A Glossary of Internet Terms You Should Know

The Internet has been around for so long that there are people who have had Internet access their entire lives. We have become so used to it that we take a lot of the specifics about it for granted. Then when we have to deal directly with those specifics, we’ve either forgotten them or never learned them at all. 

What Internet terms do you need to know? What do you need to know about the Internet? 


Most of the time getting online is just “plug and play.” When it comes to troubleshooting or maintenance, however, there is a lot of jargon. Familiar words don’t mean what we think they do and there are many acronyms that most people know, but don’t know what they mean. 

Learning about the Internet can sometimes seem like learning a new language, even without learning how to code. Those who don’t use them every day might need a glossary of Internet terms to help navigate online safely. 

Here are some of the most common.

Getting Online

When you set up Internet service in your home or office, there are a few terms you should know right away. As you shop for your connection and compare plans and prices, consider how you are going to use it so you can cover all your online needs.

Internet

The Internet is a series of computers and data storage centers that are all connected in a vast web that covers the entire world. The term actually simply means that computers are networked together, and the original Internet, called ARPANET, only had four. As more homes began to buy personal computers, and more of those computers connected to the network with telephone lines, this small network expanded into what is now called the World Wide Web. 

Modems and Routers

A modem translates data into the images on your computer screen. A router sends that data to multiple devices in your Internet connection through either an Ethernet cable or a WiFi connection. Most modern modems have routers and WiFi built in. You can buy your own or lease one from your Internet service provider.

Networks

Computers and devices that connect to the Internet all do so in different ways, depending on the device and its use. These connections are called networks, and there are many types.

  • PAN, or personal area network, is your computer system and all the things attached to it.
  • LAN stands for local area network, which is everything on your router, and therefore on your Internet connection.
  • Your Internet connection most likely has a Wi-Fi network, which allows wireless devices to connect to your home Internet. There are different types of WiFi networks that are structured in different ways.
  • An Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem is the use of a wireless network to connect smart devices to each other to automate your home.
  • Municipal area networks are provided as a utility by some cities. City planning can also support IoT ecosystems.
  • WAN means wide area network, and usually refers to all the area an Internet provider services. The biggest wide area network is the World Wide Web.

Broadband and Bandwidth

The Internet is transmitted as data through DSL, cable, satellite, or fiber optic signals. Wider signals can send more data, which makes it seem faster, but is actually bandwidth. Internet bandwidth has widened so much since the dial-up days that we’ve gone from simple chat applications to conference calls with full video and audio. When shopping for Internet, more broadband means more devices can move data efficiently on your connection.

Uploads and Downloads

The reason broadband makes the Internet seem “fast” is because your computer both sends and receives data when you’re online. The more devices are using the connection, the more data is being sent. When a device is sending data, it is called an upload, and receiving data is called downloading. 

Fast, reliable Internet ensures that you can do both smoothly and without interruption. When your connection to a web page slows down or drops, it is because of disruptions in the flow of data. These could be caused by weather, accidents, outsiders “borrowing” your WiFi signal, or a need for faster Internet speeds.

Types of Internet Service

Each type of Internet service transmits data using different methods. Data moves in blocks called packets, and the amount of data in a packet is measured in bytes. 

    • Dialup was the standard for home connections when the first became common. The modem used the copper telephone lines connected to our homes to call the Internet so users could connect. Modern dialup modems transfer around 50 kilobytes (kb, which is 1,000 bytes) of data per second. That’s not very fast because the Internet now moves trillions upon trillions of bytes of data, so dialup isn’t very common anymore.
    • DSL is wiring dedicated to the Internet and connected to the copper wiring inside each home. These wires usually carry around 20 megabytes of data per second but can reach up to 100. Megabytes per second, or Mbps, are currently the most common unit of measurement for data speeds. One megabyte of data is equal to 1,000 kilobytes.
    • Cable Internet also relies on wires laid in the ground, but they are instead hooked up to the home’s cable connection. Cable can carry up to 500 Mbps of data, but most home cable connections are around 100 Mbps.
    • Satellite Internet is delivered without wires, so it is great for reaching remote and rural locations. Users have a satellite dish installed outside their home and connected to their modem. Most satellite connections are around 25 Mb, and as long as your dish is installed at your location, you can carry your Internet account anywhere you have a view of the southern sky.
  • Fiber optic can reach up to 1 gigabyte per second (Gbps), which is 1,000 Mbps. It is offered  by both cable and telephone providers and uses fiber optic cables to transmit data. Fiber optic is more common in densely-populated areas because it uses different, more advanced wires that have to be buried underground.
  • 5G is the latest evolution of Internet communications technology. It is spread by small short-wave antennas that are placed close together to disperse the signal to many other antennas at once. 5G is a mostly wireless technology, designed to make it easier for wireless devices to communicate with their plugged-in counterparts.

Getting Around On the Internet

Once you’re online, the next step is to learn to navigate the Internet. How do you find websites, and what do you need to know to stay safe?

IP Address

Each computer has an address which is assigned by their Internet Service Provider, or ISP. It is a string of numbers that identifies your computer on the network. It’s not the same as your electronic mail, or email, address. It is simply an identification number for your network connection. Everything you do online is generated from this address. 

Web Browser

Your computer probably also has a web browser installed, such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Apple Safari. Your web browser is your gateway to all the websites on the Internet. At the top of your browser is an entry field called an address bar, where you can type in either search terms or a “universal resource locator” (URL), which most of us know as a web address.

Search Engine

If you don’t know exactly where to find what you are looking for, you can enter some keywords into the address bar. Most browsers will take you to a web page that indexes other webpages for you, called a search engine. When you type a topic into a search engine or the address bar of your browser, it will search the web for pages relating to your inquiry and list them for you.

Domains

When you search for a web address, you are searching for a specific domain on the web. Domains are collections of web pages under one heading, and the Domain Name System, or DNS, is how those web addresses are organized. A website’s name comes in different parts:

  • HTTP or HTTPS, which is the language the Internet uses to exchange data. HTTPS means the data is encrypted, or secured.
  • WWW, which stands for World Wide Web.
  • The name of the website. For example, Google is www.google.com.
  • A suffix that identifies the nature of the site, such as .com, .org, .gov, or .edu.
  • Additional suffixes called subdirectories, which are similar to telephone extensions in that they direct you to a specific place on the site.

HyperText Markup Language, or HTML, is the most common programming language used to make web pages. Unless you want to learn how to be a software developer, it’s not necessary to know code to use the Internet, but HTML is an acronym users will often see.

Cache and Cookies

Two of the most common reasons for laggy Internet are your browser’s cache and cookies. The cache is a collection of small files that represent every website you’ve ever visited. It helps make sites you’ve visited easier to find by automatically filling the address bar as you type. Cookies are bits of information from specific websites that store your information so you can access your accounts easily. 

Cache and cookies are very small, but over time, they add up. The folder that stores them sometimes needs to be emptied because it takes up memory on your computer as the browser loads all this data each time you have it open. If you have websites you want to bookmark or passwords you want to remember, you should write them down or store them in a password manager.

Hyperlink

Sometimes a web page has links embedded in them that go to other pages. These are called hyperlinks. Sometimes they are embedded in pictures and icons, and they can often be found linked to text in articles and emails. This is an example of a hyperlink. You can always check where a hyperlink’s destination is by putting your mouse cursor over it.

Online Security

Being online means being careful. We share a lot of data online, from vacation pictures on social media to credit card information for web-based services and online shopping. Hackers have a lot of sneaky ways to steal information using our data. To prevent identity theft, it’s important to keep your computer safe. Here are a few terms you should know.

Malware

One way hackers try to steal our data is with computer programs that attack our security system. The most well-known of these are viruses, but malware is an umbrella term for all of these malicious programs. They are usually attached to downloadable files and install themselves on your computer. 

Many ISPs offer addons that include protection from malware called antivirus software. As operating systems such as Windows become more sophisticated with each upgraded version, they are also including antivirus software.

Phishing

Another common way hackers try to compromise your Internet security is by sending phony emails with hyperlinks in them. This scam is called phishing. These emails are often urgent calls to action, with a link to a fake site the receiver is instructed to visit. Some of these phishing websites look so real that people are tricked into thinking they are the real thing and give away sensitive information. 

Password Protection

All the accounts you set up on your computer, from your Internet account to your video game accounts, will require you to set up a password. Since many people do business online with both banking and shopping, it is important to safeguard your home network with a strong password. Password protection refers to backup functions that protect accounts from being compromised. A few forms of password protection include:

  • Security questions, which you set up when you set up the account. If you lose your password, you will be prompted to answer them to prove the account is yours.
  • Password managers are applications that store all your password information in one handy place. Many browsers have them, and for even more security there are also subscription password management apps. You can access all your accounts using one login, and in many cases the password manager will create encrypted passwords for you.
  • Two-factor authentication is the use of a second device to confirm your login. Often it contacts your cell phone when someone tries to login to your account. Some authenticators require a response before they allow users onto the site.
  • Biometrics are becoming very popular. Cell phones and some types of computer inputs can read features of our bodies, such as our faces or fingerprints, which serves as a confirmation that only we are accessing our accounts. What used to be the realm of sci-fi secret bases is now standard on many 5G cell phones.

Find Your Perfect Connection

The Internet is easy to learn about, and getting easier by the day as technology evolves. We can talk to our computers, have appliances that place orders to restock themselves, and even work at jobs or attend schools in faraway places from the comfort of our homes. 

A basic understanding of the Internet can help consumers make informed decisions about their Internet connections by making comparing plans easier. So does going here and typing in your zip code, or calling 1-833-933-2468. You know what to look for, so find the right plan for your needs today!