Know the Basics: 15 Internet Terms That You Need to Know

The Internet is basically an extremely large, well-organized network of smaller computer networks in every country all over the world. These networks and computers are all connected to each other, and share vast amounts of data via a protocol called TCP/IP​C a technology that enables computers to communicate with one another quickly and efficiently. In your time using the Internet, there are common terms that you’ll come across that we’ll cover in this article; these are fifteen of the basic Internet terms that all savvy Web searchers should familiarize themselves with.

For more information on the history of the Web, how the Web got started, what the Internet is, and what the difference is between the Web and the Internet, read How Did The Web Get Started?.


The acronym WHOIS, a shortened form of the words “who” and “is”, is an Internet utility used to search the large DNS (Domain Name System) database of domain namesIP addresses, and Web servers.

A WHOIS search can return the following information:

  • whether or not a particular domain name has been registered to a person, organization, or business
  • name, address, and phone number of domain name owner
  • technical information about the registered domain or Web server
  • date of purchase and registration of the domain name
  • email addresses

Also Known As: ip lookup, dns lookup, traceroute, domain lookup


In the context of the Web, a password is a set of letters, numbers, and/or special characters combined into one word or phrase, intended to authenticate one user’s entry, registration, or membership on a Web site. The most useful passwords are ones that are not easily guessed, kept secret, and intentionally unique.


domain name is the unique, alphabetically-based part of a URL. This domain name can be officially registered with a domain registrar by a person, business, or non-profit organization. A domain name consists of two parts:

  1. The actual alphabetical word or phrase; for example, “widget”
  2. The top level domain name that designates what kind of site it is; for example, .com (for commercial domains), .org (organizations), .edu (for educational institutions).

Put these two parts together and you have a domain name: ““.


The acronym SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. SSL is a secure encryption Web protocol used to make data safe when transmitted over the Internet.

SSL is especially utilized on shopping sites to keep financial data secure but is also used on any site that requires sensitive data (such as a password).

Web searchers will know that SSL is being utilized on a Web site when they see HTTPS in the URL of a Web page.


The term crawler is just another word for spider and robot. These are basically software programs that crawl the Web and index site information for search engine databases.

Proxy Server

proxy server is a Web server that acts as a shield for Web searchers, hiding relevant information (network address, location, etc.) from Web sites and other networked users. In the context of the Web, proxy servers are used to aid in anonymous surfing, whereby a proxy server acts as a buffer between the searcher and the intended Web site, allowing users to view information without being tracked.

Temporary Internet Files

Temporary Internet files are very important in the context of Web search. Every Web page a searcher visits stores data (pages, videos, audio, etc.) in a specific file folder on their computer’s hard drive. This data is cached so that the next time the searcher visits that Web page, it will load quickly and efficiently since much of the data has already been loaded via the temporary Internet files rather than from the Web site’s server.

Temporary Internet files can eventually take up quite a bit of memory space on your computer, so it’s important to clear them out once in a while. See How to Manage Your Internet History for more information.


Each Web site has a unique address on the Web, known as a URL. Each web site has a URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, assigned to it.


firewall is a security measure designed to keep unauthorized computers, users, and networks from accessing data on another computer or network. Firewalls are especially important to Web searchers since they can potentially protect the user from malicious spyware and hackers encountered while online.


The acronym TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP is the basic set of protocols for sending data over the Internet.


The term offline refers to being disconnected to the Internet. Many people use the term “offline” to refer to do something outside of the Internet as well, for example, a conversation started on Twitter could be continued at a local coffee shop, aka, “offline”.

Alternate Spellings: off-line

Examples: A group of people discuss their latest fantasy sports picks on a popular message board. When the conversation gets heated over a local sports coach’s choice of players, they decide to take the conversation “offline” in order to clear the boards for a more relevant topic of conversation.

Web Hosting

A web host is a business/company that offers space, storage, and connectivity in order to enable a website to be viewed by Internet users.

Web hosting typically refers to the business of hosting space for active websites. A web hosting service provides space on a web server, as well as a direct Internet connection, so the website can be viewed and interacted with by anyone with a connection to the Internet.

There are many different kinds of web hosting, anything from a basic one-page site that needs only a small bit of space, all the way up to enterprise class customers who require entire data centers for their services.

Many web hosting companies provide a dashboard for customers that allows them to control different aspects of their web hosting services; this includes FTP, different content management system installs, and service package extensions.


hyperlink, known as the most basic building block of the World Wide Web, is a link from one document, image, word, or Web page that links to another on the Web. Hyperlinks are how we are able to “surf”, or browse, pages and information on the Web quickly and easily.

Hyperlinks are the structure on which the Web is built.

Web Server

The term Web server refers to a specialized computer system or dedicated server specifically designed to host or deliver Web sites.

IP Address

An IP address is the signature address/number of your computer as it is connected to the Internet. These addresses are given out in country-based blocks, so (for the most part) an IP address can be used to identify where the computer is originating from.