JafSoft's Introduction to the Internet

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10 Glossary

There are lots of glossaries on the Net, for example a similar list to this one can br found in the Big Dummy's guide at http://www.eff.org/papers/eegtti/eeg_271.html


Microsoft's rival to Java. ActiveX is a programming device that allows developers to add interactive content to Web pages. However, there are some doubts over its security, and it will only work on PCs. Not that either concern has prevented Microsoft's growth in the past.


"As far as I know"


Probably the finest and most powerful search engine on the Web. Visit http://www.altavista.digital.com/ and try it. Read the advanced help on how to improve and refine your queries, and learn to use the recently added Live Topics to categorize your results.


A derogatory term for someone who's not too smart or Net-savvy. Rhymes with "loser".

Derived from the fact that AOL offer cheap and simple to use Internet access, and consequently were amongst the first to introduce a large number of clueless newbies into the system, a feat they've managed for several years now :)

Over time the term has been joined by other terms derived from ISPs who offer free email services (e.g. hotmail).


"Asynchronous Transfer Mode". A up-and-coming standard for modems that receives faster than it transmits. Ideal for squeezing the last drop of bandwidth out of a home telephone line.


A term used to describe the amount of access one has to a given Internet resource by analogy to radio bandwidths. The more bandwidth available the faster a given amount of data can be transferred, and hence the greater the amount of data that can be transferred.

As more graphics, audio and video arrive on the Net, so the demand for bandwidth increases. Consequently one of the few cardinal sins most frowned upon by the Internet community is to waste bandwidth, a resource scarcer than water in some parts.

Private individuals on modem lines have the least available bandwidth. This means they are least likely to download graphics, large software packages etc.

Universities often have the greatest access to bandwidth, and may think nothing of video lecturing over the Internet.

When designing a web page, it is vital to bear in mind the bandwidth that your desired audience is likely to have. If you make your content too large, they are likely to literally switch off. This is one reason you will often see a text alternative offered for a site.

BBS or bulletin boards

Not strictly part of the Internet. These are usually machines that you connect to via a modem line. Depending what is on offer it may be free, charge a membership fee, or use premium rate telephone lines.

Bookmarks or hot lists

Most browsers allow you to bookmark a favorite URL in order that you can easily find it again next time you run the browser.


"By the way"


"Call for votes". New USENET newsgroups are often created through the process of stating a charter, and then calling for a vote on whether the newsgroup should be created. This is quite common when large newsgroups decide to split into smaller sub-groups. A certain minimum and majority are required for the group to become "official" and thus accepted by most news feeds.

CGI Scripts

Special programs that reside on a web server. Usually these handle particular requests "submitted" from a HTML form. The normal practice is to execute some calculation and dynamically construct a HTML page that is sent back to the client browser as a response.


"Cascading Style Sheets". These are web documents (usually with a .css extension) used to add styling to HTML documents. The basic idea is that HTML tags are used to markup the structure of a document, and a style sheet is used to layer fonts, colours etc onto the text associated with each tags.

The idea is to separate form from content, and allow users and authors to specify their own preferred stylings.

CSS is starting to be supported with the V4.0 browsers, although the support in those browsers is far from complete. Fuller support is expected in the V5.0 browsers


See lurking.


Where a mailing list has high volume, it can become difficult to cope with the large number of posts that result.

In such cases, you may be offered the mailing list in digest form, that is all the posts to the list are collated and sent to you as a single larger mail every so often.

Domain name

A name given to an Internet node. Not all nodes have names.

See Domain Names for a fuller description.


A "proper" name for smileys


"Frequently Asked Questions", or rather, their answers. Because the ratio of newbies to old hands is permanently high, people have taken to compiling lists of typical questions and their answers. The idea being that a newbie gets presented with the FAQ, reads it, and then doesn't ask the same questions again (which the old hands are sick of by this time).

Most FAQ's are written by enthusiasts, and although their accuracy cannot be guaranteed, they are usually a veritable mine of information, well worth seeking out.

Most FAQ's are released regularly on a fortnightly or weekly basis. In addition to this you can find them at RTFM and in the various .answers newsgroups.

Another location for finding FAQ's is http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu:80/hypertext/faq/usenet/FAQ-List.html


A gateway between your machine(s) and the Internet. Commonly used by companies to limit or monitor external access to their machines and - on occasions - to control what their employees can access over the Net.


The act of flaming someone is the act of responding in a highly critical sarcastic or ridiculing manner. The name presumably derives from "to shoot down in flames". Anyone who posts an offensive article can expect to get flamed, probably by more than one person.

Vicious arguments between two or three sides often become know as flame wars.


A followup is a post to a newsgroup in response to an existing article. The combination of the original article and all its subsequent followups is known as a thread.


Freeware is any software you can (legitimately) get for free. See also shareware and postcardware


File Transfer Protocol. Originally a means of connecting to an Internet node and logging in to download files from a server.

Nowadays FTP is commonly accessed via web browsers. See the section on Netiquette for a fuller description.


"For what it's worth"

Ctrl-H (^H)

This is the symbol for the Ctrl-H or backspace key. People use it (usually) humourously as if they started to say one thing, and changed it to something else (usually more polite). For example

"I'll have to ask the drago^H^H^H^H^H wife."


Each message sent over the Internet has a header. These are usually hidden from you, but in the case of email it can be useful to check these occasionally when you wish to check a message's authenticity.

Helper applications and plug-ins

These are pieces of software that extend the capabilities of your browsers, usually by handling different file types.

A helper application is an application launched independently from the browser. An example might be Word for windows which can be configured to "help" display .DOC files.

A plug-in is a piece of software designed to integrate with the browser. Plug-ins are increasingly being used to handle audio and visual content of pages inside the browser.


"Hope that helps"


Hypertext Markup Language. The language used to define web pages their layout, images to be shown, and hyperlinks.

An introduction to this vast topic can be sound in Creating your own web pages


In a browser these are the highlighted link which, when selected, will cause the browser to go to the linked resource. These days links can be added to text or pictures.

You probably got here by clicking on one :)


"Internet Relay chat". A software program that allows you to "chat" to people over the Internet in real time. That is, you type a message in, and they see it as you type it.


"If I remember correctly"

IP or Internet Protocol

The low-level protocol which makes up the backbone of the Internet. The IP allows messages to be routed from one node to another via whatever happens to be available at the time. It is this "pass-the-parcel" approach to networking that effectively makes Internet access so cheap. One simply needs to connect to the nearest point of contact, usually a local phone call away.


"In my (humble) opinion"

Information Super Highway

The phrase coined by Al Gore to describe the Internet.


Another phrase coined to describe the Internet.


That's Intranet with an 'a', not Internet with an 'e'.

The adoption of Internet software and standards to meet an organisation's internal networking needs.

See the section on Intranets for a fuller discussion.


"Internet Service Provider". An organisation that provides some routing nodes for the internet, and sells access to the Internet, usually for a monthly or annual fee.


"I seem to recall" or "I seem to remember"


A programming language designed to run in a secure and platform-independent "Java virtual machine" (JVM). Such virtual machines can be embedded inside Internet browsers (amongst other things), making Java an ideal choice for programming software that can be distributed and run over the InterNet.

Has since spawned a whole industry of Java-related puns.

Often confused with JavaScript


A scripting language that is designed to make web pages more intelligent and interactive. Unlike Java, Javascript can only run inside a Web browser, and this is its sole purpose in life.

Originally developed by Netscape. Microsoft have tried to get Visual Basic script accepted as a rival scripting language.

Junk mail

Unsolicited email. See also Spam


"Laughs out loud". Used to signify amusement at something being quoted.


Lurking is the act of joining a newsgroup or mailing list and just listening without contributing. This is a perfectly respectable thing to do, and lurkers probably account for 90% of the readership in some cases.

It's claimed that famous rock stars lurk on their fans mailing list to find out what people really think of them. TV script writers often do the same.

The act of breaking one's silence in this context is called de-lurking.

Mailing lists

Mailing lists are single-topic discussions carried out through email. As such they represent a less public and more universally accessible form of newsgroups (since not everyone has access to news).

See Mailing Lists for more details.

META tags

The <META> tag can be used to simulate "header lines" when a HTML page is passed to a browser. These tags must be placed in the <HEAD>..</HEAD> portion of the page.

The syntax is



<META name="some name" content="some value">



where "some name" is the header line you're emulating, and "some value" is the value you want it to have.

An example might be:


<META name="description" content="This is Fred Bloggs's page"> <META name="keywords" content="Fred,Bloggs,wholesale,butcher">


When indexed by a search engine the description you supply is used in preference to the normal showing of the first n lines of the page (which are not always so clear).

Similarly the keywords you supply are used in indexing the page.

Controlling these attributes increases your chances of being correctly found by someone using a search engine... the preferred method of browsing these days.

Me too

The act of quoting an entire article just to add a one-line comment. So called because people used to quote lengthy articles just to add a "me too" to the opinion expressed in the original.

This is seriously bad Netiquette as it is one of the purest wastes of bandwidth known to Netkind.

Mirror site

A site that keeps exact copies of popular files for download. Mirror sites allow the pressure for these popular files to be spread geographically round the Internet and the globe.


Some newsgroups and mailing lists are "moderated". In these cases all articles posted to the group are checked by a Moderator.

The moderator is free to

Moderation is a good way of improving the Signal to Noise ratio in a group, but is hard work for the moderators who frequently do the job voluntarily and are unpaid.


A derogatory term for someone who is keen on computer technology. In the early days, it was only the nerds who could drive the software.

Netiquette (or Net-etiquette)

The Net-etiquette. Basically the dos and don'ts of Internet usage. See the section Netiquette for a fuller description.


Newsgroups are like discussion groups dedicated to different areas of interest.

See the chapter on News and Usenet for a fuller discussion.


A mildly derogatory term for anyone new to the Internet.

By its very nature the Net always has a high proportion of "new" people. New people have the property of making all the mistakes that all us "old hands" made 18 months ago, and would never admit to. They're also cannon fodder for all the "get rich quick" pyramid letters that saturate the Net.

However, they're not all bad. It's down to Newbies always asking the same questions, that forced people to create the various FAQS's that exist.

Newbies need know only two things... what Netiquette is (so they can avoid the mistakes we all made), and what FAQSs are (so they won't ask the same questions as we did).

On-line and off-line

These terms describe whether or not you are currently connected to a remote machine. In the context of the Internet "online" means you are connected to the Internet, whilst "off-line" means you are not.

These terms are more important when you use a modem to gain connection as being "online" usually entails an active telephone line which in many parts of the world costs money, and in all parts of the world reduces other people's chances of getting a connection.

If you do connect in this way, then it is important to choose software that allows you to as much as possible off-line. Activities that take time and which are best done off-line if possible involve :-

Increasingly the term "on-line" is becoming synonymous with being available through the Internet.


Postcardware is any software you can (legitimately) get for free, but the author would like to recieve a postcard in thanks. See also shareware and freeware.

The author of this guide offers some of his own software as postcardware - see AscToTab. If you like this guide, feel free to send me a postcard at the address listed there.


Posting is the act of adding an article to a newsgroup. Each article is known as a "post". Newsgroup articles are arranged into threads all on the same subject within the group.

If an article is of interest to more than one group, it can be simultaneously posted to multiple groups. This is known as "cross-posting".

Excessive cross-posting (i.e. posting to too many groups at once) is discouraged and borders on being Spam.

Postmaster or webmaster

Standard email names for people who are in charge of the email/web at a given site. With the rise of Spam, "abuse" has almost become another standard site address.


Portal sites are sites that want you to use them as your start page whenever you start up your browser. Many of the older search emgines (My Yahoo, My Excite etc) are becoming portal sites. Other companies are setting up sites (e.g. www.netscape.net is a growing portal site helped along by the "My Netscape" button added to later copies of their popular browser)

To attract you to use them they will offer free (sometimes web-based) email access, free web space, bookmark management as well as useful directory and search services.

In return you get to read all the adverts they display. Advertising has proved to be the first big money spinner on the web for sites that can attract large enough traffic.


In email or newsgroup posts it is common practice to "quote" from the item you are replying to. This can help the reader understand what points in the original you are responding to.

Quotes are signalled by placing a character in front of the quoted line, most commonly a ">". Some mail and news packages do this for you automatically.

If you quote a quoted reply, this ends up with two characters in front e.g.

>> What's the terminal velocity of a swallow?
> African or European?


When quoting, only quote selected parts that are relevant. If nothing from the original is relevant, then don't quote anything. That way you avoid getting flamed for me too posts.


Increasingly the Web is being searched by "robots". These are pieces of software that read a web page, process it in some way (usually by analysing the content to see if it's of interest), and then following the links from that page onto the next web page.

This process is fully automated. Each site can set up a policy file (usually robots.txt in the top directory) indicating how the site wishes to restrict such access. Restrictions can be complete, or on a per-directory basis.


"Rolls on floor laughing". Signals great amusement at what has just been read.


"Request For Comment". These are actually a (large) series of documents describing all aspects of the internet. In so much as the Internet has any fixed rules and standards, these are the documents that describe them.

A full list of RFCs can be found at http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/information/rfc.html amongst others


In NetSpeak "Read the F*****G manual". Directed at people who ask questions without first seeking answers. People new to the Net or a newsgroup should first acquaint themselves with the prevailing habits of the group or list they have just joined, and if at all possible read the FAQS.

Then you can ask questions.

The phrase RTFM has now spawned a web site, dedicated to keeping copies of all the "manuals" you should be reading.

See the section on the RTFM site for more details.


Basically the same as RTFM, but for FAQS.


Shareware is any software you can "try before you buy". Normally such software only works for a limited time, or has some features missing. The shareware is then distributed freely and widely so that as many people as possible can try it.

Often shareware is much cheaper than straight commercial software. Sadly, not all shareware is of a good standard. However, there are some very good shareware programs, e.g. WinZip, Eudora, Forte's Free Agent etc.

Once you decide you want to keep it, you register the software (usually by paying for it) and get a fully-featured version.

This file is generated by the author's own shareware program AscToHTM.

See also freeware and postcardware.

Signal to Noise ratio

An old electrical engineering term, describing the ratio of desirable information (signal) to undesirable information (noise). It gets pretty low at times on the Net.


Most email and news-reading packages allow you to add a few lines at the end of your messages as a signature.

See the Signatures section for details.


Little text pictures used to add mood to your informal text. The standard smiley is :) To understand this, rotate your head 90 degrees to the left to see a smiling face. Get it :^) ?

People also used to use <g> and <bg> to signal grin and big grin. This is less common these days. On the other hand, as HTML markup becomes better understood, people are using that style such as

<smug> I told you so </smug>

(In HTML tags appear in <>, and a / often signals the end of a markup.

You can one of a number of unofficial smiley dictionaries at http://www.eff.org/papers/eegtti/eeg_286.html. This isn't definitive, but will give you a flavour.

Snail mail

Ordinary postal mail in the "real" world. So called because it takes days to arrive compared to minutes in the case of email.


Because of the Internet's popularity, junk mail, chain letters and other undesirable forms of (self-)advertising are common.

Spamming is the act of spreading a message much wider than it would normally deserve to go. This usually takes the form of posting the same message to a (very) large number of newsgroups, or emailing it to a large number of people.

Some low-volume groups become more spam that genuine content. There are a few counter measures you can take :-


The act of browsing the web, clinking on link-after-link, basically riding the wave of where your interest takes you.


A series of email's or newsgroup postings on the same topic. Although the order in which articles are threaded can sometimes be approximate, following the thread is like following a discussion, and can be a very useful way of picking up arguments on a topic.


Trolling is the act of deliberately posting a contentious post in a newsgroup with the intention of provoking a hostile response and starting a long thread or flame war.

These are sometimes very subtle and mischievous, but more often are simply offensive. It can be difficult at times to tell whether or not a post is a deliberate troll.

Uploads and downloads

The process of transferring files from your computer to a remote computer that you are accessing.

Downloads are when you transfer files "down" to your computer, usually because you want to take a copy of something.

Uploads are the reverse, usually when you want to release something to a publically accessible location (such as a new version of your HTML files).

See Downloading files and Publishing HTML for more details


"Unique Resource Location" or "Uniform Resource Location". Basically this is an internet address and takes the form

<Access Type>://<Domain address>/<resource address>

Where access type is http:, ftp: etc, the domain address identifies the Internet node to be contacted, and the resource address is the identifier at that node for what you want.

The actual details will vary according to the type of resource being accessed.

A fuller description of URLs can be found in RFC 1738, e.g. at http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/htbin/rfc/rfc1738.html


The collective name given to all the Internet's newsgroups and the community of people that use them.

Usenet itself has become such a rich source of material that search engines like Altavista and Dejanews allow you to locate posts in it.

Dejanews in particular is excellent for searching for old discussions.

See News and Usenet


A term used to describe the inter-linked resources on the Internet, usually all that is browser accessible. Largely interchangeable these days with the Internet itself.


See postmaster


"What you see is what you get". A phrase usually applied to editors that attempt to present your data in a form identical to how it will appear to the user.

There are a number of so-called WYSIWYG HTML editors, but since HTML browsers are free to layout screens as they see fit, the resultant HTML is often very rigid.


A popular search engine that divides all its indexed pages into categories.


"Your mileage may vary" Used to indicate that the author has just expressed a possibly contentious opinion which they therefore feel you may wish to take a different view.

For example, I find Altavista to be the best search engine on the Net, but YMMV.

Zip files

A way of compressing several files into a single, compressed file. This makes passing software and other information around the Internet much simpler and more efficient (because the files are smaller).

Sometimes the files are made into a self-extracting .exe file, but more usually you need special software to pack and unpack the .zip files

Most people use Winzip which can be downloaded as shareware from www.winzip.com

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© 1997-1999 John A Fotheringham and JafSoft Limited
Last Minor Update : 4 December '99