Thursday, November 08, 2007

On the Web: Defining Some Terms

Global InternetI've spoken with a few networking contacts and prospects lately and I've discovered that there is some confusion as to the entities which govern how we interact with the Web. So, without further ado, here are a few of the terms a website owner should know:

  1. The Internet: The Internet is a worldwide network of computers upon which a variety of services (like email, the Web, etc) can be run.
  2. The World Wide Web or the Web: One of many services which run on the Internet. This particular service provides text and graphics in a particular format which can be displayed by programs called browsers (see below). One way to think of the difference between the Internet and the Web is by thinking of the Internet as an elementary school building. The Web would correspond to the group of teachers and students who make up the fourth grade.
  3. Internet Service Provider (ISP): This actually has nothing to do with your website. This is how you connect the computer on your desk to the Internet. You might have "broadband" or "high-speed" service from your cable company, like Comcast, or "DSL" service from your phone company. You need an ISP in order to surf the Web or retrieve email.
  4. Hosting Service or Web Hosting Service: This is where your website lives. This is a company which has a whole bunch of computers called "servers" (imagine your desktop computer, but way more powerful and without a computer monitor). Your website is stored as a bunch of computer files on one of these servers. When someone goes to your website, the computer on their desk makes a connection to the server at the hosting service and requests the page that they want to view.
  5. Browser: A browser is a computer program which runs on your computer. It might be called Internet Explorer or Firefox or Safari, but essentially when you want to look at a particular web page, this program makes the connection I mentioned above, retrieves the files for the page and then turns those files into the pictures and text which you see on your computer screen.
  6. Domain Name: Think of this as the address for your website, your email, etc. So, in my case, "" is the domain name for my company website.
  7. Registrar: OK, this one is a little more complicated. Essentially, the registrar is the company with whom you register your domain name. By registering your domain name you are telling the world which hosting service is storing your website. This gets a little confusing because the same company which provides your hosting service can be quite often your registrar also, but they are not necessarily linked. If you ever decide to move your website to a new hosting service, you have to contact your registrar to do so. Usually this can be done fairly easily through an online form.
Those are some of the more commonly confused terms that I've heard. Perhaps you've encountered some yourself. Let me know if there are any other confusing terms or phrases which you think should be included in this list.

So, in your line of work, what terms are often confusing to your prospects or clients?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You really should do some definitions of website statistics. With everyone getting hooked on SEO these days, some are getting confused about the difference between "hits" and "unique visitors" and their significance.

Thanks for clearing up the confusion!