Backbone the backbone tends to be an interface for LANs or networks.
This is the "size of the pipe" or the "width of the highway". The larger the pipe or wider the highway the more bandwidth you have.. Bandwidth for most purposes is measured in bits-per-second (BPS). The text on this web page is about 45,000 bits (or 45kbps). A fast modem can move about 28,800 bits in one second (28.8 KBPS). Which means the text on this page would have downloaded less than two seconds (assuming you have a 28.8 modem). But you probably noticed it took a little longer than two seconds to download this page. Well there is the graphics, and other factors which go beyond the scope of this definition that contribute to slowing down the loading of a web page
Most people use baud rate synonymously with bit rate. For common usage this is typically acceptable with, with bit rate being used far more often. Indeed baud is typically used when the technical definition is required. Technically, baud is the number of times per second a the signal shifts value. The bit rate would correspond one-to-one with the signal shift (baud). However, the baud rate can be higher if more information is transmitted than the number of bits implied. For example a 1200 BPS modem actually runs at 300 baud, but transmits 4 bits per baud (4 x 300 = 1200 bits per second).
Bulletin Board System There are perhaps millions of BBS systems around the world today. Lately it has become much more economical to set up a web site. A BBS can be as small a single computer (usually a PC) with a single phone line or scores of computers with hundreds of home lines. A BBS serves as a system that allows people to carry on discussions, play games, send Email, upload and download files, and make announcements. In many cases the BBS is a closed system ( not connected to any other network). Increasingly however, BBS's are establishing links to the Internet.
(BINary HEXadecimal) -- Is one way ,among many, to convert binary (non-text, non-ASCII) into ASCII. Internet Email only transmits ASCII or text files. If you want to Email a spreadsheet or a MS word file to someone it must be converted from its native binary format into a ASCII format. Some Email program do this conversion for you, Many do not. You may download: Information Transportation Professional - This program will convert Binary file for transmission via Email over the Internet and convert ASCII files you receive back into their original binary format
(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.
Because It's Time NETwork or Because It's There NETwork -- A network of educational institutions. The BITNET network is distinct and separate from the Internet, but e-mail is freely exchanged between BITNET and the Internet.
(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.
Is a program for viewing the resources of the WWW. You are probably viewing this document with a browser. Netscape will say the probability is 80% that you are using their browser software Netscape Navigator to view this page. Another popular browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer
By The Way: This is a short hand used in Email, most commonly in electronic mail. For example; "BTW have you seen The African American Literature Book Club's great new web site?"
A set of Bits that represent a single character. There are 8 Bits in a Byte. The 8 Bit Byte which describes the number one is ASCII is 00000001; two is 00000010; three; 00000011 etc. the range of characters represented in ASCII is 00000000 to 11111111. This would yield 128 possible characters in the ASCII character set.
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- C -

Common Gateway Interface is a set of rules that describes how a Web Server communicates with another program on the same computer, and how the other program (the "CGI program or CGI script") talks to the web server.

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. The "visitor counter" on the bottom of the JPCC home page is the result of a CGI Program
Common Gateway Interface - Binary- This is normally the name of the sub directory where CGI scripts are stored. These CGI Scripts, stored in the CGI-Bin directory are executed by another program stored on the same or different machine
A piece of software that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer or even the same computer, in some instances. A good example of a client application (piece of software) would be the browser application you are most likely using right now.
A technology where a "client" (e.g., this browser program) connects over a network to a "server" (e.g., the computer which contains this file) and requests a certain piece of information to be sent back. The client/server model is very efficient as connections from the client can; (1) be made to many servers concurrently and (2) only uses the resources of the remote computer briefly. The client has its own computing power and is typically only reliant on the server for data.
Many people consider cookies to be an invasion of privacy. A cookie describes the process in which a program initiated by a server can cause the client computer to store information which is later retrieved by the server on the next connection.
A good use for this would be for online an shopping carts which allows your computer (the client ) to retain the items selected during an online shopping excursion. A less good or potentially more invasive use of a cookie would be to report to the server (their computer) every site you visited since the last time you connected to the server issuing the cookie. This information can be tremendously valuable as it freely gives the viewing habits of the user to any issuing server.
Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel Necromancer to describe a virtual world. The word Cyberspace is all the resources available via the Internet, the information Superhighway, AOL or any other network or computer system.
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- D -

Domain Name
The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names, reading from left to right, go from the specific to the general. The right most portion describes the domain. In the example below the domain is .com. Next is the domain name which is aalbc. To the left of that we have further specification WWW, which describes a web site. Of all the millions and millions of web sites this brief description describes only one! There is only one in the world. Likewise, there is only one,, etc.
Discussion Group
In the context of the World Wide Web a discussion group is a program which allows individuals to participate in an online discussion by posting messages and responding directly to those messages in almost real time. Click here to see an example of a discussion group on the African American Literature Book Club's web site
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- E -

Electronic Mail: I suspect if you have the wherewithal to surf the net -- this definition is unnecessary
Describes a very popular LAN network protocol (set of rules). Ethernet describes the physical medium (coax cable), the transmission rate (10,000,000 BPS) and other requirements which allow computers from different vendors to share data over the same LAN.
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- F -

Frequently Asked Questions -- FAQ's (pronounced facs) are documents that list and answer the most common questions on a particular subject. There are FAQ's on most subject particularly with regard to the Internet.
(Fiber Distributed Data Interface) -- Describes a very popular LAN network protocol (set of rules). FDDI describes the physical medium (Fiber optic cable), the transmission rate (100,000,000 BPS) and other requirements which allow computers from different vendors to share data over the same LAN. Ten times as fast as Ethernet.
Is a software tool which allows you to locate an individual on an Internet site. For example one would "finger" Jane at IBM, to see if Jane had an account on the IBM site (if was almost impossible to resist the juvenile pun here.
Fire Wall
The phase is most often used to describe the hardware and software in place to separate or rather protect (for security reason) a LAN from the external Internet
This verb describes the process of putting someone in their place, asserting a point in no uncertain terms over the Internet. Usually this is done in a newsgroup, chat room or other online forum. Typically the relatively anonymity of the Internet allowed one a certain amount of freedom to express themselves in fashion they would not in person. A good flame is often interesting to read and worded expertly. However, the "art" of flaming is being lost and is being replaced by more vulgarity than anything else.
Flame War
Several flames in a row between two or more individuals. Extended flames can be a real pain.
File Transfer Protocol. This is the protocol or rules we follow to transfer files over the Internet. You don't need to actually know the rules -- you just need the software. Normally this software comes bundled with your browser software and you are completely unaware that you are using FTP. When you are using FTP it is commonly referred to as "FTPing". As in; "I'm FTPing the file over to you".
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- G -

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.
Graphics Interchange Format: GIF files are compressed images optimized for graphics. The format of most images found on the WWW is GIF. Contrast with JPEG.
"Originated at the University of Minnesota, whose mascot is the Golden Gophers". Gopher is a very popular method of making menus of information and material which is accessible via the Internet. Gopher is being quickly replaced by the more popular Hypertext or world wide web.
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- H -

Home Page
The starting point of a Web site.  The African American Literature Book Club's homepage URL is  THIS PAGE whose URL is is a page linked to AALBC's homepage
Any computer that serves (provides resources; data, WWW, etc.) other computers or users.
HyperText Markup Language -- This is the scripting language used to create hypertext documents for use on the WWW. HTML in its raw form looks like the old WordPerfect interface. See the example below of the raw HTML and the resulting HTML text:
Raw HTML Resulting Text
<bold>BOLD TEXT</bold>                   
<blink>BLINK TEXT</blink>                   
<h3>Heading type 3</h3>

Heading type 3

HTML is really that simple. The tricky part is combining the content; hypertext, graphics, audio, video, CGI programs into a web document that others will find useful -- and maybe even pay to read!
HyperText Transport Protocol -- The protocol for moving HTML files across the WWW. When you connect to a web site by specifying a URL with you are telling your browser (client side HTML reader) to use the HTTP protocol to down load a web page.
In general, any text that contains links to other text. You can find hypertext documents in many help menu of today's PC programs. Of course hypertext is also the glue that holds the WWW together. The AALBC website has literally thousands of hypertext links to pages within its site and throughout the Internet.
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- I -

In My Humble Opinion -- A short hand way of expressing the obvious. For example: IMHO, IMHO is superfluous. However, you will often see this acronym on the Internet.
The aggregation of all the 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. There are probably over 75,000 independent networks interconnected via the Internet. Each of these networks can have one or hundreds of thousands of users. CompuServe, AOL and Prodigy would count as three (3 of perhaps 75,000) networks on the Internet!
Internet Explorer
Microsoft Corporation's browser application. Internet Explorer has about a 15% share of the browser market. Currently, Internet Explorer is being distributed for free by Microsoft. Microsoft was slow to introduce a browser which can run on DOS/Windows, or a browser product at all for that manner. As a result the Netscape Navigator garnered a huge market share about 75% (as of 1997)
A private Internet inside a company or organization using the same protocols and software one would find on the Internet. Intranet sites however are often more exciting (utilizing more bells and whistles) as they don't have to content with the bandwidth and network problems associated with the Internet (a public network).  An Intranet does not have to connect to the Internet
IP Number
A unique number which uniquely identifies a host on the Internet. A host may be a large super computer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories or you computer at home. An IP number consists of f 4 parts separated by dots, e.g.

The African American Literature Book Club's IP number for our website is
actually is the web address for The URL (which is much easier to remember) is mapped, or converted, from by a Domain Name Server.
Internet Relay Chat -- A popular multi-user live chat facility.
Integrated Services Digital Network -- or due to its popularity (or lack thereof) It Simply Doesn't Network. ISDN
describes a protocol (set of rules). ISDN describes the physical medium (regular phone lines), the transmission rate (56,000 or 64,000 BPS) ISDN has been around a long time. Despite the dig above, ISDN is rapidly becoming available to much of the USA.
Internet Service Provider: An organization which provides access to the Internet. The ISP usually deals with the network lines, modems and computer which interface to the Internet. Highly competitive industry; the cost of ISP's services continue to drop.
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- J -

Java is one of the things that make the Internet great and gives it tremendous potential. JAVA a new programming language invented by Sun Microsystems; 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 -- The program is interpreted by the browser.
Using Java programs, web pages can include functions such as animations, calculators, and or even full blow applications like a word processor. There has been talk about a selling completely stripped down computer (for about $500 buck) which can run all of its applications via the Internet -- JAVA can be instrumental in this.
Joint Photography Experts' Group. This a compression standard for digital images which is optimized for photographs. JPEG is probably the second most commonly used image format found on the Internet. Contrast with GIF.
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- K -

A thousand bytes. Technically, Kilobyte is equal to 1,024 or 2 raised to the 10th power.
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- L -

Local Area Network: A LAN is a network of computers restricted by definition to a limited geography -- a floor in an office building, for example.
When you make a phone call you establish, literally, a physical connect to the called party -- even if they are on the other side of the world. A leased-line is a connection that is permanently connected (as if you never hung up the phone -- it costs about the same too). Leased line typically have better transmission qualities than dial up circuits. Leased lines and are required for high speed transmissions.
An application which maintains a mailing list allowing a user to send a Email to a single address, which the Listserv sends to multiple address. Listservs originated on BITNET but they are now common on the Internet.
The act of signing into a computer system. The user enters their Login Name and password to gain access to the computer or network, or even website.
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- M -

A million bytes, or a thousand kilobytes.
Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions -- This is another standard for sending (non-text, non-ASCII) into ASCII. Internet Email only transmits ASCII or text files. If you want to Email a spreadsheet or a MS word file to someone it must be converted from its native binary format into a ASCII format.
You may download: Information Transportation Professional - This program will convert Binary files into ASCII for transmission via Email over the Internet and convert ASCII files you receive back into their original binary format
In addition, to Email software, the MIME standard is also universally used by Web Servers to identify the files they are sending to Web Clients (browsers), in this way new file formats can be accommodated updating the list of pairs of MIME-Types associated software dealing with each type.
MOdulator, DEModulator: A MODEM converts digital information generated by a computer and converts it into a analog format (like the human voice) so that it can travel across normal phone lines. A MODEM on the receiving end converts the back to the original digital format on the remote end.
Mosaic was the first WWW browser to gain any popularity Mosaic was originally developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Other browsers include Netscape, MacWeb, and Internet Explorer. In fact, Netscape was developed from Mosaic.
Motion Picture Experts' Group. This is a standard for compressing video. On of the most popular methods for compressing video on the Internet.
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- N -

Etiquette for the Internet.
Netscape is the name of the browser and publicly traded company.  The Netscape browser was originally based on the Mosaic program developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).
One of the individuals given credit for developing Mosaic, Mark Andressen, was hired away from the NCSA by Jim Clark, and they founded a company called Mosaic Communications. Mosaic Communications was renamed to Netscape Communications Corporation. Marc Andreesen now serves as Netscape's Chief Technical Officer.
Netscape is still, by far, the most popular browser. Recently, Microsoft's Internet Explorer through brute force (Read: free software and even more enhancements) is quickly gaining ground on Netscape's lead.
This is what you do at cocktail parties in order to advance your career. Network also describes what results when you connect two or more computers together so that they can share resources.
The name for a USENET discussion group. Click here for an example of a discussion group on the AALBC's site.
Network Information Center - The best known NIC is the "InterNIC" on the Internet. The InterNIC registers Domain names. This was done free of charge, but now due to the incredible growth of the Internet, the InterNIC now charges $50 a year to administer you domain name.
A resource, computer, server, tape drive, or device which can use, provide or share resources on a network.
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- O -

Operating System
The operating system is the software which allows the computer to perform its most basic functions. the operating system manages files, handle input and output. Application programs run on top of the operating system. Examples of Operating systems include MAC OS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, UNIX, MVS, VM, VMS, and many, many more.
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- P -

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, hopefully, secret code when a users types to gain access to a private resource. This is exactly like your PIN for your ATM card.
Post Office Protocol. Post Office Protocol refers to the protocol (set of rules) used by e-mail programs to get Email from a mail server (POP Server).
Port describes the place where data enters and exits a computer. For example a communication port (serial, parallel) on a personal computer where your modem or printer connects.
Port also describes the process of converting an application (software program) for use on one system to a dissimilar computer system. For example, Netscape has been "ported" to run on Windows, Macintosh and UNIX computers.
Leaving a message or other data on a Newsgroup which others can read, respond to or otherwise retrieve.
Point to Point Protocol This is the Protocol (list of rules) which a computer uses to run the TCP/IP protocol stack over a serial link. TCP/IP is the protocol used over the Internet.
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- Q -

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- R -

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 [IETF] 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", For example,. the official standard for Electronic Mail is RFC 822. For most people this information is never required -- even in Trivial Pursuit.
A router is a computer or dedicated piece of hardware which connects two or more networks. Routers are can make decisions or which network to send data across. Routers combined to special software is used to construct a fire wall to protect you network from the "hostile" Internet.
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- S -

A server is a computer, which hosts software which "serves" a client program. For example an Email server would server and Email program, a web server would serve a browser. A single computer can run several servers simultaneously
Serial Line Internet Protocol -- A protocol (standard set of rules) for running TCP/IP over a serial link (dial up telephone line most commonly). SLIP is being supplanted by PPP.
Spam (or Spamming)
Spamming is poor Netiquette. Spamming describes the activity of sending an unsolicited Email to a large number of people. Sort of like junk mail on the Internet
The way everybody does things. Without some form of standardization, there would be anarchy. Conversely if there are too many standards anarchy would result as well. Use standards so that we can coexist and not to the extent that we are all the same.
System Operator -- The System Operator is basically the computer grunt. Typically Sysop's are required for large main frame computers -- not your home PC. Then again you are the Sysop for you home PC. The Sysop back ups data, upgrades the operating system, etc.
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- T -

Describes a very popular communications protocol (set of rules). T-1 describes the physical medium (leased line), the transmission rate (1,544,000 BPS). A T-1 line is usually the fastest link which connects networks to the Internet.
Describes a very popular communications protocol (set of rules). T-1 describes the physical medium (leased line), the transmission rate (44,736,000 BPS).  
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol -- TCP/IP defines the suite of protocols (standard set of rules) that describes the Internet. If you don't have TCP/IP you ain't on the Internet. TCP/IP was originally developed for the UNIX operating system. Now TCP/IP is has been ported to every major operating system know to man.
Telnet is the software used to logon to another computer across the Internet.
A device (usually just a keyboard and monitor) which has no or little computing power of its own which allows you to send and receive commands from a computer to a computer somewhere else.  
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- U -

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 -- This is the information you type into your browser to access a resource on the Internet's World Wide Web (WWW). Below are examples of URLs

The African American Literature Book Club's Website
The African American Literature Book Club's FTP Site
A world-wide system of discussion groups, with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines.
Unix to Unix Encoding -- Yet another standard for sending (non-text, non-ASCII) into ASCII. Internet Email only transmits ASCII or text files. If you want to Email a spreadsheet or a MS word file to someone it must be converted from its native binary format into a ASCII format.
You may download: Information Transportation Professional - This program will convert Binary files into ASCII for transmission via Email over the Internet and convert ASCII files you receive back into their original binary format
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- W -

Wide Area Information Servers are commercial programs which indexes a tremendous amount of data and making those indices searchable across networks such as the Internet.Internet. WAIS search results are ranked as well. 
Wide Area Network -- A network which covers a geography larger than a single building or campus. To contrast with a LAN.
Web Browser
A TCP/IP client program that will decode HTML documents and bring them up on the computer.
Netscape's Navigator, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and Mosaic are the most popular graphical web browsers available today.
World Wide Web -- Is the conglomeration of HTTP Servers which allow users to users to access the resources of the WWW. The WWW allows users to obtain video, text, graphics, sound files, using a variety of servers (Gopher, FTP, HTTP, Telnet, USENET, WAIS, etc.)
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- Y -

One of the first and most popular Internet search services.
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- # - 

56k Line
A digital ("zeros and ones" or "on and off") line, provided by the phone company, capable of transferring 56,000 bits-per-second. Remember it takes about 8 bits to make a byte and one byte equals one character. This is twice as fast as the fastest modem (28.8 KBPS - today) you are likely to use at home.
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Copyright © 2000 by the African American Literature Book Club)
All trademarks or product names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.  For more detailed or formal definitions please consult a technical reference.

Last Updated: Monday, September 18, 2017