It can feel as though the internet brings with it a whole new language full of technical terms designed to confuse most users. You could learn pages and pages of new words related to the internet, but simply learning some of the most commonly used ones is enough to help you navigate the World Wide Web with confidence:

Adware – advertising software which automatically displays or downloads advertising material, such as banners or pop-ups on a website.

Bandwidth – bandwidth refers to the data speed supported by a network connection. It is most commonly expressed in ‘bps’ or bits per second.  The wider the bandwidth, the more data that can be transferred in a given amount of time and the faster your internet connection will be.

Browser (often called a web browser or an internet browser) – a program used to access the internet, such as Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari.

Blog – short for weblog. A blog is a web page that is regularly updated with informal contributions (‘posts’) displayed in chronological order, and is usually run by one individual.

Broadband – any high speed connection to the internet.

Dial-up – an internet connection that is run through a telephone connection, except that the parties on each end of the line are computers instead of people. This type of connection is usually much slower than broadband.

Downloading – the process of copying a file from a website to the hard drive of your computer.

Email – short for ‘electronic mail’. An email program allows you to create and send messages from your email address to another person’s email address via the internet, and to read and store messages that others send to you.

Email virus – a harmful computer program that uses email messages as transportation. This type of virus will typically copy itself by automatically mailing itself to everyone in the victim’s email address book.

Encryption – encryption is a way of coding information sent over the internet so that it cannot be read by an unauthorised third party. You must have access to a secret key or password to read an encrypted file. Encryption is an effective way of ensuring that data, such as information sent over an online shopping site, is secure.

Firewall – A system that prevents unauthorised access to or from a private network. Firewalls can be hardware or software, or a combination of both.

Hack – hacking means to gain unauthorised access to someone’s computer, online accounts and information.

HTML – Hypertext Mark-up Language, the coding language used to create web pages.

IP address – Stands for internet protocol address. A string of four numbers separated by full stops (such as used to identify a computer using the internet.

Internet service providers (ISP) – a company that provides access to the internet, such as Telstra, BigPond or TPG.

Malware – short for ‘malicious software’. Software designed to damage your computer.

Phishing – email fraud where someone sends you a legitimate-looking email that looks like it comes from a trustworthy website, such as your bank, designed to elicit your personal and financial information.

Spam – electronic junk mail sent without your consent and which often contains offers, prizes, or promises of wealth.

Spyware – software that collects personal information about users without their consent, such as recording keyboard strokes and browsing history and scanning documents on the computer’s hard drive. This technology may be used to intercept passwords or credit card numbers when users enter them into forms on websites.

Virus – a software program capable of reproducing itself that can harm computer files and programs.

Url – the web browser addresses of websites and files.


Further information:

Broadband for Seniors has a detailed glossary of internet and computer terms designed for older people.

If you need to brush up on your knowledge of general computer terms, the US National Institute on Ageing has produced an illustrated glossary specially designed for older people.


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