Internet Glossary

Digital Dictionary

In an effort to explain some of the more common terms on the Internet, ChicagoNET has created this glossary of terms. This is not meant to be comprehensive, but if you would like an Internet term defined that is not available in this list, please send mail to


A "smiley". The official term for this is "emoticon ". Emoticons are used to convey emotion in an ASCII world. The idea is to tilt your head to the left 90 degrees and it looks like a smiley face. You're bound to encounter an endless number of variations on the theme.


There are two types of addresses in common use within the Internet. They are email and IP or Internet addresses.
A name, usually short and easy to remember, that is translated into another name, usually long and difficult to remember. commonly used in the Unix realm to "abbreviate" verbose commands. Common places for storing aliases are the shell configuration file (.cshrc or .profile) and a separate file sources from the configuration file (usually called .alias)

Also used similarly in the context of electronic mail. Mail aliases are the basis of many electronic mailing lists.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
This organization is responsible for approvinig U.S standards in many areas, including computers and communications. Standards approved by this organization are often called ANSI standards (e.g., ANSI C is the version of the C language approved by ANSI). ANSI is a member of the ISO.
American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)
A standard character-to-number encoding widely used in the computer industry.
Anonymous FTP
Anonymous FTP allows a user to retrieve documents, files, programs and other archived data from anywhere on the Internet without having to establish a userid and password. By using the special userid of "anonymous" the network user will bypass local security checks and will have access to publicly accessible files on the remote system.
See: American National Standards Institute
A program that performs a function directly for a user. FTP, mail and Telnet clients are examples of network applications.
A system to automatically gather, index and serve information on the Internet. The initial implementation provides an indexed directory of filenames from more than 800 anonymous FTP archives on the Internet -- some 100 gigabytes worth of information. This information is accessible through archie client programs, through servers reachable using the telnet command, through email servers and through forms on the World Wide Web.

Later versions provide indexing services for many different resources.

See also: Gopher, Wide Area Information Servers.

See: American Standard Code for Information Interchange


The top level in a hierarchical network. Stub and transit networks which connect to the same backbone are guaranteed to be interconected.
Technically, the difference, in Hertz (Hz), between the highest and lowest frequencies of a transmission channel. However, as typically used, the amount of data that can be sent through a given communications circuit. Also used colloquially (esp. on Usenet) to indicate message traffic.
A gauge to measure the speed at which a modem communicates. Synonymous with "bits per second" (bps); e.g., 14,400bps = 14,400baud.
See: Bulletin Board System
Be Seeing You
In the preliminary or testing stage of a product.
Base 2 numeral system. The two symbols used are '0' and '1'.
Binary file
Any file that is not plain, ASCII text. For example: executable files, graphic files and compressed (ZIP) files.
"Because It's Time" Network. An academic computer network that provides interactive electronic mail and file transfer services, using a store-and-forward protocol. BITNet hosts are not on the Internet per se, but are reachable by email through BITNet to Internet gateways.
The return of a piece of mail because of an error in the delivery process. Mail can be bounced for various reasons. "Bounce" can also refer to the message indicating the error (informal usage).
By The Way
Bulletin Board System (BBS)
A computer, and associated hardware, which typically privides electronic messaging services, archives of files and any other services or activities of interest to the bulletin board system's operator. Many BBS's are currently operated by government, educational and research institutions.

Although BBS's have traditionally been the domain of hobbyists, an increasing number of BBS's are connected to the Internet. The majority, however, are still reachable only via a direct modem-to-modem connection over a phone line.

See also: Electronic Mail, Internet and Usenet.


A computer system or process that requests a service of another computer system or process. A workstation requesting the contents of a file from a file server is a client of the file server.
A cracker is an individual who attempts to access computer systems without authorization. These people are often malicious, as opposed to hackers, and have many means at their disposal for breaking into a system.

See also: Trojan Horse, virus, worm.

A term coined by William Gibson in his SF novel Neuromancer (1984) to describe the interconnected "world" of computers and the society that gathers around them.


A program which establishes and maintains your connection to the Internet, as well as provides Winsock support. Voyager contains a built-in dialer. Other popular dialers include Trumpet Winsock and the Windows '95 Dial Up Networking.
A temporary connection between machines established with modems over a standard phone line.
See: Domain Name System
A group of computers whose hostnames share a common suffix. This is the domain name. ChicagoNET's domain name is

See also: Domain Name System.

Domain Name System (DNS)
The DNS is a general purpose distributed, replicated, data query service. The principal use is the lookup of host IP addresses based on host names. The style of host names now used in the Internet is called "domain name", because they are the style of names used to look up anythin in the DNS. Some important domains are .COM (commercial), .NET (network), .EDU (educational), .GOV (government) and .MIL (military). Most countries also have a domain. For example, .US (United States), .UK (United Kingdom) and .AU (Australia).


Electronic Mail
A system wherby a computer user can exchange messages with other computer users (or groups of users) via a communications network. Electronic mail is one of the most popular uses of the Internet.
See: Electronic Mail
Email Address
The domain-based or UUCP address that is used to send electronic mail to a specified destination. For example, "" is the email address for the user supportthat is part of the domain.
An ASCII glyph used to indicate an emotional state, typically used in email or Usenet messages. Although originally intended mostly as jokes, emoticons or some other explicit humor indication are virtually required under certain circumstances in high-volume text-only communication forums such as Usenet. The lack of verbal and visual cues can otherwise cause what were intended to be humorous, sarcastic, ironic or otherwise non-serious comments to be badly misinterpreted, resulting in arguments and flame wars.
Encryption is the manipulation of data in order to prevent any but the intended recipient from reading that data. There are many types of data encryption and they are the basis of network security.


Frequently Asked Question. In its usual context, FAQ refers to collected answers to often-asked questions on Usenet newsgroups. These are periodically posted to the newsgroups in question, to the .answers newsgroups (news.answers, rec.answers, comp.answers, etc.) and are stored on the FAQ FTP archive on
File Transfer
The copying of a file from one computer to another over a computer network.

See also: File Transfer Protocol, Kermit.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
A protocol which allows a user on one host to access and transfer files to and from another host over a network. Also, FTP is usually the name of the program the user invokes to execute the protocol.

See also: Anonymous FTP.

A program that displays information about a particular user, or all users, logged on the local system or on a remote system. It typically shows full name, last login time, idle time, terminal line and terminal location (where applicable). It may also display plan and project information files created by the user.

Not all machines support finger, and you cannot finger a Voyager account.

Any of several ways to protect a network from an untrusted host or network. Consists of mechanisms to block network traffic and mechanisms to permit network traffic.
A strong opinion or criticism of something, usually as a frank inflammatory statement, in an electronic mail message.
For Your Information (FYI)
FYIs convey general information about topics related to TCP/IP, the Internet and others.
See: File Transfer Protocol
For What It's Worth
See: For Your Information.


Graphic Interchange Format. An image compression algorithm that facilitates the transfer of high quality images over a network. A GIF can be of any resolution but only has 8 bit (256) color.
A billion bytes, which is large enough to hold 1,250 copies of Moby Dick.
A distributed information service that makes available hierarchical collections of information across the Internet. Gopher uses a simple protocol that allows a single gopher client to access information from any accessible gopher server, providing the user with a single "gopher space" of information. The clients are generally text menu-based. Public domain versions of the client and server are available.


A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular. The term is often misused in a pejorative context, where "cracker" would be the correct term.
The portion of a packet, preceeding the actual data, containing source and destination addresses, error checking and other fields. A header is also the part of an electronic mail message thatpreceedes the body of a message and contains information about the message originator and time stamp.
A computer that allows users to communicate with other host computers on a network. Individual users communicate by using client programs, such as electronic mail, Telnet and FTP.
See: HyperText Markup Language
See: HyperText Transfer Protocol
A link between one document and other, related documents elsewhere in a collection. By clicking on a word or phrase that has been hightlighted on a computer screen, a user can skip directly to files related to that subject.
HyperText Markup Language (HTML)
The coding that World Wide Web browsers read to create Web pages.
HyperText Transfer Protocol
The protocol used to transfer World Wide Web data across the Internet.


In My Humble Opinion.
Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)
ISDN combines voice and digital network services in a single medium, making it possible to offer customers digital data services as well as voice connections through a single "wire".
A network or collection of networks interconnected with routers. It also refers to the largest network of computers in the world "The Internet".
Internet Address
An IP address that uniquely identifies a node on the Internet.
Internet Protocol (IP)
The network layer for the TCP/IP Protocol Suite. It is a connectionless, best-effort packet switching protocol.
See: Internet Protocol
See: Integrated Services Digital Network


A popular file transfer protocol developed by Columbia University. Because Kermit runs in most operating environments, it provides an easy method of file transfer. Kermit is not the same as FTP.


An automated mailing list distribution system originally designed for the Bitnet/EARN network.
No active participation on the part of a person to a mailing list, Usenet newsgroupor IRC channel. A person who is lurking is just listening to the discussion.

Lurking is encouraged for beginning users who wish to become acquainted with a particular discussion before joining in.


Mail Server
A software program that distributes files or information in response to requests sent via email. Internet examples include Almanac and netlib. Mail servers have also been used in Bitnet to provide FTP-like services.
See: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions
A person, or small group of people, who manage moderated mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups. Moderators are responsible for determining which email submissions are passed onto a list.
See: Multi-User Dungeon
Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME)
An extension to Internet email which provides the ability to transfer non-textual data, such as graphcis, audio and video.

ChicagoNET Voyager users have MIME capability in versions 1.2 and above.

Multi-User Dungeon (MUD)
Adventures, role playing games, or simulations played on the Internet. Devotees call them "text-based virtual reality adventures". Players interact in real time and can modify the "world" in which the game is played. Most MUDs are based on the Telnet protocol.


Net Abuse
Net abuse can be either abuse of ChicagoNET's network services, or violations of netiquette. Types of net abuse that violate ChicagoNET's Terms and Conditions include:
  • Using too many of the system resources.
  • Attempting to "hack", or break into accounts.
  • Using an account for any illegal activity.
  • Evading the 15-minute idle timeout.
  • Running background processes or "bots".
  • Sending unsolicited email.
  • Sending chain letters via email.
  • "Flooding" someone with chat requests.

See also: Internet Relay Chat, Usenet.

A pun on "etiquette", referring to proper behavior on a network.
See: Usenet
Network Information Center (NIC)
A NIC provides information, assistance and services to network users.

The Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) is a project administered by AT&T and Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI). AT&T provides directory and database services for registered Internet hosts, while NSI administers the registration process.

Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP)
A protocol for the distribution, retrieval and posting of Usenet articles through high-speed links available on the Internet.
Slang term for a user who is new to the Internet.
See: Network News Transfer Protocol


See: Pretty Good Privacy
Point of Presence (POP)
A site containing a collection of telecommunications equipment, usually digital leased lines and multi-protocol routers. Also referred to as a Local Access Site.
Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP)
The Point-to-Point Protocol provides a method for transmitting packets over serial point-to-point links.

See also: Serial Line Internet Protocol

See: Post Office Protocol, Point of Presence
Post Office Protocol (POP)
A protocol designed to allow single user hosts to read email from a server. There are three versions: POP, POP2 and POP3. Later versions are not compatiblewith earlier versions.
The administrator reponsible for resolving email problems, answering queries about users and other related duties at a site.
See: Point-to-Point Protocol
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)
A controversial freeware program created in June, 1991 by Philip Zimmermann, PGP is designed to encrypt data for security.
A formal description of message formats and the rules two computers must follow to exchange those messages. Protocols can describe low-level details of machine-to-machine interfaces (the order in which bits and bytes are transmitted across a network) or high-level exchanges (how two programs transfer a file across the Internet).


Remote Login
Operating on a remote computer, using a protocol over a computer network, as though locally attached.
Rolling On The Floor Laughing.


Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP or CSLIP)
A protocol used to run IP over serial lines, such as telephone circuits or RS-232 cables, interconnecting two systems. CSLIP indicates that compression is used with the SLIP protocol.

See also: Point-to-Point Protocol.

A provider of resources (e.g., file servers and name servers).
The user interface to an operating environment. Unix has several, including the Bourne shell (sh), the C shell (csh), and the Korn shell (ksh).
The three or four line message at the bottom of an email message or Usenet news article identifying the sender. Large signature files (over five lines)are considered poor "netiquette".
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
A protocol used to transfer electronic mail between computers. SMTP is a server to server protocol, so other protocols are used to access the messages.

See also: Post Office Protocol.

See: Serial Line IP
See: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
A colloquial term referring to the act of posting the same message to several inappropriate newsgroups, or mass-mailing unsolicited email messages to several users.
Informal term for exploring the Internet (i.e., "surfing the 'net."). Most often used in reference to accessing sites on the World Wide Web.
The person responsible for maintenance of a given computer system. Short for "System Operator".


An AT&T term for a digital carrier facility used to transmit a DS-1 formatted digital signal at 1.544 megabits per second.
A term for a digital carrier facility used to transmit a DS-3 formatted signal at 44.746 megabits per second.
A protocol which allows two people on remote computers to communicate in real-time.

See also: Internet Relay Chat.

See: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
TCP/IP Protocol Suite
Transmission Control Protocol over Internet Protocol. This is a common shorthand which refers to the suite of transport and application protocols which run over IP.

See also: IP, TCP, FTP , telnet, SMTP.

The standard Internet protocol for remote terminal connection service.
A series of articles on the same topic, in a Usenet newsgroup.
The Internet Adapter (TIA)
A product that emulates a SLIP or PPP connection over a serial line,allowing shell users to run a SLIP/PPP session thru a Unix dialup account.
"TIA" is also used informally as an abbreviation for "Thanks in advance".
Three Letter Acronym
A variation of the Telnet program that allows a user to logon to IBM mainframes and use the computers as if he or she were using an IBM3270 or similar terminal.
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
An Internet standard transport layer protocol. It is connection-oriented and steam-oriented, as opposed to UDP.
Trojan Horse
A computer program which carries within itself a means to allow the program's creator access to the system using it.
Ta-Ta For Now


See: User Datagram Protocol
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
Uniform Resource Locators provide an absolute location for a given piece of information. URL's are used by web browsers to locate information. The protocol is: protocol://host/path/filename . For example, the URL for the ChicagoNET homepage is
Unix-to-Unix CoPy (UUCP)
This was initially a program run under the Unix operating system that allowed one Unix system to send files to another Unix system via dialup phone lines. Today, the term is more commonly used to describe the large international network which uses the UUCP protocol to pass news and electronic mail.

ChicagoNET's UUCP customers have their own internal networks and purchase email and Usenet news feeds from ChicagoNET.

See: Uniform Resource Locator
A collection of thousands of topically named newsgroups, the computers which run the protocols and the people who read them and submit Usenet news articles. Not all Internet hosts subscribe to Usenet and not all Usenet hosts are on the Internet.

See also: Network News Transfer Protocol, Unix-to-Unix CoPy.

User Datagram Protocol (UDP)
An Internet standard transport layer protocol. It is an unreliable,connectionless-oriented delivery service, as opposed to TCP.
A compression of "user identification"; the userid always proceeds the @ sign in an email address.
See: Unix-to-Unix CoPy
The restoration of uuencoded data to its original form.
The conversion of binary data into a 7-bit ASCII representation using an encoding scheme. Originally implemented to enable users to send such data over UUCP, it is now used to send binary files such as graphics files, user application documents and programs through email and on Usenet.

The uuencode utility (along with its corresponding decoder, uudecode) is available on most Unix machines. Voyager customers have to use third-party software developed for Windows, such as Wincode.

See also: UUdecoding.


A service that maintains an index of titles of items on gopher servers, and provides keyword searches of thosetitles.
A program which replicates itself on computer systems by incorproating itself into other programs which are shared among computer systems.

See also: Trojan Horse, Worm.


See: World Wide Web.
See: Wide Area Information Servers.
An Internet program which allows users to query a database of people and other Internet entities, such as domains, networks and hosts.
Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS)
A distributed information service which offers simple natural language input, indexed searching for fast retrieval and a "relevance feedback" mechanism which allows the results of initial searches to influence future searches. Public domain implementations are available.

See also: Archie, Gopher, Veronica.

Winsock is a TCP/IP stack that allows you to use your modem to send data to/from the Internet. A Winsock interface is required for Windows Internet applications like Netscape, Eudora, Mosaic and manyothers. Winsock allows true Internet networking via modem.
World Wide Web (WWW or W3)
A hypertext-based, distributed information system created by researchers at CERN in Switzerland. Users may create, edit or browse hypertext documents. The clients and servers are freely available.
A computer program which replicates itself and is self-propagating. Worms, as opposed to viruses, are meant to spawn in network environments. Network worms were first defined by Shoch and Hupp of Xerox in ACM Communications (March 1982). The Internet worm of November 1988 is perhaps the most famous; it successfully propagated itself on over 6,000 systems across the Internet.

See also: Trojan Horse, Virus.

See: World Wide Web
What You See Is What You Get.


Email:  Revised: May 1, 2000

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