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Internet Terms

Technology can be frustrating. Especially if you are not “in that world” many of the terms can seem like a foreign language!

Below are some of the terms you may run into that can help you better understand what is going on when you hear them. With a dash of history too. Knowledge is power after all, right?

ARPA: This stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, and the agency that created the ARPANet.

ARPANet: A network started in the 1960’s by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to connect several research institutions and laboratories. The goal was twofold: first, to coordinate research among similar labs and second, to create a completely decentralized network. The Defense Department wanted a network that could withstand a nuclear attack on the U.S. Because the Net is decentralized, there is no central computer to knock out.

In recent years, this has been both a burden and a help. On one hand, no censorship can occur (except as unwritten rules enforced by the users themselves). But on the other hand, the Internets growth has made it increasingly difficult to find anything. Unlike the local phone company, it is nearly impossible to find a complete “white pages,” since there is no central governing body to catalog the Net’s features. (By the way, the ARPANet was turned off in 1986. It was a miracle of decentralization that, when ARPANet was shut down, no one but the system operators knew about it.)

ASCII: The American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a standard way of representing text. ASCII text contains no formatting. This makes it handy for sending among computers on multiple platforms e.g., between IBMs and Macs. ASCII is the standard language of Internet email and newsgroup text, among other things.

Blog: Blogs started primarily as an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page; also called Weblog, Web log. Typically updated daily, Blogs often reflect the personality of the author and are now commonly used by businesses too.

Browser: A program used to view World Wide Web pages. Most Web browsers also can access WAIS, Gopher, FTP, and telnet. The browser reads the HTML and other programming codes to display the pages as you see them.

Cache: The Cache file in your browser remembers every Web site you have been to. This enables you to keep clicking on the browser’s “BACK” button to go to the pages you were at previously. If you are not going to use the information in this file after you log off, it is a good idea to get in the habit of clearing out the Cache at the end of every session. Many browsers also allow you to determine the Cache size.

CERN: The European Center for Nuclear Research, the organization that created the World Wide Web in 1989.

CSS: Stands for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS describes how HTML elements are to be displayed on a website.

DNS: The Domain Name System, a standard way of stating Internet addresses. The system generally works like this: first, there is the name of the scheme with which you’re accessing the Net. For example, HTTP. Then a colon and two slashes, followed by the URL of the site you want to visit. There are specific ending addresses (called “top-level domains”, such as “com” in the above example) depending upon what the address refers to.

Emoticon (“Smiley”): Certain characters that some people believe help express emotion in email. The most common is :-). With a little imagination and a tilt of your head, you may see that this is a smiley face. All of these faces are to express different emotions.

It is important when you email, that you use emoticons to relay the tone of your email. If you crack a joke and don’t utilize a smiley, the other party may not know you are joking and may misinterpret your email. Remember that those you email do not have eye contact, tone of voice or body language normally used to set the tone in a conversation.

FAQ: Stands for Frequently Asked Questions and is a common term used on the Internet. When visiting a site looking for information the first place to check out is the FAQ. Most likely many of your questions, which have been asked by previous visitors will be listed for your reference.

Flame: A very harsh message from one person to another, normally in a newsgroup. They are often directed at newbies. The harshness in them is usually not intelligent commentary on a debate opponent’s opinion. Normally, it is just an insult hurled by a jerk. Huge “flame wars” can often erupt around volatile issues. It is always best to avoid these situations. What we learned from our Mothers applies here: “if you can’t say something nice. . . “.

Freeware: Free software. Also see shareware and public-domain.

FTP: The File Transfer Protocol. This is one standardized way of transmitting files on the Internet. As with most services on the Internet, there are specific FTP servers containing specific types of files. FTP has become a verb. As an example you will hear people say “FTP it to your computer”.

Home Page: A space on the World Wide Web. Many people and businesses refer to their Web Sites as their Home Page. Although recently, home page is not more likely to be used in the context of a personal noncommercial web site.

HTML: The Hypertext Markup Language, the standard way in which all World Wide Web pages are written. It is read using browsers such as Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

HTTP: The Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Much like FTP, this is just another way of sending material across the Net. HTTP is specifically used to send World Wide Web pages across the Net.

HTTPS: Instead of HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), this website uses HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Using HTTPS, the computers agree on a “code” between them, and then they scramble (encrypt) the messages using that “code” so that no one in between can read them. This keeps your information safe from hackers.

IRC: Internet Relay Chat, a method of conducting live chats on the Net. It is much like a CB radio, in that people can choose whichever channel they want and then chat with whoever is on that channel. This can mean thousands of people chatting at once. At times this is unmanageable. Many Web sites now offer Chats where additional software or plugins are not necessary.

Link: Whenever text on a Web page is in a different color than the majority of text, and is underlined, this is referred to as a Link to another area at that Web site or to another site on the Web. When you click on a link your browser will take you to the designated place the link calls out. You will notice that most links will change to a different color once you click on them. This is a visual to you to let you know you have “been there, done that”.

Lurker or Lurking: A Lurker is one who reads postings in forums or Newsgroups without responding or participating. It is a good idea to be a Lurker initially before posting to determine the rules and personality of the group. Don’t want to unnecessarily step on any toes now do we?

Mailing List: A subject discussion area that is much like a newsgroup. The main difference between a mailing list and a newsgroup is that a mailing list is performed by email, while newsgroups are not. People send messages about topics to a central computer, and then the mailing list program distributes the message to everyone else on the list.

MIME: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, a protocol for attaching non-text files (e.g., graphics or programs) to email messages. The only caveat to sending a MIME message is that the person receiving the message must have a MIME-compatible mail program (or MIME decoder), as well. Not all mail programs support MIME.

NCSA: The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Netizen: A term used to describe an Internet user who is aware of the culture and rules governing the Internet.

NETiquette: The Internet is a self-governing society. Knowing what is tolerated and/or allowed by the Internet Community will help you avoid being flamed. If you tour the Clinic and absorb the information contained herein you will be just fine. 😉

Newbie: A derogatory term on the Net meaning an inexperienced and obnoxious new user. The term refers to the brand of user who is unschooled in the Internets traditions, takes little time to learn them, and acts rudely.

Newsgroups / Groups: Another area on the Internet where you can post questions or join discussions. Google Groups is where most folks tap into the Internet Newsgroups. Some quick rules to remember:

  • When joining a new newsgroup, watch the flow of messages for a few days to discern the group’s customs before contributing messages. This is called lurking.
  • Do not promote any product. The Net’s users have tried very hard to avoid commercialization since the Net’s inception, and they do not appreciate any breaking of this unwritten rule in Newsgroups. Send out an unsolicited email and you could possible receive thousands of flames. Enough to shut down your server or have your ISP cancel your account.
  • Keep messages short and on topic.
  • Never post the same message to more than one newsgroup. especially if it’s a file. There are some users who read many newsgroups daily, and don’t appreciate reading the same message, or getting the same file, more than once.

NSF: The National Science Foundation, the agency which founded the NSFNET.

NSFNet: One of the “backbone networks” of the Internet.

PHP: PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. This is the scripting language that runs WordPress.

PPP: An abbreviation for Point-to-Point Protocol, a standard for connecting modems, specifically, to the Internet. It is the successor to SLIP.

Phishing: Phishing is a scam that uses spam to deceive consumers into disclosing their personal information. Phishing is considered a two-step scam. First it steals a company’s identity and then uses it to victimize consumers by stealing their credit identities.

Public-Domain: While freeware is cost-free, the actual code to Public-Domain Software is available to anyone who wants it. Public-Domain software has been refined and modified possibly hundreds of times by people who have the ability to improve it.

Search Engine: A Search Engine, such as Google, is sorta like the online version of the yellow pages. By learning each search engine’s criteria for searching the Web, you can effectively type in keywords that allow the search engine to pull up a list of all the Web pages that list the information you are looking for. Each search engine operates differently and each has a section at their site that instructs you on how to use their features for the most accurate outcome.

Server: A central computer from which a particular service takes place. For example, there are FTP servers, Gopher servers, and WAIS servers. Servers are accessed by clients.

Shareware: Software for which users must pay a fee, after a certain trial period. The trial period is usually 30 days, and the fee is normally lower than the cost of commercial software. Most unregistered shareware is only available in a less-powerful version, with the full version available upon registration. The Doctor strongly recommends that if you like the software and plan on using it – pay for it!

SLIP: An abbreviation for Serial Line Interface Protocol. SLIP is a standard for connecting modems, specifically, to the Internet. It has rapidly been succeeded by PPP

SNAIL MAIL: The online reference to U.S. Postal Mail.

SPAM: This term refers to multiple emails sent to those who are not interested in what they have to offer. Compare spam to the junk mail you receive in your snail mail box. The Doctor strongly suggests you never send unsolicited email to anyone. You WILL get flamed, you may even lose your ISP account as many Internet Service Providers will disconnect you when they receive complaints about you Spamming. Other Netizens will complain to your ISP. This practice is not tolerated by the Internet Community as a whole. How do you know when you have received SPAM?

SSL: SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private.

STATUS BAR: This bar at the bottom of your browser’s window always indicates the status of your request. It indicates what percentage of the page, file or graphic is downloaded. Will reflect as “Done” when the downloading is completed.

TCP/IP: The standard for communication among computers connected to the Internet and stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. While it is a relatively slow protocol, it works wonders for intercommunication among different systems.

Troll: A Troll is an oiling troublemaker. What these onliners gain pleasure in doing is to do is posting inflammatory stuff to Blogs and discussion boards just to get people upset. They then sit back and watch everyone get mad and start posting emotional replies.

Unix: A standard for network operating systems. Unix has been around for 25 years, and comes in many flavors.

URL: Universal or Uniform Resource Locator. A standard way of representing services on the Internet. A URL usually consists of a scheme name (such as HTTP), followed by a colon, two slashes, and then the address of the site to which you would like to connect.

USENET Newsgroup: A place on the Internet where people can discuss any topic that comes to their heads. There are approximately 40,000 newsgroups, ranging from “alt.fan.rush-limbaugh” to “alt.fishing” to “chi.general”. See Newsgroups above for more information.

UUEncode/UUDecode: A method of putting binary files (graphics and/or programs) into an Internet email or newsgroup message.

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