Lost in Cyberspeak? Basic terms you should know

Cartoon of people speaking computer jargon.

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If you’ve ever wondered what the fuss surrounding hashtags is all about, or if somebody asked you to “PM” them and you didn’t know what to do, then this article is for you.

Cyberspeak are “terms or jargon commonly used in communications through or referring to technology” (Urban dictionary). Simply put, these are words relating to computers or the Internet. To prevent yourself from looking like a noob (a person who doesn’t want to learn), here are some of the most used terms you should know:

  1. Cyber– anything relating to computers, information technology, and virtual reality. Examples: cyberspace is the online or internet environment; cyber security pertains to protecting your information while online; cybercrimes are illegal activities done online like hacking (see definition below), cyber bullying, or email scams.
  2. App – short for application. An app is a small, specialized software program that has a special function. Examples: Duolingo (language app), DigiCal (calendar app), Waze (navigational app). These can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device.
  3. Blog – thoughts, opinions, experiences related by a person or group, written in informal or conversational style. It is regularly published online. Blog is short for “web log,” a version of an online journal.
  4. DM or PM – abbreviation for Direct Message or Personal Message. A private note or conversation between two or more people or select members of a group.
  5. Emoticons – a group of characters in online messaging used to convey feelings or facial expressions.
  6. FAQ – short for Frequently Asked Questions. Before joining a forum, social media group, or an online chat, it would be helpful to read the FAQ to learn the group’s do’s and don’ts.
  7. Flame – (noun/verb) an internet post or message that insults someone. A flame is usually a quick, aggressive response to an online post.
  8. Follow – on Twitter, this means to see the tweets (see meaning below) of those you choose to follow in your personal timeline. Other Twitter users can also follow you.
  9. Hacking – originally, this term meant clever technical work done by computer programmers. Today, it connotes unauthorized access to a computer network with the intent to steal information.
  10. Hashtag – a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign (#) to identify or group messages relating to a certain topic. Hot topics or popular trends use a common hashtag when mentioned in social media. It is also a way to make posts easily searchable.
  11. Podcast – a digital audio file or recording that you can download. It can be a radio show, news or interview. The word “podcast” is a combination of iPod (Apple’s popular audio player) and broadcast.
  12. Post – to publish a message, comment, picture or video online.
  13. Surf (the net) – to look or browse through various sites or content on the Internet.
  14. Timeline – it is composed of online posts or updates in social media accounts arranged in reverse chronological order. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, you can see your personal timeline when you click on your profile.
  15. Troll – (noun and verb) a person who agitates Internet users by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages or comments for their amusement. Trolls usually start arguments and debates. “Trolling” is when a person deliberately provokes others into an emotional response (don’t be a troll!).
  16. Tweet – posts on Twitter. Tweets are limited to 140 characters (including spaces).
  17. URL – short for Uniform Resource Locator. It is simply the Internet address of a site.
  18. Viral – Not to be confused with a computer virus, which is a piece of code that can spread inside a computer destroying data. In cyberspeak, to go viral is to become popular by circulating quickly from person to person. In short, a computer virus is bad news, a viral video on YouTube is great news.
  19. Virtual – in cyberspeak, virtual means existing in cyberspace. It is something that does not exist physically but is simulated through software in a computer system.
  20. World Wide Web (the Web) – this is used interchangeably with the word “Internet” but it actually has a different meaning. The Web is a way of accessing information on the Internet while the Internet is a massive network of networks that connects millions of computers globally. The Web is just a portion of the Internet. For instance, you use the Internet to send an email, not the Web (Webopedia).

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Community Resources

Want to know more tech terms? Read Top 50 tech terms that are now common expressions from Netlingo.

The Immigrant Centre offers free computer training no matter what skill level you are at. They teach computer basics, Internet use, email, online employment applications, Skype and Microsoft Office programs. How to register.

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