FAQ WWW terms

Internet Glossary

The world of computers has a peculiar language and the WWW has it's own subset of terms and phrases, here's a short list of terms to help you understand what's going on*.



Absolute URL
The complete URL that gives all the information necessary to find a file or document on the internet, including protocol type, system name, pathname, and file name. See also Uniform Resource Locator.
The location of an Internet resource. A web address looks something like http://www.stunik.com. An e-mail address may take the form of you@yourisp.com.
Alternative Text/Alt Text
Text that is visible in place of images, if the browser can't display the images or if the user has turned off the images setting in the preferences of their browser, as I often do when the WWW crawls to a halt, usually in peak periods such as after work and during school holidays.
Anchor, [hot spot, hyperlink]
A spot in a document that links to another place in the document or another document. Also, the spot elsewhere in the document that can quickly be reached through a hypertext link.
Anonymous FTP
A scheme by which users can retrieve files over the Internet without having an account on the remote system. Usually, the user logs in as anonymous and leaves his or her e-mail address as the password.
A program that can be downloaded over a network and launched on the user's computer.
An addition to an HTML tag that qualifies or extends the meaning of the tag.
Audio/Video Interleaved [AVI] a common video file format [.avi]. Video quality can be very good at smaller resolutions, but files tend to be rather large.


Berners- Lee
In 1989, Tim Berners- Lee , with a background of system design in real time communications and text processing software development, invented the World Wide Web. He was working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory at the time. He wrote/built designed the first web client [browser editor] and server in 1990.
A Web URL that is automatically stored by the browser for easy access later.
A type of Internet connection that is on whenever the computer is turned on. Common types of broadband connection are ADSL and Cable modem connections.
see Robot.
A software program such as Internet Explorer or Netscape that can read and navigate HTML documents. Contrary to popular opinion there are many, many browsers out there, I use the following, mainly for testing, iCab, Opera, Wannabe so hunt around and find one you like and help keep the internet full of choices.


A region of memory where frequently accessed data can be stored for rapid access. Modern browsers often keep trace of pages you have visited, usually called a 'history'.
CGI-Bin Directory
The Directory in which server programs are usually stored on a server. Generally, only server administrators have the access needed to place files in this directory, but you should be able to use the files in directory.
A software application that works on your behalf to get information from a server somewhere on the network.
Closing Tag
The second half of a paired html tag. The closing tag is exactly like the opening tag except it does not have attributes and it always starts with a forward slash [ / ].
The collective name for files stored on your hard drive by your Web browser that hold information about your browsing habits, like what sites you have visited, which newsgroups you have read, etc. Many view 'cookies' as an invasion of privacy. Indeed, make sure that you set your preferences in the browser of your choice to reflect your attitudes here, personally I have mine set to confirm all cookies on all sites.
A server program that tells how many people have accessed a specific HTML document.


Dialup Connection
A connection to the Internet via phone and modem, in Australia I suspect this is still the most common way to connect the internet, until prices drop 'radically'. *IMHO*
Direct Connection
A connection made directly to the Internet much faster than a dialup connection.
The Internet is divided into smaller sets known as domains, including .com [business], .gov [government], .edu [educational] and others.
The process of transferring computer files to your computer.


Electronic mail faster than 'snail mail'.
A combination of characters that form a facial expression. For example, if you turn your head sideways, the characters :) make a smiley face, and the characters 8) make a four-eyed smiley. Frequently used in e-mail messages to convey a particular tone.
External Link
Links away from the current html document to another document, possibly even to another website elsewhere on the internet.


Software that is available for download and unlimited use without charge.
The name for a document on a computer. Most HTML documents have a filename plus and extension such as .htm or .html
Folder [ sometimes called a directory]
An on screen container that holds files.
The parts of an HTML document that allow readers to respond to questions or provide information.
A subdivision of the browser window that contains an HTML document. Frames let you put multiple documents in their own parts of the browser window.
Frameset document
The specialised HTML document that establishes the structure for frames in a web site.
File Transfer Protocol [FTP] is the primary way files are transferred on the Internet. Based on TCP/IP [ Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol], that's used to upload or download files. A popular form of FTP is Anonymous FTP. This is where a user FTPs to a remote site, uses the login: anonymous and the password: e-mail address. This lets the user retrieve files from a remote site without having to have an account on that machine.
FTP site
A source of data on the internet.


Graphics Interchange Format [GIF] a common image format that displays well on the Web. Gif images are best suited for line drawings and screen captures where the number of colors is limited. These images use a 'lossless compression' method to make their transfer over the Internet faster.


Hierarchical Organisation
A type of organisation used if you have more than one major topic.
Helper Application
A program that allows you to view multimedia files such as images, audio, and video files that your web browser cannot handle internally.
Home page
The first page of a Web site. Also, the Web site that automatically loads each time you launch your browser.
The name of a specific computer within a larger domain.
HyperText Markup Language [HTML] is the language that is used to define and describe the page layout of documents displayed in a World Wide Web browser. HTML is an application of Standard Generalized Markup Language [SGML ].
HTML skeleton
The HTML skeleton is a series of nested tags in a specific order that must appear in every HTML document. These tags are:
  • <html> and its closing tag </html> that tell the browser that this is an HTML document.
  • <head> and its closing tag </head> where you indicate parameters that the browser may use when displaying the document
  • <title> and its closing tag </title> where you define the text that should display in the browser's title bar
  • <body> and its closing tag </body > where you enter the content for the page.
HTML tag
A specific formatting instruction within an HTML document. Tags are usually contained within angle brackets, as in <HTML>.
HTTP protocol
The Hypertext Transfer Protocol [HTTP] is the method by which Web documents are transferred across the internet. According to the World Wide Web Consortium, HTTP is an application level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. It is a generic, stateless, protocol which can be used for many tasks beyond its use for hypertext, such as name servers and distributed object management systems, through extension of its request methods, error codes and headers. A feature of HTTP is the typing and negotiation of data representation, allowing systems to be built independently of the data being transferred. HTTP has been in use by the Worldwide Web global information initiative since 1990.
Any combination of hypertext and graphics, video, audio, and other media. The World Wide Web is a hypermedia environment because it allows multiple types of media to be used simultaneously in a document.
An interconnected web of text information wherein any given word or phrase may link to another point in the document or to another document anywhere around the world.


The Internet is a network of networks that is worldwide. That is, it is an INTERnational NETwork [hence, the INTERNET]. All of the networks belonging to the Internet use the same protocol for communications. It is called TCP/IP.
Internet Service Provider [ISP] is the company that provides you with a connection to the Internet via either a dialup connection or a direct connection.
In My Humble Opinion, and acronym used in e-mail and news groups often used in relation to *rants*.


A programming language, similar to C++, created by Sun Microsystems for developing applets that are capable of running on any computer regardless of the operating system.
Joint Photographic Experts Group [JPEG] is an image format that is commonly used on the Web for graphic images such as photographs that use a large number of colors. The extension for a JPEG image is .jpg.


A system for finding Internet user's e-mail addresses via their first and last names. Due to the rapid growth in the volume of e-mail users, this system is not perfect.


A word, picture, or other area of a Web page that users can click to move to another spot in the document or to another document anywhere around the world.


Mailing list
A list of e-mail addresses to which messages are sent. You can subscribe to a mailing lists typically by sending an e-mail to the contact address with the following in the body of the message: the word subscribe, the name of the list, and your e-mail address.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface [MIDI] is a high quality audio file format.
Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions [Mime] is a protocol for allowing e-mail messages to contain various types of media [text, audio, video, images, etc.].
Motion Picture Experts Group [MPEG] is a video file format offering excellent quality in a relatively small file. Video files found on the Internet are frequently stored in the MPEG format. Full length movies are available on CD and are stored in the MPEG format.
A combination of media types on a single document, including: text, graphics, animation, audio and video.


A specific section within the USENET system typically, though not always, dedicated to a particular subject of interest.
News Server
Provides access to Usenet Groups, a collection of discussion groups on the internet. You can link html documents to these groups.


The state of being connected to the Internet.
Online Service
Services such as America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy and the Microsoft Network which provide content to subscribers and usually connections to the Internet, though sometimes limited.
Opening Tag
The first pair of HTML tags. This is the tags that includes all of the attributes.


Picture element the smallest unit of resolution on a monitor. Commonly used as a unit of measurement.
A small application which extends the built in capabilities of your Web browser. Examples include Macromedia's Shockwave, providing animation, and RealAudio, offering streamed sound files over the Internet. Compared to helpers, the multimedia files do not need to be downloaded before shown or played.
The standardised language that computers use to talk to each other.


A common video file format created by Apple Computer. Video files found on the Internet are often stored in the QuickTime format they require a special viewer program for playback


A web page, article, e-mail or news group posting, that is usually highly opinionated, with or with out reference and justification on any issue that the author feels passionate about, often found in 'blogs'.
Relative URL
A URL that points to another file in relation to the location of the current one. For example. Number 234 Collins Street [absolute ] compared to down the street and to the left [ relative ].
With shareware, when you contact the vendor and pay for the product, you are registering. In return, you will receive either a password to turn off the nag notices or a copy of the full commercial version.
RGB number
The number often hexadecimal that indicates the relative amounts of red, blue and green that are used to make a specific colour.
Robot or Bot
A program that automatically searches the World Wide Web for files.


Search Engine
A tool for searching information on the Internet by topic or keyword. Some popular engines include Google, Teoma, and Looksmart.com.au.
A computer that provides files or documents on request to other computers. Also known as HTML server, HTTP server, or Web server.
Server Program
A small program that provides information to the server or that does something on command from a browser, such as take the output from a form.
Server Side include
A command that tells the server to include other information with a document being served, kind of like the waitress grabbing the sauce and the salt and pepper on the way to your table.
Standard Generalized Markup Language [SGML] the markup language that is the parent of HTML. SGML provides a means of defining markup for any number of document types such as HTML, XHTML, and XML.
Software that is available on a free limited trial basis. Sometimes this is a fully featured product, other times it lacks some of the features of the commercial version. If you find the product useful, you are expected to register the software, for which in return you will receive the full featured commercial version.
Multiple, sometimes thousands, of unwelcome messages to a newsgroup or mailing list to promote a commercial product or Web site.
Structure Tag
An HTML tag that doesn't show [visibly] on the page but tells the browser about the document.
Style Sheet
A set of design rules that apply to an HTML document.
Surf/Surfing the net
An activity a bit like browsing the shelves of your local library, except this library, the Internet, is scattered all over the world and can be added to or subtracted from by any one with access to a server.


A command that's used in markup language, in html, tags are enclosed in the greater and lesser symbols [ < & > ].
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol [TCP/IP] is the foundation of the Internet, an agreed upon set of rules directing computers on how to exchange information with each other.
Tag Image File Format [TIFF] is a popular graphic image file format.


Uniform Resource Locator [URL] refers to the standardized way in which any resource is identified within a Web document or to a Web browser. Most URLs consist of the service, host name, and directory path. An example of a URL: http://www.stunik.com/.
Short for User's Network. The collection of the thousands of bulletin boards residing on the Internet. Each bulletin board contains discussion groups, or newsgroups, dedicated to a myriad of topics. Messages are posted and responded to by readers either as public or private e-mails


Synonymous with viewing a World Wide Web site.


World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]
The World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] was formed with the charter to define the standards for HTML. Members are responsible for drafting, circulating for review, and modifying the standard based on cross Internet feedback to best meet the needs of the many. The W3C develops interoperable technologies [specifications, guidelines, software, and tools] to lead the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.
Web logs
Web logs or blogs as they are commonly known as, are usually an online diary for people to 'express' themselves, see also rants!


A reformulation of HTML to be compliant under SML. XHTML attempts to support every feature of HTML 4.01 while using the more rigid rules of XML.
Extensible Markup Language. XML is a separate formal markup meta-language that uses select features of SGML [Standard Generalized Markup Language] to define markup languages. It eliminates many features of SGML that aren't applicable to languages like HTML [Hypertext Markup Language and simplifies other SGML elements in order to make them easier to use and understand.


A popular Web site that provides an online guide to the World Wide Web. Yahoo features e-mail and chat groups as well as auctions and online shopping.


To compress a file with a PC file compression program. Which then speeds transmission over the WWW either using e-mail or http or ftp.

* This list compiled from a variety of sources, including but not limited to, IDG Books publication 'HTML for Dummies Quick reference second Edition' 1997, and, Gail Issen