Internet jargon-buster

Internet jargon-buster

Thursday, 13 December, 2018

The technical nature of computing generates a huge amount of internet jargon, which quickly becomes confusing.

If you don’t know your HTML from your HTTP, our guide to internet jargon might make sense of the terms casually bandied around by ISPs and SEO experts.

(Don’t worry – all these acronyms are explained below)

A beginner’s guide to internet jargon

  1. ADSL

    Short for ‘Asymmetric digital subscriber line’, ADSL is the most basic broadband technology still widely used today and arrives at your router through normal telephone lines. Usually rather slow with maximum speeds around 17Mbps (but 1 or 2Mbps is more typical). ADSL is available almost everywhere and tnds to be the cheapest type of broadband, but doesn’t stand up well to modern internet speed requirements like HD video streaming or online gaming.

  2. Cable

    High-speed ‘coaxial’ cables mixing fibre-optic and copper wiring, buried underground and delivering high-speed internet connectivity into homes. Currently used only by Virgin Media broadband, and available to around 60% of UK addresses. Offers speeds up to around 300Mbps.

  3. Captcha

    Annoying graphical puzzles on web forms, intended to prove you’re not an automated bot. Captchas range from typing in letter strings to selecting pictures in a grid.

  4. Cookies

    Small files created when you visit a website, storing basic information for future visits. Used for marketing purposes, like saving account details and login credentials.

  5. Domain name

    Website have unique domain names – ours is ‘’. The final part is a Top Level Domain, identifying a country (.uk) or chosen industry (.cafe).

  6. Exchange

    You walk past these green pavement utility boxes all the time. Broadband and telephone data signals arrive here, before being directed to individual dwellings.

  7. Firewall

    The term describing a buffer between a computer and the internet. Firewalls block malicious code like viruses, and some will improve your personal privacy.

  8. FTTC

    An abbreviation of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet, or local exchange. Broadband data arrives at the cabinet by very fast fibre-optic cables, and is sent on to your property through slower copper phone lines. This is the most widely-available type of fibre-optic broadband provision, offering faster speeds than old-fashioned ADSL broadband, but slower than the less widely-available FTTP or Cable types. Usually offers speeds anywhere from around 20Mbps up to around 76Mbps

  9. FTTP

    An abbreviation of Fibre-to-the-Premises. This is superior to FTTC because the final leg of data’s journey to your broadband router is continued at the same high speed along fibre cables rather than the slower copper cables. Often offers speeds in excess of 1Gbps (1000Mbps).

  10. Gigabit (Gb)

    See Megabit (Mb) below.

  11. Hosting

    The process of storing information on a publicly-accessible network, so anyone can view it. Websites need to be hosted, as do online games, YouTube videos, etc.

  12. HTML

    HyperText Markup Language is the internet’s core programming language. Most websites are written in the latest HTML5 format, which is simple and streamlined.

  13. HTTP

    This abbreviation forms the start of any website address. The HyperText Transfer Protocol regulates how data is distributed across the internet.

  14. Hyperlink

    Usually underlined or written in a different colour to other webpage text, clicking on a hyperlink transports you from one webpage to another.

  15. IP address

    An Internet Protocol address is a quartet of numbers, like It identifies a specific internet-enabled hub, server or broadband router.

  16. ISP

    Your Internet Service Provider will be responsible for piping data to and from your home. ISPs often bundle in services like landlines and TV services with broadband.

  17. Malware

    Malicious software is any code or program intended to cause harm to its recipients. A virus is a type of malware, and people often use these terms interchangeably.

  18. Megabit (Mb)

    Data is transmitted in binary units of zeroes and ones, known as a ‘bit’. This is such a small unit that a million bits, or Megabit, is generally used to record data transfer speeds in Megabits-per-second (Mbps). The term Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) is used when referring to speeds over 1000Mbps.

  19. Megabyte (MB)

    There are eight bits in a byte, and a million bytes in a megabyte. Bytes are the preferred unit of measurement for file sizes when stored, rather than data being transmitted – a typical MP3 file will be around 5MB and would take about 40 seconds to download on a 1Mbps connection.

  20. Phishing

    Any form of unsolicited digital communications intended to acquire personal information, so criminals can make financial gain. Phishing is a form of malware.

  21. Router

    When broadband arrives into your home, it needs to be served to individual devices. Routers send data down hardwired Ethernet connections, or wirelessly across WiFi.

  22. SEO

    Search Engine Optimisation ensures a website ranks highly in Google and Bing search results. SEO involves a constantly evolving blend of attributes and techniques.

  23. Server

    Web data and online content is stored on huge disc drives known as servers. Hosted in secure warehouses, space is sold by the megabyte to anyone requiring hosting.

  24. Streaming

    There are two ways to view online media. One is to download it in full, while the other involves watching it as it downloads. The latter process is called streaming.

  25. Upload speed

    Video calls, sending emails and playing games all involve uploading data to the internet, rather than simply downloading it. Most broadband connections are asymmetric, meaning that Upload speeds tend to be fairly low compared to download speeds, often only a few Mbps.

  26. URL

    A Uniform Resource Locator identifies a specific webpage on the internet. Each page needs a unique address, so web browsers like Chrome and Safari can find it.

  27. WiFi

    A ‘Wireless Fidelity’ network distributes digital data across the Radio Frequency spectrum. It’s how broadband routers communicate wirelessly with your devices.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is an expert tech writer. He's written hundred's of Guides to all things broadband!

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