Dictionary of online terms
From apps to Zoom, and devices to YouTube. If you’re coming across new words for the first time, our A-Z of online terms explains what they mean.
A – F
The address bar is at the top of your web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome). It’s where the address of a webpage (or URL) appears. You can type a web address straight into the address bar, for example, typing ‘www.ageuk.org.uk’ will take you to our website.
The software that some phones and tablets use to function. It’s known as a type of operating system. Phones and tablets from lots of different brands fall into the bracket of an Android device, including Alcatel, Google, HTC, LG, Moto, Samsung and Sony.
Software that detects and prevents known computer viruses from attacking your device.
A type of computer program that you can download for your computer, tablet, or mobile phone. There are hundreds of different apps available that do lots of different things, from playing games and puzzles, to allowing you to access your bank account. You download apps from Google Play Store if you have an Android phone or tablet, or the App Store if you have an Apple device.
A brand of phone and tablet. Apple phones are known as iPhones, and their tablets are iPads. If your device isn’t Apple, it’s likely to be an Android device.
Files, such as photos, documents or programs, which are sent along with an email.
The amount of data that can be transferred through your internet connection. If your bandwidth is low, it could mean that webpages load slowly, or you might struggle to watch videos online without waiting for them to load.
Bluetooth is a type of wireless technology used to connect one device to another, for example, connecting your phone to a speaker to play music.
Broadband is a generic term for the internet connection which allows you to access the internet. To get home broadband, you will need to set up a contract with a broadband provider (such as BT, TalkTalk or Virgin to name just a few) who will charge you for the equipment needed to connect your smartphone, tablet or computer to the internet.
The computer software or app you use to access the internet. Examples include Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Safari.
Catfishing is when someone sets up a fake online profile to trick people who are looking for love, usually to get money out of them.
This allows you to save photos, videos and files to a storage area on the internet, rather than taking up space on your device. Examples of cloud storage include Google Photos, Google Drive and Dropbox.
Most websites pop-up with a message asking you to ‘accept cookies’. A cookie is a small piece of data that is stored on your computer, smartphone or tablet when you visit a website. They allow the website to track information about your activity on the website, such as how many times you have visited and how long you spent on the website. You don’t have to accept cookies, but it might mean that you can’t access some websites.
It uses mobile data, measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB), to use the internet on your phone or tablet if you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. Most phone and tablet contracts have monthly allowances for data usage. Once you use up your allowance, you might get charged for additional usage, or you might not be able to use mobile data until your allowance renews the next month.
This is a catch-all term for smartphones, tablets or computers.
To transfer files or data stored on the internet onto your smartphone, tablet or computer. For example, you might download a picture that a friend has sent you over email, download a document to read from a trusted website or download an app from the online app store.
Electronic mail or email is a free and easy way to stay in touch with family and friends, and the main way that organisations and companies will communicate with you. Popular email providers include Google Mail (commonly known as Gmail), Outlook and Yahoo.
If an app or a website is encrypted, this means that all the communication between you and the website is secure and can’t be read by anyone else. Encrypted websites have web addresses that start with ‘https’. The ‘s’ stands for secure.
Facebook is a popular social media platform. It allows you to create a personal profile where you can share your thoughts, pictures, videos and interests on your ‘timeline’ with your friends and family.
G – K
Google is the most popular search engine on the internet and allows you to find websites and ask questions. You can visit www.google.com then type in some keywords to find out information. Someone might tell you to ‘google’ something, which means to look up information online.
An attempt to gain unauthorised access to a computer or account.
Computer hardware describes the physical parts of a computer, including the screen, mouse and keyboard.
Most web addresses start with ‘http’ or ‘https’. It refers to how the information is shared over the internet. Make sure the website you’re using starts with ‘https’ if you’re entering personal or financial details. The ‘s’ stands for secure.
An image or symbol which represent an app or function on your phone, tablet or computer screen. You usually ‘tap’ on an icon to open an app.
The virtual folder in your email account where any emails you receive are stored.
Instagram is a popular social media platform used for photo sharing. It allows you to create a personal profile where you can share photos with friends and family on your ‘Instagram feed’.
IOS is the software that Apple phones and tablets (iPhones and iPads) use to function. It’s known as a type of operating system.
L – P
Link (or Hyperlink)
Text, an image or a button that you can click or tap on in order to access a website. The link may be blue in colour and underlined, and may include wording such as ‘click here for more information’ or ‘find out more’.
If you have set up an online account for anything including email, banking, shopping or social media, you will need to use a username (often your email address) and password to access the account. This is known as logging in.
Malware is short for ‘malicious software’. A general term describing software that can cause harm to your computer through spreading computer viruses or accessing your personal information.
Mobile data enables your phone to get online when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. It’s measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB), and you will usually have a mobile data usage limit.
This refers to anything using the internet. For example, online shopping or online banking uses a website or an app, rather than doing the activity in person or over the phone.
The software that manages different programs on a computer, phone or tablet. Examples include Android for certain smartphones (like Samsung, Google, Sony, LG and Moto) and iOS for Apple devices.
An online account that you link to your bank account or payment card which allows you to pay for online purchases.
An attempt at identity theft in which criminals direct users to a fake website to trick them into disclosing private information, such as usernames or passwords.
A small window that suddenly appears (or ‘pops up’) on a webpage, usually an advertisement or an alert.
A description that may include your personal details and is used to identify you on a social networking website. This can be set as public (viewed by everyone) or private (only viewed by certain people).
A computer program is a catch-all term for something that runs on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Examples include apps on your phone and tablet, video calling programs like Skype and Zoom, or anti-virus programs. You might also see them described as ‘software’.
Q – U
A device that connects your computer, phone or tablet to a broadband-enabled telephone line and sends out your home internet signal.
Search engines enable you to find websites and ask questions on the internet. Popular search engines include Google and Bing. You can type in some keywords to find out information or access websites. Someone might tell you to ‘google’ something, which means to look up information online using a search engine.
A secure website is encrypted, which means that the communication between you and the website is private and can’t be read by anyone else who might be trying to access personal or financial information. These websites have web addresses which start with ‘https’. The ‘s’ stands for secure.
This is a piece of information on a website which shows the website is what it claims to be, and that the website is secure. A security certificate is also known as a digital certificate or a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate.
Skype is a type of video calling software. You can either install it as an app on your phone, tablet or computer, or you can access it through your internet browser.
A mobile phone which, as well as making calls and sending texts, can connect to the internet to do lots of different things, from sending emails, reading the news, playing games and puzzles, and banking or shopping online.
Social media, or social networks, are online communities where you can connect with friends, family and other people who share your interests. Examples include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Software is a catch-all term for something that runs on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Examples include apps on your phone and tablet, video calling programs like Skype and Zoom, or anti-virus programs. You might also see them described as ‘programs’.
A commercial email that you did not request, also known as junk mail.
An unwanted program that runs on your computer, which can make it slow and unreliable or make you a target for online criminals. Anti-spyware software helps protect your computer against security threats caused by spyware and other unwanted software.
Tabs are at the very top of your internet browser. You can click on the ‘+’ symbol to open a new tab, where you can visit a different website without losing access to the webpage you’re on. Some apps might also have tabs at or near the top, which you can click or tap on to switch between different parts of the app.
A handheld device with a touchscreen which can connect to the internet and be used as a portable computer.
Twitter is a popular social networking site that enables you to create a profile and post short public messages known as ‘tweets’.
To transfer files or data stored on your smartphone, tablet or computer to the internet. For example, you might upload a picture to social media or cloud storage.
The URL is the address of a webpage, for example, ‘www.ageuk.org.uk’. You type the URL into the address bar at the top of your web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome) to visit a website.
V – Z, 0 – 10
Programs that spread from one computer to another by email or through malicious websites. They can slow your computer down, display unwanted pop-up messages and even delete files.
A video camera that allows other people to see you on video calls, such as Skype or Zoom. Most smartphones, tablets and computers have inbuilt webcams (sometimes referred to as just cameras), but if you have an older computer you might need to buy a separate webcam.
Webpages provide information through text, images and videos, and are displayed on your web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. Websites are made up of hundreds of webpages, just a book made of pages.
A set of related webpages owned by one person or organisation. For example, Age UK’s website is made up of hundreds of individual webpages on different topics, but all the webpages begin with ‘www.ageuk.org.uk’. You visit websites on your web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.
An app that allows you to message friends and family, make phone calls and voice calls, and send and receive photos and videos. It uses your internet connection rather than your text or call allowances.
Also known as Wi-Fi, this is a way for your computer to connect to the internet without using wires or cables. You can access public Wi-Fi networks, or arrange a contract with an internet provider who will provide you with the equipment needed to set up your own Wi-Fi network.
YouTube is a popular and free video-sharing website. It contains millions of videos, uploaded by individuals and organisations. You can use it to watch documentaries, music videos, tutorials, funny videos and much more.
Zoom is a type of video calling software. You can either install it as an app or your phone, tablet or computer, or you can access it through your internet browser.
Mobile data that you can use on your phone or tablet without using Wi-Fi is transmitted uses 3G or 4G. The higher the number, the faster the connection. 5G will be the next technology available and stands for ‘fifth generation’ network.