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As you use the Internet, you may need to understand a number of terms that will appear in books, manuals, magazine articles, etc. about the Internet. There are many glossaries of Internet terms available in books and on the Internet, but here are some of the more common Internet terms.****

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ACCESS INDICATOR - The small picture appearing at the upper right-hand corner of each browser with either the Netscape or Microsoft icon. When this icon is animated or in motion, it means that your computer is accessing data from the server where the web page is stored.

ADDRESS - The unique location of a web page or an information site on the Internet, of a specific file, or of an email user.

ADDRESS BAR - Place on the Microsoft Internet Explorer where you type the web address of the website you want to visit.

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BOOKMARK - A saved link to a website that is added to a list of saved links on Netscape Communicator. You can simply click on the saved link to return to the site rather than having to retype the address when visiting the site again.

BOOLEAN SEARCH - A keyword search that uses Boolean Operators for obtaining a precise definition of a query.

BROWSER - Computer software that allows you to navigate through the World Wide Web using a graphical user interface (or GUI). By clicking on menus, icons, or buttons, the browser lets you search for, read, and download documents, photos, sounds, and video on the Web. The two best known browsers are Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

BROWSING - Casually looking for information on the Internet, also known as SURFING the Internet.

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CACHE - Static copies of web pages that are stored on your computer's hard disk. When you revisit a web page, the web browser compares the cached copy of the page to the original, and if there have been no changes, the browser will use the cached copy rather than reloading the page onto the client, saving processing and download time.

CD-ROM (Compact Disk Read Only Memory) - A circular computer disk that stores more information than the standard 3 1/2" floppy disk. Your computer must have a CD-Rom drive to read it.

CHAT ROOM - A location on the Internet that allows you to communicate with others on the Internet in "real time" or "live". Internet chat rooms are especially popular teens and kids.

COOKIE - A unique string of letters and numbers that the web server stores in a file on your hard drive. Cookies are used by web designers to track visitors to a web site so the visitors do not have to enter the same information every time they go to a new page or revisit a site. Cookies can keep track of personal information about an Internet user.

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 DIRECTORY - A Internet search tool such as Yahoo that uses human editors to create its listings. A webmaster submits a description of his site to the directory for editors to review. Searches in a directory give matches based on the editors' descriptions of websites.

DIRECTORY SEARCH - A hierarchical search that starts with a general heading and proceeds through increasingly more specific headings or subjects. It provides a means of focusing more closely on the object of the search. It is also referred to as SUBJECT SEARCH.

DOWNLOAD - To copy a file from one computer system to another. You can download a web page, documents, images, etc. from another computer to your computer.

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E-COMMERCE (Electronic Commerce) - The conducting of business online, including product display, online ordering, secure transactions and inventory management.

E-MAIL (Electronic Mail) - A system of sending messages electronically from one computer to another, generally through a modem and telephone line, cable line, etc. connected to a computer. E-mail messages can be sent and received within seconds, so e-mail is convenient and quicker than regular U.S. mail or "snail mail."

ENCRYPTION - A method of encoding messages to provide privacy for e-mail, discussion group postings, and other communications as they move over intranets or the Internet. When you order online, online companies have used encryption to protect your credit card information, etc.

E-ZINE - An electronic magazine or newsletter delivered over the Internet via e-mail. Some e-zines are only available over the Internet and are never published in hard copy.

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 FALSE HITS - Documents that are retrieved but are not relevant to the user’s search.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) - This is a common abbreviation used on websites. It refers to a list of facts about a specific subject that are usually presented in a question and answer format.

FAVORITE - A saved link to a website that is added to a list of saved links on Microsoft Internet Explorer. You can simply click on the saved link to return to the site rather than having to retype the address when visiting the site again.

FIREWALL - Computer hardware and/or software that limits access to a computer over a network or from an outside source. Firewalls are used to prevent computer hackers from getting into a company's computer systems.

FRAMES - Rectangular sections of a web page which divides it into two or more parts. Each frame displays different information or is reserved for a particular purpose. On some websites, there may be a "navigation frame" and a "content frame".

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) - A standard that allows users to transfer files from one computer to another using a modem and telephone lines. Like HTTP, FTP is a protocol that provides a way of uploading and downloading files, including .DOC, .EXE, .SIT, .ZIP, .GIF, .JPG, etc.

FULL-TEXT INDEXING - A database index or catalogue that includes all terms and URLs.

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GIF (Graphic Information File) - The most widely used graphic file type that can be transparent or even animated. GIFs are limited to 256 colors and look best when using the 216 browser safe colors.

GUI (Graphical User Interface) - A user interface that displays in graphic or pictorial format rather than in text only.

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HARDWARE - A term for the physical computer equipment, wires, printers, etc.

HIERARCHICAL - A ranking of subjects or things from the most general to the most specific.

HITS - A list of links or references to documents that are returned in response to a query, also called matches or matching queries.

HOME - The "starting point" or default home page when you click on the Home Button on your browser. It is usually the Microsoft or Netscape website unless you choose another home page to be "Home."

HOME PAGE - The web page that is the first page or starting point for a website or a particular group of web pages. It is usually the table of contents for a website.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) - HTML is the computer code that tells browsers how to display a page on your screen. This code, sometimes called "markup", uses "tags" that instruct a browser to make text a certain size or style, display an image, or link to another page or web site.

HTML EDITOR - A software program that makes creating a web page nearly as easy as typing a memo using a word processor. Instead of learning HTML commands, users can format web pages using a menu. HTML editing tools support bullets, tables, paragraph alignment, font size, font color, indenting, and other common formatting features. Many HTML editor packages display the page being edited exactly the same way it will be displayed on the web - a feature called WYSIWYG, or what you see is what you get.

HYPERLINKS or HYPERTEXT LINKS - The connections in web pages that allow you to move from one document or site to another. Text links are usually underlined or highlighted , so all you need to do is click on a link to connect to another site without knowing or typing in its URL. Icons can also be links.

HYPERTEXT TRANSFER PROTOCOL (HTTP) - A standard used by World Wide Web servers to provide rules for moving text, images, sound, video, and other multimedia files across the Internet. http:// is the command that tells the web browser that the document found at this address is HTTP-compatible and to display it in HTTP format.

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ICON - A small picture on a web page that stands for a topic or information category of another web page and may be a hyperlink to that web page.

INTERNET - A worldwide network of computers that provides easy access to a vast body of information, allowing people to find and use information and communicate with others. The Internet or "information superhighway" includes the World Wide Web, Usenet user groups and newsgroups.

INTRANET - A computer network using web browser software that allows access to information, web pages, etc. within a company or an organization, and usually with a firewall to block access from outside the Intranet.

IP (Internet Protocol) Address - A number that identifies a particular server or user on the Internet. These numbers consist of four set of numbers between 0 and 255 such as and are the basis for any transfer of information over the Internet.

ISP (Internet Service Provider) - A generic term for any company that can connect you directly to the Internet by dialing into its computers using a modem. ISPs typically charge a fee for providing a dial-up telephone number, an email address, and some technical assistance. See also ONLINE SERVICE.

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JAVA - A programming language like C++. There are many applications and things that you can do in Java that you can't do in HTML.

JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) - Another Internet graphic file type. JPEGs have greater depth of color than GIF images.

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KEYWORD - A term that a computer can recognize and use as the basis for executing a search.

KEYWORD SEARCH - A search that utilizes meaningful terms to define what the user is searching for.

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LINKS - The connections in web pages that allow you to move from one document or site to another. Text links are usually underlined or highlighted , so all you need to do is click on a link to connect to another site without knowing or typing in its URL. Icons can also be links. Also known as hyperlinks or hypertext links.

LOCATION BAR - Place on Netscape Communicator where you type the web address of the website you want to visit.

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MODEM - A device that allows a computer to receive and transmit data over standard telephone lines. A modem takes digital data and converts it to telephone signals, and the modem at the other end takes the analog data and converts it back to digital. Most computers use modems to connect to the Internet and the World Wide Web. Modems come in different speeds: the higher the speed, the faster the data is transmitted.

MOUSE - A small device attached to the computer by a cord, which lets you give commands to the computer. The mouse controls an arrow on the computer screen and allows you to point and click to make selections.

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NETIQUETTE - Rules or manners for interacting courteously with others online (such as not typing a message in all capital letters, which is equivalent to shouting).

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ONLINE SERVICE - A company such as America Online or Prodigy that provides its members access to the Internet through its own special user interface. Online services often offer additional services such as chat rooms, children's areas, travel planning, and financial management to its members.

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PLATFORM - A computer operating system such as Sun, Unix, Windows, or Macintosh.

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QUERY - A search request. A combination of words and symbols that defines the information that the user is seeking. Queries are used to direct search tools to appropriate websites to obtain information.

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RANKING - Listing of Internet hits in the order of their relevancy. It is usually determined by a selection of the number, location and frequency of the term in the document being searched.

REAL TIME - Communicating on the Internet at the same time or simultaneously, such as in chat rooms. This is in contrast to time-shifting, where one person leaves a message and the other person responds later, such as in e-mail.

REFRESH or RELOAD - To re-connect to a website if it takes to a long time to load it from the web server or if it doesn't load probably. Click on the Refresh or Reload button on your browser to access the current page again.

RELEVANCE -The usefulness of a response to a query. Most search engines rank their hits from the best match to the query to the poorest.

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SCROLL BAR - The scroll bar appearing to the right of the browser window when the document you access is longer than the browser window. The scroll bar lets you move down and up the web page when you place your arrow cursor on the up or down arrows of the scroll bar. If a web page is wider than the browser window, a horizontal scroll bar appears at the bottom of the browser window to allow you to scroll from left to right.

SEARCH ENGINE - A web-based computer program, called a spider, crawler, or robot, that performs keyword searches for information on the Internet, and creates an automated search index. This is a database that indexes some or all of the words appearing on web pages, except for common words such as "a," "and," "in," "to," "the," etc. When you submit a query, the search engine goes through the index to find all the web pages containing those words, combinations of words, or phrases. The search engine gives you a list of the web pages that fits your query.

SEARCH TERM - A single word or an association of words used in a query.

SERVER - Computer hardware and software that is attached to a network and which automatically stores, processes, and transmits data or information that is generally accessed by many people using client programs.

SHAREWARE - Copyrighted software that is distributed over the Internet or from one satisfied user to another user. No fee is charged for trying the program, but the user is expected to pay a donation to the owner and tell others about the program if he or she continues to use it.

SITE - The location of a web page on the Internet. In WWW, it is called a website and identified by its URL.

SOFTWARE - A computer program or set of computer instructions. System software operates the computer itself. Application software allows you to carry out certain activities, such as word processing, games, and spreadsheets.

SPAM - Unsolicited e-mail or any e-mail message received that you did not specifically ask for.

SPIDER – The software that scans documents on the Internet and adds them to the search engine’s database. To spider is the process of scanning Web sites to add new pages and to update existing ones.

STATUS BAR - The status bar appears at the bottom of the browser window. It tells you what is going on while you are on the internet. It may tell you the address of the website you are accessing, if the server is being contacted, what is being downloading, etc.

STEMMING - The use of a stem [i.e. root] of a word to search words that are derived from it. For example, "child" would retrieve information on child, children, childhood, childless and so on.

SURFING - Looking for information on the Internet.

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TCP-IP (Transmission Control Protocol - Internet Protocol) - A common method of assigning addresses on a network so that different types of server operating systems can all communicate regardless of any other communications protocol also in effect. See also IP (Internet Protocol) ADDRESS.

TELNET - A program used by webmasters to communicate with UNIX servers.


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UPLOAD - To send a copy of a file from a client to a server using a modem.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - The web address of an Internet web page. A URL is unique to a page so when you type it in the Address or Location Bar, you will be connected to that particular web page. When you are connected to a web page, its URL will appear in the Address or Location Bar.

USENET - Internet Newsgroups which are like community bulletin boards about particular subjects. There are Newsgroups on just about every subject imaginable.

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VIRUS - A piece of programming code inserted into other programming to cause some unexpected and usually undesirable event, such as lost or damaged files. Viruses can be transmitted by downloading programs from other sites or be present on a diskette. You may be unaware that you have received a virus and may be spreading it as a virus can be dormant until something causes its code to be executed by the computer. Many Internet users have had their computers crash from viruses that attached to e-mails.

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WEB HOST - A company that allows individuals or other companies to use their server space to host websites.

WEB PAGE - A single document on the World Wide Web that has has a unique address or URL. When web pages are part of the same document, they are also collectively known as a website.

WEBMASTER - The person in charge of implementing and modifying a web site.

WEBSITE - A group of similar web pages linked by hyperlinks and managed by a single company, organization, or individual. A website may include text, graphics, audio and video files, and hyperlinks to other web pages. Websites can range in size from as little as one page to a vast number of pages.

WILD CARD - In a query, a symbol that replaces a portion of a word to indicate that other word constructions are applicable.

WWW, World Wide Web, W3, or The Web - A hypertext-based Internet system used for browsing Internet resources and for transmitting data (text, numbers, images, and sound). It is the graphical interface for the Internet, and its most important feature is its ability to link to any other part of the web through hyperlinks. The WWW and Internet are often used interchangeably.

WYSIWYG - The acronym or abbreviation for "What You See Is What You Get." To display a document being edited exactly the same way it will be displayed on the web or in print.

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****Adapted and selected from glossaries listed websites such as "The Librarian's Guide to CyberSpace for Parents & Kids" from the American Library Association, "Parents Guide to the Internet" published by the U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Office of Educational Technology, "How to Search the World Wide Web: A Tutorial for Beginners and Non-Experts," by David P. Habib and Robert L. Balliot; and "An Internet Guide for Newcomers to the World Wide Web" at, and in the book, Consumer Guide's 101 Best Web Sites for Kids, by Trevor Meers.

A more comprehensive glossary of Internet terms is available at "An Internet Guide for Newcomers to the World Wide Web" at ( If you are looking for more technical definitions of Internet terms, CNET : The Computer Network offers a glossary of Internet terms, etc. (; it includes many ofl those acronyms and initials you find in Internet and computer manuals. NetLingo, The Internet Dictionary ( also provides definitions and explanations of various Internet terms and abbreviations. It has hyperlinks between related terms in its dictionary.

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Updated : March 7, 2002
© Henry Waldinger Memorial Library, 2002.