Web Terms

Are there some web terms that you've heard of, but couldn't say for certain what they mean? You're not alone. There are plenty of web-related technology terms and acronyms which have become quite familiar, although many people aren't entirely clear about the meanings behind this jumble of jargon.

Stack of colourful books

Well have no fear... we're here to demystify these words for you. If you can think of any more examples of words of which you feel are unclear in their meaning, please contact us and let us know. We're constantly looking for new additions for our Web Terms dictionary!

Bandwidth
Bandwidth is the transmission capacity of the lines that carry the Internet's electronic traffic. Imagine it this way... there are five hundred people waiting outside the gates of your park. If you have a small door in the gate, only a few people can squeeze through at one time... whereas if you have several very large openings in your gate, large numbers of people can pour into the park at once. While a dial-up connection is fairly slow (having a low bandwidth), technologies such as DSL, Broadband/Cable, and ISDN (which have higher bandwidth) allow for a much cleaner and faster transfer of information.
Broadband
Broadband is also referred to as "high-speed" internet service. It is a class of communication channel which is capable of sending multiple streams, or signals, down the same line. These signals might be video, audio, or data. Imagine that the connection between your computer and the Internet is a tunnel. Using dial-up, your tunnel is extremely narrow. In comparison, broadband is a much wider tunnel which allows more information to be passed quickly through your connection at one time.
Browser
A browser is a program which allows you to see, hear, and read information on the World Wide Web. Common browsers include Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Opera. They are all free to download. Here at Digital Paw Print, we're big fans of Firefox.
Cache
The Cache is a section of your computer's memory which is used to store information which has previously been downloaded from the Web. This is especially helpful because requests for the same info can be retrieved from the Cache instead of being downloaded repeatedly. For example, logos and graphics that appear on a site are downloaded the first time you visit. Now every time you return to that site, your computer just dips into the Cache and pulls out those same images to use, saving you all that download time.
Cookie
Aside from a tasty biscuit best made by Mom, this term refers to a piece of information that a website stores on your computer in order to remember preferences, log-in information, and online shopping cart contents. They're sometimes also used to track repeat visits to a site and/or web advertisements that you click on while visiting a site.
Crawler
Also known as "spider", a crawler is a program used primarily by search engines which visits websites to read the content shown in the coding. It then knows what information that site has to offer, and therefore can determine how and where to rank it within the search engine directories. It might be a crawler, but it's really not so creepy.
Ethernet
Ethernet describes a method of connecting computers together in a network. If you had an office with several rooms and wanted to connect the computers, you would want to set up a network using "ethernet" cabling and a network router. The computers could then share files and connect to the Internet through a shared server.
Firewall
A firewall is a form of security for your computer or local network of computers. It's a combination of hardware and software designed to protect unauthorized access from getting into your computer and the files within it. Firewalls of course work both ways... they also prevent you from getting into areas on the Internet where you're not allowed, you sneaky devil. Larger companies often resurrect firewalls that prevent employees from accessing sites or information that they deem inappropriate for work.
Magnifying glass and pipe
FTP
This stands for "File Transfer Protocol". This is a method by which files are moved or exchanged from one computer to another over a network. Kind of like a little cyber spaceship that delivers files to and fro.
GIF
This stands for "Graphic Interchange Format" and it is a type of graphics file commonly used on the Net. It is limited to 256 colours so is best used for illustrations and graphics, rather than photos. JPEGS are usually best for photos.
GUI
This stands for "Graphical User Interface" and refers to a method in which people can interact with computers using graphical images such as windows, icons, and menus which can be manipulated by a mouse (and often a keyboard as well, to a limited extent). This is in contrast to CLI (Command Line Interface) in which only text is used solely by a keyboard.
HTML
HTML stands for "Hyper Text Markup Language". It is the programming language that defines how web pages are formatted and displayed, using a system of codes. Your web browser interprets these codes and displays the document accordingly.
HTTP
HTTP stands for "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol". It is the networking standard that computers use to transfer information containing hyper text, mainly web pages. The http:// in a URL tells your web browser to fetch and display a particular hyper text document. Consider the http to be like a dog that retrieves newspaper pages for you whenever you ask.
Internet
The Internet is a global network that connects millions of computers together in over 100 countries. Amazing, isn't it? Different computer networks communicate with each other all over the world in a matter of seconds. The Internet can be used to access a number of different services aside from the World Wide Web ~ it also is used to access e-mail, FTP, newsgroups, and IRC.
Intranet
This is similar to the Internet, but more like a smaller private version. It's a private network often used by corporations in order to present information to its employees quickly and efficiently.
IP Address
This is your computer's mailing address on the Internet. It's a unique number which is assigned to every single computer which connects to the Internet, whether permanently or temporarily. These addresses usually have a domain name alias so that they're easier to remember.
ISP
ISP stands for "Internet Service Provider". That refers to the company who provides your basic access to the Internet.
Bottle with rolled up paper inside
IRC
IRC is short for "Internet Relay Chat". Often referred to as a chat room, it's a way for numerous people to engage in discussions through the Internet at the same time. Information is passed along in real time. One person types in a message, enters it, and everyone in that chat room can see it and respond. It's kind of like instant messaging, but one-to-many instead of just one-to-one.
JPEG
This stands for "Joint Photographic Experts Group". It's named after the wonderful group of nerds who designed the photographic image-compression standard. JPEGS are one of the main image formats used on the Web. It's a compressed format which is optimal for full colour photographs. Compression is balanced against loss of detail.
PDF
This means "Portable Document Format", and it's a popular way of formatting documents so that they can be viewed and printed on multiple platforms without changing the graphical appearance of the document.
Server
A server is simply a host computer used to transfer (serve) files to you via a network or Internet connection.
Spam
Spam on the Internet is as yucky as that "meat" product sold in a can. It refers to the sending of unsolicited e-mail, usually to large quantities of people on the Internet. It is also considered to be the posting of inappropriate messages to various newsgroups. Have a look at our article on spam for more information.
URL
Ever wondered what this stands for? "Uniform Resource Locator". It's an address for a file on the Internet. The URL is made up of three parts. The first part tells you what Internet Application Protocol is being used, like http:// for web pages or ftp:// for standard files. The second part is the address of the computer or the domain name. The last part is the pathname of where the specific file is stored on the server.
Webmaster
Sounds fancy, doesn't it? The webmaster is simply the person responsible for the design, implementation, management, and maintenance of a website.
Wifi
Wifi is a short-form for "Wireless Fidelity". It is a high-frequency wireless local area network technology. Simply put, it's connecting to the internet without any physical wire. Yay! Freedom!
XHTML
This is simply a hybrid of HTML and XML. The long-form is "Extensible Hypertext Markup Language". It is considered to be a stricter, cleaner version of HTML.
XML
XML is short for "Extensible Markup Language". The difference between the two is that XML also tells you what sort of information is contained in the data. For example, it would be programmed to know that < prodcode > is the product code and < price > is the price. This makes things easier for those crawlers or spiders to get relevant information for the sake of comparison.