32 Essential Internet Terms Everyone Must Know

Ben Stegner 05-09-2018

Like any discipline or culture, the internet has all kinds of terms that are foreign to newcomers. Whether you have trouble understanding the language of the web or have seen a new word popping up and wonder what it means, we’re here to help with a glossary of common internet terms.


We’ve explained some internet slang in the past, so this time, we’ll focus on more technical terms and definitions. Let’s get started!

1. 404

One of the most common errors seen online, a 404 simply means that the page you’re looking for doesn’t exist. Typically, you’ll see this when you click a link to a page that’s no longer available or enter an incorrect address into your browser.

2. Add-Ons (Extensions)

Browser add-ons (in Firefox) or extensions (in Chrome) are small pieces of software that provide extra functionality to your browser. They can introduce huge benefits, but are also potential privacy risks.

It’s important to note that add-ons are different than plugins. Plugins, such as Java and Flash Player, are runtimes to access a specific type of content on a page.

3. Anime

While anime is a catch-all Japanese term for animation, the world outside of Japan uses anime to refer specifically to Japanese animation. Anime often has vivid colors and expressive characters. It’s distinct from manga, the term for Japanese comics.


You can watch some great anime on Netflix The 10 Best Anime Series to Watch on Netflix Netflix has an impressive selection of anime shows just waiting to be discovered. In this article we pick the cream of the crop, with 10 anime shows everyone should watch. Read More if you’re interested.

4. Archive

Archiving is the act of removing data from an active environment but keeping it handy in a secondary location. For example, you might archive some old photos by placing them on a secondary hard drive.

Note that archiving and backing up are different. Backing up makes a copy in case of data loss, while archiving is relocating inactive data.

5. Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to the maximum throughput of data, often across a network. The higher the bandwidth, the more activity you can process at once.


For example, if you’re streaming Netflix in 4K on your TV while you download huge files on your PC, your online gaming experience will likely suffer. This is because you only have so much bandwidth, and you’re using most of it for streaming and downloading. Once you finish these activities, your bandwidth is freed up for other uses.

6. Blog

A blog is simply a website that posts frequent content updates for visitors. Blogs can be simple spots where one person posts their thoughts using a free service, or complex websites with teams of authors, similar to an online magazine.

All blogs are websites, but not all websites are blogs. You might also hear the term “microblogging”, which combines the convenience of instant messaging with blogging. Services like Twitter have made it easy to post short snippets to your followers instead of more involved blog posts.

7. Clickbait


Clickbait is a term for content formed or titled in a way that tempts users into clicking it. Usually, clickbait titles use sensational language and promise something amazing if the reader clicks through. Clickbait can also draw out one-sentence pieces of information into an entire article, like in the tweet above.

An example is:

10 Ways Your Computer Is Making You Sick. #7 Is Insane!

People often use the term to refer to any article that they don’t like, which isn’t correct.

8. Cloud

The “cloud” is a common term What Is The Cloud? The Cloud. It's a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. What is the cloud, exactly? Read More for a set of someone else’s servers devoted to an internet service. Dropbox, Gmail, and Office Online are all cloud services because remote servers handle the work instead of your PC.


9. Cookie

A cookie is a small piece of information on your computer that websites use to track your data between sessions. They’re what let you add an item to your cart and return later, or check the Remember me box so you don’t have to sign in every time.

10. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the act of raising money for a new project through donations online. This relies on receiving a small amount of money each from many people. Well-known crowdfunding websites include Kickstarter and GoFundMe.

11. Dark Web

The dark web is a name for websites that you can’t access without special software. These sites aren’t indexed by Google, and are often criminal, vile, or otherwise dangerous.

Not all dark web pages revolve around this though—check out the coolest dark web pages you can visit now The Best Dark Web Websites You Won't Find on Google The dark web isn't for everyone, but it's worth exploring some parts of it. Here are the best dark web websites. Read More .

12. Doxing

Doxing refers to digging up someone’s private information and publishing it on the internet (usually with malicious intent). This obviously opens the person up to danger, sometimes requiring them to move.

13. Embed

Embedding is simply integrating content from one source into another online. A YouTube video or Spotify playlist linked partway through a MakeUseOf article is embedded.

14. Encryption

In simple terms, encryption is the act of scrambling plain text so it’s unreadable to everyone except the intended recipient. Encryption protects your information when you pay online and in many other ways. Check out our guide to encryption How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More for more information.

15. Firewall

A firewall is a type of security software that restricts the network traffic coming in and out of your device. It shields your PC or phone from dangerous packets before they can harm it.

16. Godwin’s Law

Godwin’s law is an old internet maxim that states as an online discussion progresses, the chances increase that someone will bring up a comparison to Hitler. While it sounds silly, it’s fascinating to see it in action on forums, Facebook comment conversations, and similar.

17. Hashtag

A hashtag is a simple form of metadata for posts on social media sites, particularly Twitter and Instagram. It allows you to mark your post so that others can easily find it and others about a specific topic.

Check out our guide on how to use Twitter How to Use Twitter Twitter can be overwhelming at first, but we're here to help you make sense of it. Here's a complete guide to using Twitter and understanding how it works. Read More for more on hashtags.

18. Hotspot

In general, a hotspot refers to a device or location where you can access the internet through Wi-Fi.

Hotspot can also refer to the function of smartphones to broadcast their own Wi-Fi networks using mobile data. Further still, portable hotspots are dedicated devices The 7 Best Portable Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots If you spend more time away from home than at home, you'd be surprised by how useful a portable Wi-Fi hotspot is. It lets you take the internet with you everywhere you go. Read More sold by cell companies that provide Wi-Fi anywhere.

19. HTTP

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is the foundation of today’s web. It provides a procedure for a web browser to request information from a server hosting a website, then display that information to you.

HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP, protects you by encrypting your session.

20. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the name for the expansion of internet connectivity to everyday devices that were previously “dumb.” This includes lights, refrigerators, and thermostats. Unlike computers and phones that humans operate, IoT devices can communicate without our intervention.

Learn more in our explanation of the Internet of Things What Is the Internet of Things? What is the Internet of Things? Here's everything you need to know about it, why it's so exciting, and some of the risks. Read More .

21. IP Address

An IP address is a number assigned to every device that connects to the internet. Each device on your home network has an internal IP address that only your home devices can see. Meanwhile, your entire network has one external IP address that the internet at large views.

22. Lurk

Lurking refers to people who watch an online community, but don’t participate themselves. This might be someone who uses Twitter without an account or checks Reddit every day but never votes or comments.

As it turns out, lurkers are the majority The Lurker Majority: Why You're Not Weird For Reading and Never Posting For every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting. Read More as explained by the 1% rule. This states that only 1% of users in an online community actually create new content.

23. Malware

Malware, a blend of “malicious” and “software”, is a catch-all term for dangerous software. Viruses, Trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, and more are all under its umbrella.

24. Online/Offline

This one’s simple—online means that your computer, phone, or other device is connected to the internet. Conversely, if you’re offline, you don’t have a connection and are thus cut off from the rest of the online world.

25. Paywall

A paywall refers to blocking online content unless you pay for it. If websites can’t cover their costs via advertising or other methods, they often turn to paywalls. Some websites use a soft paywall, where you can view a few articles for free and have to pay afterward. The New York Times is an example.

26. Phishing

Phishing is the practice of tricking people by disguising yourself as a trusted entity in order to steal their personal information. This often comes in the form of phony emails from a “bank” asking you to confirm your information.

Learning how to spot phishing emails How to Spot a Phishing Email Catching a phishing email is tough! Scammers pose as PayPal or Amazon, trying to steal your password and credit card information, are their deception is almost perfect. We show you how to spot the fraud. Read More will help you avoid these attacks.

27. SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of improving your website’s standing in search engines (almost always Google). It involves a variety of internal and external factors, all with the end goal of getting your content to more people.

28. Spam

Spam is the name for unwanted messages online. Email spam is a common form, but spam can also come in repeated messages on forums, “spamdexing” search engine results, junk pages on social media, and various other methods.

29. Sticky Content

In an online forum, sticky content (or “stickied”) refers to a post that the moderators pin to the top of the board. While boards are usually sorted in chronological order, a sticky thread is especially important, containing FAQs or timely information.

Sticky content can also refer to parts of a website intended to keep users coming back.

30. Troll

A troll is someone who intentionally starts arguments or otherwise upsets people online. Typically, trolls do this with off-topic or provocative messages designed to get an emotional response.

31. URL

A URL, or uniform resource locator, is a reference to content somewhere on the web. Entering a URL into your browser’s address bar navigates to that page. Right now, that shows the URL for this article.

32. Wiki

A wiki is a type of website where users collaborate to collect and improve information. The best-known example of this is Wikipedia, but there are thousands of wikis for all sorts of communities. You can also create your own wiki How to Create a Personal Wiki Using Microsoft OneNote A wiki is a great way to store and share large amounts of information. Here's how easy it is to create a wiki with OneNote. Read More around whatever topic you’d like.

Now You’re in the Know

We’ve covered over 30 online terms that every user should know. Hopefully, you now feel more confident about internet lingo and are ready to converse on the web!

For even more like this, check out part two of our internet slang guide 30 More Internet Slang Words and Acronyms You Need to Know These are just some of the slang words and acronyms today's youth is speaking online or in the real world. Add them to your street speak. Read More .

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. dragonmouth
    September 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    "30. Troll"
    TROLL is a term that is all too easily used to delegitimize dissenting or unliked opinions and their posters.

    • Ben Stegner
      September 5, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      Yep, for sure. I think the "art" of trolling has been lost in favor of people using the term to describe someone who disagrees. Like a lot of words lately, it's lost its meaning.

  2. Frank
    September 5, 2018 at 2:45 pm


    • Ben Stegner
      September 5, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      These are both good choices too! I had to cut the list off somewhere :)