From time to time, you'll encounter terms which you are unfamiliar
with, this page mentions some of the common ones, with brief explanations
(it's a collection of terms, gleaned over quite some time, not all of
them are used by this documentation).
Also, at some stage, you're likely to need to ask for help with
something, and it's important that you use the right terms, so that the
other person understands what you're talking about. For instance,
if you're having a problem with your news reader program, then call it a
“news reader”, not just a “news program”, and
mention which particular program that you're using. A news program
is a very vague term, and could refer to a reader, a server, some utility
that works with news servers, or anything else. And various
programs work in different ways, so it's difficult to advise without
knowing which one that you're using; also, because there are so many
different ones, don't expect everybody to be familiar with what you're
- A Microsoft method of including various system function within a
webpage. Unfortunately, it's insecure, and lets web pages do far
too much with your system, handing control of your computer over to a
complete stranger (many of whom should not be trusted, at
all). It's also not a “standard” and won't work on other non-Microsoft
webbrowsers, unless those browsers go out of their way to include support
for this non-standard, and hazardous, system. Webpages that "rely"
on it, will only work with some browsers (those that support it,
and those that allow it).
- Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
- An addition to the ordinary PSTN telephone
connection, where an additional digital service runs over the same set of
wires (circumstances permitting), typically for the use of internet data
services. The asymmetric part refers to the line having different
speed capabilities for each direction; you're (usually) able to receive
data faster than you're able to send it (which suits the usual use people
make of their internet services).
- Blue Screen Of Death
- A serious error message on the Windows operating system. So
called, because it's usually displayed against a blue background,
occupying the entire display screen, and typically not recoverable
- A temporary (local) copy of something, for more rapid access to the
same information. Fast CPUs commonly use a cache of
recently used data, for increasing their operating speed (it's faster to
fetch data from its own memory, than the main computer memory). Web
browsers usually keep a local cache of visited pages, so that you can
quickly return to previously retrieved resources, without having to
re-get them from the internet. Web proxies
commonly also act as a cache, keeping a local copy of a request
for the next person, on the same network, who requests the same
- Common Internet File System
- A filing system developed by Microsoft for Wide Area Networks
(e.g. the internet), as development to SMB (CIFS uses
SMB and NetBIOS).
- A program which does it's job (e.g. a web browser),
by connecting to another program, a “server” program (such as
a web server) for the information that it needs.
- Central Processing Unit
- The part of a computer that makes decisions based on information, and
performs operations on data; it “processes” data.
- Casscading Style Sheets
- The best, and current, way to add customised styling (a particular
“look”) to webpages. It's based on techniques used in
professional printing, where page content and the style of display are
separately handled. This page uses CSS to make it look
prettier than just a plain page.
- Disk And Execution MONitor
- A program that waits around for a request, then responds to it.
Usually, daemons are “server” processes
(e.g. a web page server, that provides web pages, on
demand). Typically it's also controlled by another process (which
starts up the daemon, as required, when a connection attempt it made, and
deals with connecting them together), rather than running as a
stand-alone process (where the server is always running, always waiting
for a connection to itself).
- Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
- A system where a LAN's
DHCP server is able to provide
information to its clients (other devices on the
LAN that have DHCP clients) to set the address
that the devices use for themselves, and inform them about other
addresses being used on the LAN to provide other services
(e.g. where DNS and
proxy services are located), allowing the clients to
be automatically configured. This also allows the device to be
taken to different networks, and be automatically (and correctly)
configured for the network that it's currently connected to.
- Domain names
An unique internet name that someone registers as being their own,
so that any requests for resources related to that domain name, are
directed towards whatever services they provide. The domain name
consists of, at least, two names with a dot between them
(e.g. example.com or example.com.au), comprised of
their name, plus a top level domain
name. The top level domain name (TLD) is
supposed to represent the type of service
(e.g. “com” for commercial), or the
country (e.g. “au” for Australia).
Anything preceeding that (e.g. “www” as
in www.example.com) is not part of the domain name (it's a sub-domain, or hostname), and is under the control
of the domain name owner (it's not something that they have to
“register” with an outside body). Put together, a
sub-domain and domain name, is called a “fully-qualified domain
Strictly speaking, domain names end with a dot, which represents the
absolute top level
(e.g. “example.com.”). Though it
only tends to be things like DNS
records that insist on being correctly written.
- Domain Name System
- The system of relating numerical IP addresses
(e.g. 192.168.0.2), to named ones
(e.g. server.localhost), and vice versa.
- ECMA is an international association of industries,
founded in 1961, dedicated to the standardisation of information and
communication systems. The ECMA website makes the information freely
available to all interested bodies.
- ECMA script
- “ECMA script”, or more
properly, “ECMA-262”, is a standardisation of
get a useful scripting language; one that works in a predictable fashion,
on all the different web browsers.
- Electronic mail
- A network version of traditional mail. Messages are typed and
sent to an internet address, from an internet address. This
addresses are in the form of an account name at a domain name
“account name” may be personal, a nickname, or general query
term (e.g. sales, help, etc.) to be
answered by anybody dealing with that area.
- A system to block access to/from a network. They can block
certain types of traffic (e.g. filesharing), while
allowing others (e.g. web browsing). They can
block traffic from certain addresses (e.g. ones on the
internet), while allowing others (e.g. ones on your
local network). And various other criteria can be used.
Firewalls are a way to (try and) protect against abuse or attack,
(supposedly) without crippling your own use of the network.
- File Transfer Protocol
- A scheme for transferring files between two places. There are
various ways of transferring files, but FTP is the name
given to a particular purpose. It's used between
FTP clients and FTP
- Hyper-Text Mark-up Language
- The usual language used to write webpages. It allows the
creation of documents that can be easily read on any computer, and for
those documents to link to other resources. The current, ratified,
“standard”, definition of HTML is devloped and
published by the W3C, and there is also a
HTML “standard” (the
ISO publishes a standard that has been developed by other
- Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol
- The scheme used for transferring data on WWW pages (the links, that you follow,
use HTTP to get the resource that you're requesting).
However, it's not restricted to use just on webpages. Other
applications may use the same scheme to interact with web servers, without having to make any use of a
- Secure Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol
- A scheme used for securely transferring data on the WWW. It involves
using data encryption, and a certificates to prove the identity of the
remote party (the certificates are created by some authority which has
verified their credentials).
- Something that “hosts” a service. For instance, you
may pay a host to serve your webpages to the
- Internet Mail Access Protocol
- A method of accessing your mail box across an internet connection,
that caters for keeping your mail in your remote mailbox, so that it can
be accessed from any other location (you look at a local
“copy”, the message remains on the server, until deliberately
- Instant messaging
- A messaging system where messages are instantly delivered to the
recipient (if they're on-line), who's able to instantly respond.
This is different from systems like e-mail, where messages are sent to their
mailbox, waiting to be collected.
- International network
- A Wide Area Network without boundaries. Has it's beginnings
from ARPAnet (an U.S.A.-only WAN), and Milnet (an
U.S.A. military network).
- A network of computer systems that are connected to each other, for
internal networking rather than being part of the internet. In some
cases, one of them is connected to the internet, and may provide internet
access to the rest of them, but the rest of them aren't directly a part
of the internet.
- IP address
- Internet Protocol address
- Every network interface on the internet has an unique numerical
address, these IP addresses identify the location of that
interface. They don't directly refer to a particular computer, but
an “interface” on it (a computer can have more than one
interface, and each one of those has their own unique address).
- Integrated Services Digital Network
- A digital telephone networking system (developed long before ADSL), that allows
64 or 128 kilobits/second communications, for faster, and much more
reliable digital communications than using a MODEM over ordinary analogue
voice telphone lines.
- International Standardisation Organisation
- An organisation that is used to define “standard” ways of
doing things, and definitions that mean the same thing where ever they're
used (e.g. measurements).
- Internet Service Provider
- A body that provides you with access to internet services.
Typically, a business.
- A programming system, designed by Sun Microsystems, so that a program
can be run on any type of computer (that a Java engine has been made
for), without requiring many different versions of that program.
That ability has been wrecked by Microsoft, by deliberately making their
own incompatible Java engine, and coercing the world to use their
non-standard system. Java is typically used to add special features
to web services, though it can be used by itself, outside of the WWW environment.
A scripting language for making webpages more fancy, and
interactive, than static pre-written HTML pages.
lack of foresight, and inability to be consistent, it's implementation
on different browsers is wildly varying, and can't be relied upon for
two different browsers to do the same tricks with the same
has been developed as a “standardised” replacement.
Other than Netscape jumping on Sun Microsystem's bandwagon, copying
the word “Java” in the naming
of the scripting language (Netscape were originally calling it
- Local Area Network
- A system that's networked over a small, local, area. Typically,
a collection of personal computers.
- Main frame
- A powerful computer system that serves a number
of users, who operate it from remote terminals. Typically, it was
used by many people, simultaneously (or “sequentially”, in a
time shared basis, would be a more accurate description). This
allowed organisations to have one (very good) computer, that was
administrated by (alleged) experts, with cheap (and simple) terminals for
each user. This centralised system also meant that each user could
use their account, at any terminal; as each “dumb terminal”
(being little more than a keyboard and display) was merely a remote
access point for the main computer. IBM's development
of the personal computer shifted direction from running
one central computer, to each user running their computer. Then,
running LAN's become popular (it was a
problem to share resources around an office, between stand-alone computer
systems). Now, the concept of main-frames is becoming popular again
(at least as far as having a major server, for a network of
- A device for transferring digital signals (typically computer data),
through an analogue systems (typically telephone lines). It's what
a large number of people use to connect their computer to their ISP. The
current technology has a maximum transfer speed of 56 kilobits/second
towards the MODEM (on a suitable phone line), and 34
kilobits/second in the opposite direction.
- Network Basic Input/Output System
- Used by Windows to share resources (e.g. printers
and disk space).
- NetBIOS Enhanced
- A Microsoft Local Area Networking protocol used by Windows to share
resources (e.g. printers and disk space). It's a
simple scheme (requiring little configuration by the user), and can only
work on the same (local) network. Giving it some security (by
default), as it cannot cross over to other networks
(e.g. between your LAN and the internet).
- Articles published for everyone to read, and often discuss (you can,
usually, respond to the same place that you read the article), through
news servers using NNTP. News
servers carry a plethora of news groups, each “group”
dedicated to specific topics, according to an established hierarchy
short for user network). Each article is propagated to many
networked servers; and users may respond, as well as write their own
articles, which will also be disseminated far and wide. Users are
expected to use the correct groups, according to the content of their
message, and ignoring the structure is not tolerated (the backlash may be
severe; you have been warned). The structure has to be observed, or
the system will not work (there's a massive amount of people on the net,
and using the system; it'd be impossible to find what you're looking for,
and get appropriate responses, without this structure).
- Network News Transfer Protocol
- The protocol used for handling news publication
across the internet, in “news groups” dedicated to particular
- Personal Computer
- A fully self-contained computer, that a person might use.
Previously, computers were large main-frame
system, where you used a simple (dumb) terminal to operate it remotely
(you had little more than a keyboard and a display). Nowadays, a
PC is commonly used to refer to a clone of an
IBM personal computer, running Microsoft Windows.
- Post Office Protocol
- A method of fetching mail from your remote mailbox, to your personal
computer, for local reading of messages.
- Point-to-Point Protocol
- A method of connecting two points of a network using TCP/IP.
Typically used between a personal computer and their ISP over a dial-up
- An agent that acts as a go-between, between your system and
another. They're commonly used with web browsers, giving you some
degree of isolation (they're sometimes used for privacy or security
reasons), and to increase network efficiency when a caching proxy is used (the proxy caches the results of your
request, so that the next person to request the same thing, gets the
local copy, quickly; rather than re-getting it from the internet).
- Public Switched Telephone Network
- The ordinary (public) telephone system that we've been using for the
last few decades.
- Random Access Memory
- Memory that can be accessed in any particular order that's
required. Typically, this refers to the memory that a computer uses
to operate with.
- Read-Only Memory
- Memory that has its contents permanently stored within it.
Typically, a computer uses ROM to store the instructions
that it needs to start up from first switch on, before it loads
instructions stored elsewhere on the system.
- An open-source version of SMB/CIFS, allowing
non-Microsoft systems to network with Microsoft systems.
- Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line
- A type of extra digital service on top of an ordinary phone
line, it's a similar system to ADSL, but it has
the same speed capabilities in both directions.
- A program which serves information to clients that request it
(e.g. a web server, providing web pages to web
- Server Message Block
- A system that Windows uses for resource sharing (files &
printers) over a LAN (it uses NetBIOS).
- Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
- The usual method used for sending e-mail
- Snail mail
- An uncomplimentary name for the traditional postal service, so called
because of its relative slowness, compared to the near-instant e-mail system.
- A nickname given to junk mail, which is typically fired towards
unexpected recipients in huge volumes. The nickname has its origins
from a Monty Python sketch which descends into chaos when people just
start singing the word spam, over and over, overriding everything else
that was happening in the scene (same as spam drowns your mailbox in
rubbish, ruining your use of it). Spamming (sending spam) is
usually against the terms of services of most ISPs.
- Defined ways of doing things, that's understood by (virtually)
everybody. So that they can interact with each other,
correctly. The internet relies on everybody operating in the same
way (e.g. e-mail has to go through many different
systems between sender and recipient, and can only do that if they
operate in a standard manner). The internet ceases to work properly
when someone (e.g. Microsoft) decides to do things
differently (usually, to deliberately break things, trying to monopolise
them for themselves).
- Domain names can be sub-divided, at the
whim of the domain name owner, to direct that certain addresses can point
to different IP addresses, so that
different services (e.g. mail or webpage serving) can
be handled by different machines. Or, they can point to the same
IP address, just so that distinctive names can be used for
different needs. Sub-domains prefix the domain name
(e.g. “mail.example.com” and
“www.example.com” are different sub-domains of the
- Transmission Control Protocol / Internet
- The protocol used to transfer data on the internet, and one of the
protocols used on LANs.
- Top Level Domain (name)
- The last one or two words in a domain
name don't belong to the domain name owner, but to a higher
authority/owner. They, typically represent the type of service
(commerical, organisation, government, etc.), and/or the
country code (e.g. “com.au” would be the
top-level domain for ”www.example.com.au“).
- Uniform Resource Indicator
- An internet address (one the points to some resource on the
internet). Typically, an address to a web page, but they can be
used for many different types of resources. Also known as an
URL, however that term's been depreciated
for the use of URI, now, instead.
- Uniform Resource Locator
- Another term for an internet address (one the points to some location
on the internet), now depreciated for the term URI. They're almost
the same thing, near enough that most people can't tell the
- User network
- An international array of servers which propagate news articles amongst themselves, using NNTP.
- User agent
- Something which does a task on your behalf, acting as an
“agent”. A web browser is an “user agent”,
it gets, and displays, web pages on your behalf. Likewise, a news
client program is a user agent, it gets, and displays, news articles on
your behalf. Various technical documents, like the HTML
specifications, usually refer to user agents, rather than webbrowsers, as
webbrowsers are merely one type of user agent that can handle the
- World Wide Web Consortium
- A consortium of bodies that develop WWW technologies, including HTML.
For more information, you can visit the W3C website.
- Wide Area Network
- A system that's networked over a wide area. Perhaps a whole
building, a series of buildings, or the internet (a virtually unlimited
- World Wide Web
- A term referring to the interconnection of many different services
across the world, that look somewhat like a spiderweb, if you were to
draw a diagram of the network. It's typically referred to, in
regards to web page servers.