Common Internet, Computing and Web Terminology

ASCII: The American Standard for Computer Information Interchange for representing text and punctuation numerically. ASCII is often used to mean plain text as opposed to binary files.

API: Application Programming Interface. API refers to how an existing piece of software can be used in a programming language.

ASP: Application Service Provider. A Web site or company that provides a service that significantly simplifies the design, development, or deployment of another Web site. It can also be thought of as outsourcing certain functions of a Web site. For example, some companies are providing local search functionality, making it easier to add search to a Web site.

Authentication: A process that verifies a user's identity. Common examples include digital certificates or passwords.

B2B: Business-to-business e-commerce. A business selling products to another business.

B2C: Business-to-customer e-commerce. A business selling products to an end-user or consumer.

Bandwidth: Used in common parlance as a measure of the speed of a network connection. It is measured in kbps (kilobits per second) or mbps (megabits per second). Typical modem speeds are 28.8 kbps and 56 kbps. Bandwidth should not be confused with latency, which refers to the amount of time it takes to transfer data from one point to another. Also see broadband and cable modem and DSL.

Banner Ads: Small images containing advertising content which can be clicked on. Banner ads have emerged as a standard way of advertising on the Web. Banner ads are often animated, and have standard sizes.

Binary: A system of representing information as a string of 1s and 0s. Computers are based on the binary system. Binary is also used to describe non-ASCII files. Binary settings are required to download software programs, graphics, spreadsheets and word processor files from the Net.

Bookmark: A mechanism built into most Web browsers for saving the location of a Web page.

Browsing: One of two major strategies used to find information on a Web site, browsing is characterized by examining pages, and taking links that seem to take one closer to some goal Web page (whether or not that Web page actually exists). Also see searching.

Broadband: In general, refers to a network connection with high bandwidth. DSL and cable modems are examples of broadband communication. Also defined as high-speed Internet connections that allow for transfers of information at rates far faster than those of dial-up modems.

Brochureware: A derisive term for a simple Web site that does no more than describe a company and what products it offers at a very basic level

Cable modem: A form of broadband communication that transfers data across the cable television network. Also see DSL, a competing technology.

Cache: As a verb, it means to store information nearby. As a noun, it refers to the space used to store the information. For example, Web browsers cache Web pages that have already been seen, so that they will load quickly if viewed again.

Clickthrough: The number of people that click on a banner ad. Usually expressed as a percentage of total number of banner ads clicked on divided by total number of banner ads displayed.

Client: 1. Referring to either the specific computer or the software that requests information or any other resource from a server. Perhaps the most common client is the Web browser. Also see client-server architecture and server. 2. Referring to the person or group sponsoring a Web project, the people that want a Web site to be created

Client-server architecture:  Describes a common form of software architecture, in which a server contains information or other resources, and clients request the information or resource. The Web is an example of a client-server architecture. Also see peer-to-peer architecture.

Conversion rate: The number of people that switch from being visitors to buying customers on a Web site. Usually expressed as a percentage of total number of unique customers divided by total number of unique visitors.

Cookie: A special browser feature which allows by Web sites to keep information on a person’s computer. Cookies are typically used for personalization, but can also be used for tracking a person’s movements throughout the Web. For this reason, cookies are at the center of a growing privacy debate.

CPM: Cost-per-thousand impressions. CPM is the cost per 1,000 people delivered by a medium or media schedule. For Web-based banner ads, CPM is the cost per thousand ads seen by people. Also see clickthrough.

Crawling: The process of gathering and preprocessing content on a Web site for later use in searching. Crawling can make use of meta-information about the content, as well as the content itself, to create a search index. Also known as indexing.

Dead zone: Area where wireless coverage drops off or is unavailable

Domain name: Technically, one way of naming computers on the Internet. A more useful way of thinking about domain names is the name of a Web site, for example “”

DSL: An acronym for Digital Subscriber Line, a relatively new form of broadband network connection for the home. Also see cable modem.

eCommerce: Selling products or services online. The two major forms of ecommerce are B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer).

eGovernment: the use of technology by government to interact with citizens, improve services and streamline operations. Source: e-Texas

Encryption: Translating data into a secret form so that it cannot be easily understood by unauthorized people. SSL is an example of using encryption on the Web.

E-tailer: An electronic retailer, a company that sells products exclusively online. In contrast, see bricks and mortar.

Extranet: An uncommon term these days, refers to a private portion of a company’s Web site intended to be used by suppliers, vendors, partners, and customers. An extranet can also be thought of as an extension of a company’s intranet.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol. The standard Internet protocol for transferring files from one computer to another.

Firewall: Computer gateway (including hardware, software and procedures) that protects a company's computer network by filtering connections and transmissions between the local system and the Internet.

Flash: Refers to the tool and the browser plug-in developed by Macromedia aimed at creating and viewing interactive multimedia presentations.

Fulfillment: The act of delivering and supporting products purchased online. Includes such skills as logistics, inventory management, parcel management and customer service.

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format. A widely supported and very popular way of storing images. Usually used for small images and for images that require transparency. Also see JPG and PNG.

Graphic design: Also known as visual design, graphic design refers to the visual communication of information using elements such as color, images, typography and layout.

GUI: Pronounced 'goo-ey', an acronym for Graphical User Interface. Often refers to the desktop interface, such as the interfaces found in Microsoft Windows and Macintosh. However, GUI can refer to any interface that uses graphics.

HCI: An acronym for Human-Computer Interaction. HCI is the study of the relationship between humans and computers. Broadly construed, HCI includes a multitude of other disciplines such as user interface design, group work, new input devices, human physiology, cognitive models, and universal accessibility.

High-speed access:  A broadband Internet connection that transmits data such as e-mail and Web pages much faster than so-called "dial-up" services. The most common high-speed access services are DSL; cable modems; T-1 and T-3 lines; DBS; and fixed wireless.

Host: The computer where an Internet service is physically stored.

HTML: Hypertext Markup Language. This is the information that represents the content on a Web page, as well as how the content is displayed.

HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTTP is the way HTML Web pages are transferred from the Web server to the Web browser.

Hypertext: Units of information connected and associated with other units. The most pervasive form of hypertext is the Web, though it is by no means the only form.

IE: Stands for Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s standard Web browser. Typically followed by a version number, for example 'IE4' or 'IE5.5'

IIS: Internet Information Server, Microsoft’s standard Web server. Also see Apache.

Impressions: The number of times an advertisement is shown. Also see banner ad.

Index: 1. A hierarchical form of organizing information, also known as a directory. See directory for more information. 2. The data gathered during a search engine Web crawl

Internet explorer: Commonly abbreviated as IE, it is Microsoft’s standard Web browser.

ISP: Internet Service Provider. Makes an Internet connection available to customers. Some ISPs provide cable modem access, DSL access, and modem access. Also called an access provider.

Intranet: A Web site intended to be used internally within a company. Also see extranet.

Iterative design: A cyclical design process consisting of three stages: design-prototype-evaluate. Iterative design is a simple and proven technique for developing useful and usable Web sites.

Jar file: Java Archive. A jar file is a standard way of packaging a collection of Java files into a single file for faster download.

Java: A general-purpose programming language designed by Sun Microsystems specifically for network applications. See for more information. Not to be confused with JavaScript.

JavaScript: A scripting language designed specifically for Web pages. Not to be confused with Java.

JPG: Pronounced 'jay-peg', Joint Picture Expert Group. JPG is a widely supported file format for saving images with many colors, usually photographs. Sometimes seen as 'jpeg'. Also see GIF and PNG.

LAN: Local Area Network. A linked system of computers, printers, and file servers that serve a company or office at a single location. Wide-Area Networks (WANs) offer data transmission to a number of locations.

Latency: Refers to the amount of time it takes to transfer data from one point to another. Latency should not be confused with bandwidth. Highways can be used as a real-world example of the difference between bandwidth and latency. The number of lanes in a highway can be considered the bandwidth, and the amount of time it takes to get from one city to another city is the latency. In some cases, increasing the number of lanes will decrease the latency, but it clearly will only work up to a certain point.

Last mile: The final leg of a cable TV, telephone or other telecommunications network that ends in the user's household. The last mile can be a copper wire, fiber-optic line or a wireless link.

mCommerce: Mobile ecommerce. For example, purchasing items through a cell phone. As of this writing, mcommerce is still in its early stages and it is difficult to tell whether it is just hype or has real potential.

Meta-information: Additional information about content but not part of the content. Examples of meta-information include the author, the creation time, the last modification time, and type of information (e.g. document, image, audio file, etc)

Mozilla: The Web browser once created by the Netscape company, now an open-source software project.

Narrowband: A data connection under 64 kbps that transmits data at significantly slower speeds than a broadband connection can. A narrowband connection can carry voice, fax, paging and slow-speed data, but not full-video applications.

Navigation design: Design of methods of finding one’s way around the information structure. Navigation design is one part of information architecture. Also see information design and graphic design.

Open-source software: An overloaded term currently in vogue on the Internet, refers to software that is also distributed with the source code, the files that were used to construct the software in the first place.

P2P: 1. Path to profitability, a business term referring to the strategy needed for unprofitable companies to become profitable and self-sustaining. 2. Also see Peer-to-peer architecture

PDA: Personal Digital Assistant. A small computing appliance for storing personal information. More and more PDAs are coming with wireless connections, making Web access through these small devices possible.

PDF: Portable Document Format. A common file format for documents.

Peer-to-peer architecture: Sometimes abbreviated P2P, peer-to-peer architecture is a communications model in which everyone is at the same level and has the same capabilities. A common example of peer-to-peer architecture is Napster, a file sharing application. Many people believe peer-to-peer will become very important on the Internet in the years to come. Contrast with client-server architecture.

Personalization: A service-driven process tailoring Web pages to individuals or groups of individuals. Two examples of personalization are having a person’s name on a Web page and remembering a previously entered mailing address. Personalization makes use of information explicitly gathered from people (through customization) and information implicitly gathered (for example, through server log files and previous purchases). Personalization is typically done on the Web server through dynamically generated HTML.

PKI: Public Key Infrastructure. An emerging technology for doing encryption on the Internet. Not yet widely deployed as of this writing.

Plug-in: An application that can be embedded into a Web browser. Examples of popular plug-ins include Adobe Acrobat Reader (for PDF files) and Shockwave Flash.

PNG: Pronounced 'ping', Portable Network Graphics. A relatively new format for storing images designed specifically for transport across networks. However, PNG is currently not widely supported by Web browsers.

Portal: A major Web site, designed for a specific audience, which people would start at when entering the Web. Portals contain a wide variety of content, and often make extensive use of customization and personalization.

Protocol: In computer terms, a formal and precise definition of what kind of information is transferred and how it is transferred between two or more parties. HTTP is an example of a protocol.

Proxy: With respect to the Web, an intermediate computer between the Web server and the end-user’s Web browser. A classic use of a proxy is to cache Web pages for multiple users.

Real-time: Instantaneous or very rapid response. For example, stockbrokers require real-time market quotes, but casual investors may be satisfied with Yahoo's 15 minute delayed quotes

Rollout: Deployment of a completed Web site.

Rollover: A graphical icon that changes when the mouse moves over it. For Web pages, currently requires the use of JavaScript.

Router: A device that connects computer networks to one another so that data can be ferried back and forth between and among those networks' computers; a piece of hardware, similar to a modem, which directs network traffic.

Scale: Refers to how well something works if it increases in size. For example, “How well does his information architecture scale?” or “Will our Web server scale up to ten thousand users?”

Schematic: Representation of the content that should appear on an individual Web page. Schematics are usually devoid of images, though they may indicate with a label where an image should be placed. Unlike mock-ups, schematics typically do not make heavy use of color, typography, and graphics. Also see site map.

Searching: One of two major strategies used to find information on a Web site, searching makes use of local or Internet-wide search engines. Also see browsing.

Server: A centralized repository of information or other resources. Clients send requests to a server. The most common example of a server is the Web server. Also see client-server architecture and client.

SET: Secure Electronic Transaction. A relatively new technology supporting secure financial transactions on the Internet.

Shopping cart: A pattern that has emerged for purchasing items and services on the Web.

Site map: A high-level diagram showing the overall structure of a site. It is used primarily to reflect an understanding of the information structure of the site as it is being built and to a limited extent the navigation structure. Also see schematic.

Spam: Unwanted and often unsolicited email.

Specification: Specifications are detailed documents that attempt to describe exhaustively and precisely the intent of a design. A specification can be thought of as a set of exact instructions about how to build a site. They usually accompany an interactive prototype and refer to the prototype explicitly. The intended audience for a specification is the developers who will implement the site. The specification instructs the developers on how to extrapolate from the prototype to the finished site. Also see guidelines.

Splash screen: An opening screen, commonly heavy with multimedia, shown before the home page is displayed. Often implemented using Flash. Also often of little real value.

SSL: Secure Socket Layer. A form of encryption designed specifically for Web browsers, with the goal of maintaining the security and integrity of information transferred on the Web. SSL is typically used for ecommerce transactions, such as sending credit card information to a Web site. You can tell you are using SSL if the URL begins with https:// instead of just http://

Subsite: A major portion of a Web site, of which the individual pages are strongly related in content and /or navigation.

T-1: Technically refers a piece of hardware needed for a network connection, commonly used to refer to a type of Internet connection provided by telephone companies. T-1 lines transfer data at 1.5 megabits per second, and are typically leased by ISPs and by businesses.

T-3: A very high-speed network connection in which data is transmitted at a speed of 45 mbps.

Teleworking or telecommuting:  Using information and communications technologies to perform work away from the traditional office at alternate worksites.

Unlicensed spectrum: Parts of the radio spectrum available to any wireless provider

URL: An acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. For example, anything beginning with http:// is a URL.

User experience: A broad terms referring to the whole experience a person feels when using a Web site, both online and offline. Includes such online factors as ease of use and content, as well as such offline factors as fulfillment and customer service.

W3C: World Wide Web Consortium. The W3C is the group that coordinates the protocols and standards used on the Web, such as HTTP, HTML, and XML. See

WAP: Wireless Application Protocol. WAP is used primarily by small devices, such as cell phones, to access email and the Web. Also see WML.

WML: Wireless Markup Language. WML is a markup language similar to HTML designed specifically for small devices, such as cell phones. Also see WAP and HDML.

Web browser: Popular Web browsers include Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox and Safari. IE and Netscape Navigator (also known as Mozilla). Other browsers include America Online’s Web browser, Opera, and the text-based browser Lynx.

Web server: A server that delivers Web pages upon request. Examples of Web servers include Apache and IIS.

Widget: Interactive objects on Web pages, such as buttons and sliders.

Wi-fi or WiFi: Wireless Fidelity. WiFi enabled devices link together without cables to form wireless local area networks

WISP: Wireless Internet service providers

Wire-frame: Refers to a simple but functional interactive prototype of a Web site. Typically has text, layout, links and overall structure of the Web site, but few if any graphics. We do not use this term in this book. Also see interactive prototype.

XML: Extensible Markup Language. A standard created by W3C for specifying information formats. It is similar to HTML, but XML can be extended for use in any domain.