Internet Technology Glossary

Have you ever heard a high-tech term and wondered what it meant? Too many vendors in our industry talk over their clients’ heads by regularly using “geek speak” they don’t understand. This page exists to answer the question, “What on earth is THAT?”

Click on a phrase below for a definition or explanation in normal, human English:

Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is the use by a website that sells products of other websites, called affiliates, to help market the products., the book seller, created the first large-scale affiliate program and hundreds of other companies have followed since.
A banner is an advertisement in the form of a graphic image that typically runs across a Web page or is positioned in a margin or other space reserved for ads. Banner ads are usually Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images. In addition to adhering to size, many websites limit the size of the file to a certain number of bytes so that the file will display quickly.
Betaware is a nickname for software which has passed the alpha testing stage of development and has been released to a limited amount of users for software testing before its official release. Beta testing allows the software to undergo usability testing with users who provide feedback, so that any malfunctions these users find in the software can be reported to the developers and fixed.

A beta version is the first version released outside the organization or community that develops the software, for the purpose of evaluation or real-world testing. The process of delivering a beta version to the users is called beta release. Beta level software generally includes all features, but may also include known issues and bugs of a less serious variety. Beta version software is likely to be useful for internal demonstrations and previews to select customers, but unstable and not yet ready for general availability release. Some developers refer to this stage as a preview, a prototype, a technical preview (TP) or as an early access. As the second major stage in the release lifecycle, following the alpha stage, it is named after the Greek letter beta, the second letter in the Greek alphabet.

A blog (short for “weblog”) is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs are defined by their format: a series of entries posted to a single page in reverse-chronological order. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or reflect the purpose of the website that hosts the blog. Topics sometimes include brief philosophical musings, commentary on Internet and other social issues, and links to other sites the author favors, especially those that support a point being made on a post.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a stylesheet language used to describe the presentation of a document written in a markup language. Its most common application is to style web pages written in HTML and XHTML. CSS can be used locally by the readers of web pages to define colors, fonts, layout, and other aspects of document presentation. It is designed primarily to enable the separation of document content (written in HTML or a similar markup language) from document presentation (written in CSS). This separation can improve content accessibility, provide more flexibility and control over presentation, and reduce complexity and repetition in the structural content.
Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system (CMS) is a database-driven system used to manage the content of a website. It allows anyone on the planet with Internet access and the proper permissions to update a website quickly and easily using a web browser without needing to know programming. Typically, a CMS consists of two elements: the content management application (CMA) and the content delivery application (CDA). The CMA element allows the content manager or author, who may not know Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), to manage the creation, modification, and removal of content from a website without needing the expertise of a webmaster. The CDA element uses and compiles that information to update the website. The features of a CMS system vary, but most include Web-based publishing, format management, revision control, and indexing, search, and retrieval.
Distance Learning
Distance learning, sometimes called e-learning, is a formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. Because distance learning is less expensive to support and is not constrained by geographic considerations, it offers opportunities in situations where traditional education has difficulty operating. Students with scheduling or distance problems can benefit, as can employees, because distance education can be more flexible in terms of time and can be delivered virtually anywhere.
Strictly speaking, in the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), a domain is a name with which name server records are associated that describe subdomains or host. For example, the website you’re visiting right now is “,” and Google, the popular search engine website is housed at the domain “” In the simplest of terms, a domain is the technical name for an organization’s address on the World Wide Web.
E-Commerce (short for electronic commerce), consists of the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. The amount of trade conducted electronically has grown extraordinarily since the spread of the Internet. A wide variety of commerce is conducted in this way, spurring and drawing on innovations in electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web at least at some point in the transaction’s lifecycle, although it can encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail as well.
An e-newsletter (short for electronic newsletter) is a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic that is of interest to its subscribers which is delivered via e-mail. E-Newsletters have gained rapid acceptance for the same reasons as traditional, hardcopy newsletters, and e-mail in general is gaining popularity over printed correspondence.

Many e-newsletters are published by clubs, churches, societies, associations, and businesses, especially companies, to provide information of interest to their members, customers or employees. Some e-newsletters are created as money-making ventures and sold directly to subscribers. Sending e-newsletters to customers and prospects has become a common marketing strategy in today’s “wired” world of e-business.

Flash, a popular authoring software developed by Adobe, is used to create vector graphics-based animation programs with full-screen navigation interfaces, graphic illustrations, and simple interactivity in an antialiased, resizable file format that is small enough to stream across a normal modem connection. The software is widely used on the Web, both because of its speed (vector-based animations, which can adapt to different display sizes and resolutions, play as they download) and for the smooth way it renders graphics. Flash files, unlike animated but rasterized GIF and JPEG images, are compact, efficient, and designed for optimized delivery.
Discussion Board
A discussion board (known also by various other names such as discussion group, discussion forum, message board, and online forum) is a general term for any online “bulletin board” where you can leave and expect to see responses to messages you have left. Or you can just read the board. The first discussion boards were available on bulletin board systems. On the Internet, Usenet provides thousands of discussion boards; these can now sometimes be viewed from a Web browser. Today, many websites offer a discussion board so that users can share and discuss information and opinions. Special software is available that provides discussion board capability for a website.
Help Desk
In a business enterprise, a help desk is a web-based software program that allows a user of information technology (IT) to submit requests for help with a problem. The software can save an organization significant time and money by increasing the efficiency of its IT staff. The World Wide Web offers the possibility of a new, relatively inexpensive, and effectively standard user interface to help desks (as well as to call centers) and appears to be encouraging more automation in help desk service. Some common names for a help desk include: Computer Support Center, IT Response Center, Customer Support Center, IT Solutions Center, Resource Center, Information Center, and Technical Support Center.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the set of markup symbols or codes inserted in a file intended for display on a World Wide Web browser page. The markup tells the Web browser how to display a Web page’s words and images for the user. Each individual markup code is referred to as an element (but many people also refer to it as a tag). Some elements come in pairs that indicate when some display effect is to begin and when it is to end. HTML is a formal recommendation by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and is generally adhered to by the major browsers, Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which also provide some additional non-standard codes.
XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language), as the W3C describes it, is “a reformulation of HTML 4.0 as an application of the Extensible Markup Language (XML).” HTML 4 is the current version of it. XML is a structured set of rules for how one might define any kind of data to be shared on the Web. It’s called an “extensible” markup language because anyone can invent a particular set of markup for a particular purpose and as long as everyone uses it (the writer and an application program at the receiver’s end), it can be adapted and used for many purposes – including, as it happens, describing the appearance of a Web page. That being the case, it seemed desirable to reframe HTML in terms of XML. The result is XHTML, a particular application of XML for “expressing” Web pages.

XHTML is, in fact, the follow-on version of HTML 4. You could think of it as HTML 5, except that it is called XHTML 1.0. In XHTML, all HTML 4 markup elements and attributes (the language of HTML) will continue to be supported. Unlike HTML, however, XHTML can be extended by anyone that uses it. New elements and attributes can be defined and added to those that already exist, making possible new ways to embed content and programming in a Web page. In appearance, an XHTML file looks like a somewhat more elaborate HTML file.

Image Gallery
An image gallery is simply an online photo album which visitors to your website can click through at their leisure. Typical features of the software that provides this functionality include subject-based categories, subfolders, thumbnail image creation and pop-up effects.
The Internet, sometimes called simply “the Net,” is a worldwide system of computer networks… A network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers). It was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969 and was first known as the ARPANET. The original aim was to create a network that would allow users of a research computer at one university to be able to “talk to” research computers at other universities. A side benefit of ARPANet’s design was that, because messages could be routed or rerouted in more than one direction, the network could continue to function even if parts of it were destroyed in the event of a military attack or other disaster.

Today, the Internet is a public, cooperative, and self-sustaining facility accessible to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Physically, the Internet uses a portion of the total resources of the currently existing public telecommunication networks. Technically, what distinguishes the Internet is its use of a set of protocols called TCP/IP (for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). Two recent adaptations of Internet technology, the Intranet and the Extranet, also make use of the TCP/IP protocol.

An Intranet is a private network that is contained within an enterprise. It may consist of many interlinked local area networks and also use leased lines in the wide area network. Typically, an Intranet includes connections through one or more gateway computers to the outside Internet. The main purpose of an Intranet is to share company information and computing resources among employees. An Intranet can also be used to facilitate working in groups and for teleconferences.

An Extranet is a private network that uses Internet technology and the public telecommunication system to securely share part of a business’s information or operations with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses. An Extranet can be viewed as part of a company’s Intranet that is extended to users outside the company. It has also been described as a “state of mind” in which the Internet is perceived as a way to do business with other companies as well as to sell products to customers.

JavaScript is an interpreted programming or script language from Netscape. It is somewhat similar in capability to Microsoft’s Visual Basic, Sun’s Tcl, the UNIX-derived Perl, and IBM’s Rexx. In general, script languages are easier and faster to code in than the more structured and compiled languages such as C and C++. Script languages generally take longer to process than compiled languages, but are very useful for shorter programs.

JavaScript is used in website development to do such things as:

  • Automatically change a formatted date on a Web page
  • Cause a linked-to page to appear in a popup window
  • Cause text or a graphic image to change during a mouse rollover
The term “keyword” refers to the terms or phrases submitted by a user of a search engine for the purposes of finding information on a specific topic. For example, if you were interested in finding greek recipes to experiment with in the kitchen, you might go to Google’s website ( and type “greek recipes” into the search form. There are many different search techniques, and the more specific you are when querying the Web, the more likely it is you will find exactly what you’re looking for.
Knowledge Base
A knowledge base is a machine-readable resource for the dissemination of information, generally online or with the capacity to be put online. An integral component of knowledge management systems, a knowledge base is used to optimize information collection, organization, and retrieval for an organization, or for the general public.

A well-organized knowledge base can save an enterprise money by decreasing the amount of employee time spent trying to find information about – among myriad possibilities – tax laws or company policies and procedures. As a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a knowledge base can give customers easy access to information that would otherwise require contact with an organization’s staff; as a rule, this capacity should make the interaction simpler for both the customer and the organization. A number of software applications are available that allow users to create their own knowledge bases, either separately (these are usually called knowledge management software) or as part of another application, such as a CRM package.

In general, a knowledge base is not a static collection of information, but a dynamic resource that may itself have the capacity to learn, as part of an artificial intelligence (AI) expert system, for example. According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), in the future the Internet may become a vast and complex global knowledge base known as the Semantic Web.

Link Popularity
The number of links to your website. Link popularity is a very important factor in high search engine ranking. Webmasters use a number of methods to increase their site’s link popularity including article Page Rank, link exchange (link partners / reciprocal linking), link buying, and link directories.
Natural/Organic Search
The “real” search results, versus “sponsored listings.” Natural/organic search results, unlike paid advertising, are the results that most users are looking for and which take up most of the window after a person has performed a web search using a search engine website. For most searches, the search engine displays a long list of links to sites with content which is related to the word you searched for. These results are ranked according to how relevant and important they are.
A newsgroup is a discussion about a particular subject consisting of notes written to a central Internet site and redistributed through Usenet, a worldwide network of news discussion groups.

Newsgroups are organized into subject hierarchies, with the first few letters of the newsgroup name indicating the major subject category and sub-categories represented by a subtopic name. Many subjects have multiple levels of subtopics. Some major subject categories are: news, rec (recreation), soc (society), sci (science), comp (computers), and so forth (there are many more). Users can post to existing newsgroups, respond to previous posts, and create new newsgroups.

Newcomers to newsgroups are requested to learn basic Usenet netiquette and to get familiar with a newsgroup before posting to it. A frequently-asked questions is provided. The rules can be found when you start to enter the Usenet through your browser or an online service. You can subscribe to the postings on a particular newsgroup.

Some newsgroups are moderated by a designated person who decides which postings to allow or to remove. Most newsgroups are unmoderated.

Open source software (OSS)
Open source software (OSS) refers to software that is developed, tested, or improved through public collaboration and distributed with the idea that the fruit of that effort must be shared with others, ensuring an open future collaboration. Because it is “open,” and not the exclusive property of a private corporation, there is no cost involved in using, modifying or distributing such software.

Development of the UNIX operating system was one of the first and most influential projects that led to a global, open source movement. Various other OSS projects, including Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP have revolutionized the software industry. In many cases open source software rivals even the best commercial counterparts when it comes to stability, power, performance and cost.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Paid advertising which displays next to the natural search results. Customers can click on the ad to visit the advertiser’s website. This is how the search engines make their money. Advertisers set their ads up to display whenever someone searches for a word which is related to their product or service. These ads look similar to the natural search results, but are normally labelled “Sponsored Links”, and normally take up a smaller portion of the window. Advertisers who utilize this method of Internet marketing only pay for the traffic generated by clicks on the PPC ads.
Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. PDF is used for representing two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system of the computer on which the file is being viewed.

PDF’s adoption in the early days of the format’s history was slow. Adobe Acrobat, Adobe’s suite for reading and creating PDFs, was not freely available; early versions of PDF had no support for external hyperlinks, reducing its usefulness on the Worldwide Web; the additional size of the PDF document compared to plain text meant significantly longer download times over the slower modems common at the time, and rendering the files was slow on less powerful computers.

Adobe soon started distribution of its Acrobat Reader (now Adobe Reader) program at no cost, and continued supporting the original PDF, which eventually became the de facto standard for printable documents on the Web.

PHP is a widely-used, general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. It generally runs on a web server, taking PHP code as its input and creating web pages as output. It can be deployed on most web servers and on almost every operating system and platform free of charge. PHP is installed on more than 20 million websites and 1 million web servers. It is also the most popular Apache module among computers using Apache as a web server.
Podcasting is the preparation and distribution of audio files using RSS to the computers of subscribed users. These files may then be uploaded to digital music or multimedia players like the iPod. A podcast can be easily created from a digital audio file. The podcaster first saves the file as an MP3 and then uploads it to the website of a service provider. The MP3 file gets its own URL, which is inserted into an RSS XML document as an enclosure within an XML tag.

Once a podcast has been created, it can be registered with content aggregators, such as or, for inclusion in podcast directories. People can browse through the categories or subscribe to specific podcast RSS feeds which will download to their audio players automatically when they next connect. Although podcasts are generally audio files created for digital music players, the same technology can be used to prepare and transmit images, text, and video to any capable device.

Reciprocal Linking
A mutual agreement between two webmasters to exchange links (i.e. they both add a link to the other’s website on their own website). Most search engines (certainly Google) are sophisticated enough to detect reciprocal linking and they don’t view it very favorably because it is clearly a manufactured method of generating links. Websites with reciprocal links risk being penalized.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO), also referred to as Internet marketing (IM), online marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), Internet advertising and e-marketing, is the marketing of products or services over the Internet, especially utilizing search engines. Effective SEO results in getting a website to rank in the top 10 search results for a particular keyword phrase. When applied to the subset of website-based advertisement placements, Internet marketing is commonly referred to as Web advertising (Webvertising) and/or Web marketing. The Internet has brought many unique benefits to marketing, one of which being lower costs for the distribution of information and media to a global audience. The interactive nature of Internet marketing, both in terms of providing instant response and eliciting response, is a unique quality of the medium. E-Marketing is sometimes considered to have a broader scope since it refers to digital media such as web, e-mail and wireless media, but also includes management of digital customer data and electronic customer relationship management systems (E-CRM systems).

Internet marketing ties together creative and technical aspects of the Internet, including design, development, advertising, and sales. Internet marketing methods and strategies  encompass a wide range of services. Internet marketing does not simply entail building or promoting a website, nor does it mean placing a banner ad on another website.

Effective Internet marketing requires a comprehensive strategy that synergizes a given company’s business model and sales goals with its website function and appearance, focusing on its target market through proper choice of advertising type, media, and design.

Social Networking
Social networking is the practice of expanding the number of one’s business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals. While social networking has gone on almost as long as societies themselves have existed, the unparalleled potential of the Internet to promote such connections is only now being fully recognized and exploited, through Web-based groups established for that purpose.

Based on the six degrees of separation concept (the idea that any two people on the planet could make contact through a chain of no more than five intermediaries), social networking establishes interconnected Internet communities (sometimes known as personal networks) that help people make contacts that would be good for them to know, but that they would be unlikely to have met otherwise. In general, here’s how it works: you join one of the sites and invite people you know to join as well. Those people invite their contacts to join, who in turn invite their contacts to join, and the process repeats for each person. In theory, any individual can make contact through anyone they have a connection to, to any of the people that  person has a connection to, and so on.

Examples of websites that facilitate social networking include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to name a few.

SSL Encryption
SSL (short for “Secure Sockets Layer”) is a commonly-used protocol for managing the security of data on the Internet. SSL uses a program layer located between the Internet’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Transport Control Protocol (TCP) layers that encrypts data. SSL is included as part of both the Microsoft and Netscape browsers and most Web server products. The “sockets” part of the term refers to the sockets method of passing data back and forth between a client and a server program in a network or between program layers in the same computer. SSL uses the public-and-private key encryption system from RSA, which also includes the use of a digital certificate.

SSL is an integral part of most Web browsers (clients) and Web servers. If a website is on a server that supports SSL, SSL can be enabled and specific Web pages can be identified as requiring SSL access. SSL encryption and the digital certificates that verify the identity of a website are vital components on any website using e-commerce to sell products or services online. SSL ensures that credit card data (or any other sensitive information) is protected when it is sent over the Internet through a website.

Stock Photography
Stock photography, also referred to as royalty-free photography, describes existing photographs that can be licensed for specific uses. Publishers, advertising agencies, graphic artists, and others use stock photography to fulfill the needs of their creative assignments. Many organizations choose to use this option for the artwork used on their website because it is much less expensive than paying a professional photographer to do a custom photo shoot.
Streaming media
Streaming media is sound (audio) and pictures (video) that are transmitted on the Internet in a streaming or continuous fashion, using data packets. The most effective reception of streaming media requires some form of broadband technology such as cable modem or DSL.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
Uniform Resource Locator is a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) which also specifies where the identified resource is available on the Internet and the protocol for retrieving it. In a nutshell, a URL is synonymous with the web address a person types into a web browser to view a particular website. For example, the URL for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is, and the URL for DC Comics is
Web 2.0
Web 2.0 is a living term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the Web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis and blogs. The term became notable after the first O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users utilize the Web.

According to Tim O’Reilly: “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”

Web Forms
Web forms are simply online versions of hardcopy, paper forms which ask for information. They contain fields in which you can type the answers to questions asked, and when finished they include a “Submit” button which will result in your input getting saved to a database and/or e-mailed to the recipient. Web forms have many practical applications, including customer satisfaction surveys,  help desk ticket submissions and more.
Website Hosting
Hosting (also known as website hosting, Web hosting, and Webhosting) is the business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for one or more websites. More important than the computer space that is provided for website files is the fast connection to the Internet. Most hosting services offer connections on T-carrier system lines. Typically, an individual business hosting its own site would require a similar connection and it would be expensive. Using a hosting service lets many companies share the cost of a fast Internet connection for serving files.

A number of hosting companies describe their services as virtual hosting. Virtual hosting usually implies that their services will be transparent and that each website will have its own domain name and set of e-mail addresses. In most usages, hosting and virtual hosting are synonyms. Some hosting companies let you have your own virtual server, the appearance that you are controlling a server that is dedicated entirely to your site.

A webinar (also referred to as a webcast) describes a specific type of web seminar/conference. It is typically one-way, from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction. A webinar can be collaborative and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. In some cases, the presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, pointing out information being presented on screen and the audience can respond over their own telephones, preferably a speaker phone. There are web conferencing technologies on the market that have fully incorporated the use of Internet audio technology, to allow for a truly web-based communication. Webinars may (depending upon the provider) provide hidden or anonymous participant functionality, enabling participants to be unaware of other participants in the same meeting. Today’s progressive companies are taking advantage of the many benefits webinars offer, including boosting sales, retaining customers, providing less expensive training options for its employees, to name a few.
A wiki is a server program that allows users to collaborate in forming the content of a website. With a wiki, any user can edit the site content, including other users’ contributions, using a regular Web browser. Basically, a wiki website operates on a principle of collaborative trust. The term comes from the word “wikiwiki,” which means “fast” in the Hawaiian language.

A wiki allows a visitor to the “wikified” website to edit the content of the site from their own computer. Visitors can also create new content and change the organization of existing content. The simplest wiki programs allow editing of text and hyperlinks only. More advanced wikis make it possible to add or change images, tables, and certain interactive components such as games.

World Wide Web (WWW)
The World Wide Web (commonly shortened to “the Web”) is a system of interlinked HTML documents accessed via the Internet. With a Web browser – such as Firefox, Internet Explorer or Opera – a user views Web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigates between them using hyperlinks. The World Wide Web was created in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland and released in 1992. Since then, Berners-Lee has played an active role in guiding the development of Web standards (such as the markup languages in which Web pages are composed), and in recent years has advocated his vision of a Semantic Web.

The following broader and more elegant definition comes from the organization that Berners-Lee helped found, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):

“The World Wide Web is the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge.”