dictionary

  • Ajax– short for “Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, Ajax was coined by Jesse James Garrett to describe the new approach/set of technologies that improve users’ interaction with websites by having apps retrieve data from servers asynchronously without interfering with the existing page. A good example of an Ajax-powered app is Google Maps.
  • Application Programming Interface (API) – an interface that lets anybody access the code of a website or service and build his or her own applications on top of it.
  • Cloud Computing – using technologies/software that operate as Internet services, meaning that they’re accessible over the Internet and store data on web servers. Examples include Skype, Twitter, and Google Docs.
  • Data provenancetracing the path of data through databases back to its origin, which is a good way of ensuring its quality. It should sound familiar to journalists – you ALWAYS write down where you heard something, especially if you’re planning to reprint it – and it’s the idea behind the history feature on Wikipedia that tracks all the edits made or the convention of linking on blogs – you can trust what you’re reading because you can see where it came from.
  • Extensible Markup Language (XML) – actually not a language but a metalanguage: a set of rules that lets other people create languages.
  • Folksonomy – the categorical structure resulting from the tags/labels that users add to information (the way they do on Flickr or del.icio.us) The term was coined by Thomas Vander Wal in 2004.
  • Hyper text – Text that is dynamic and interactive, with clickable links to other text/pages. This is hypertext: you can click this link and be sent anywhere else on the web.
  • Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) – the main language used on the web, it provides information about text structure (i.e. title, list, quote, etc.) but not about its meaning.
  • Internet– a system of networked computers across the globe, originally developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1960s.
  • Interoperability – data-sharing, or the ability of two parties, either human or machine, to exchange data or information . Syntactic interoperability happens when the systems are using compatible standards/rules/data formats, semantic interoperability comes when the systems can meaningfully interpret the information being shared.
  • Mashup– any file that’s made up of pre-existing text/graphics/audio from other sources. Even cooler, though, are mashup applications that bring together data and functions from other sources to create a new service, like the Twitter-Google mashup Geochirp.
  • Meme– an idea, symbol, or tradition that is replicated and passed down through a culture in a way analogous to genes – though through a social process, not a biological one. Richard Dawkins, who coined the term in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, called memes “unit[s] of cultural transmission” and gave examples including: “tunes, ideas, catch phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” Today, we hear about memes more frequently as viral Internet fads; this is a meme, as is this.
  • Metadata– data about data. Like information about what some piece of data means and how it relates to other data.
  • Microformatssimple data formats that add semantics to HTML documents, so that you can add some structure to your blog/whatever without rewriting it in RDF.
  • Natural language processing – teaching computers to understand and generate human language (English, Mandarin, whatever); a kind of artificial intelligence.
  • Network effect – the more users a network has, the more valuable it is to each user (one of the main reasons Facebook is useful is that most people you know use it). More specifically, Bob Metcalfe came up with the law that says that a network’s value increases at about the square of its number of users (but there’s some dispute over that).
  • Ontology– like a taxonomy, an ontology represents a set of concepts, their properties, and the relationships between them, but with much richer information about those relationships than in a taxonomy.
  • Open source software – software whose code is public, so that anyone can freely change, develop, and redistribute it.
  • P2P (peer-to-peer) – generally file-sharing networks in which users are both suppliers and consumers (think Napster), where everyone can be downloading and uploading files at the same time. This is much faster than traditional client-server models, and more robust – meaning the network can afford to lose some contributing users without the service falling apart.
  • Resource Description Framework (RDF) – a set of agreed-upon standards developed by the W3C that we can use to model data and explain the relationships between pieces of it. RDF is an XML-based language that represents relationships in subject-predicate-object expressions known as “triples,” like: Metadata (subject) rocks (predicate) my world (object).
  • RSSalternatively “Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary,” RSS refers to the web feeds that update subscribers about a website’s changes in real-time.
  • Screen scraping – extracting data from a webpage and getting it into a more usable form.
  • Search engine – a tool for searching and filtering information on the WWW. Examples include Google and Bing.
  • Semantics– the study of meaning in language, as opposed to its structure (syntax).
  • Semantic Web – the future web of data : a WWW that acts like a giant multi-dimensional computer-searchable database, where computers understand how every piece of information is related to everything else.
  • Social graph – the “global mapping of everyone and how they’re related,” or a Facebook-LinkedIn-Friendster monster to end all social networks.
  • SPARQL – a W3C specified query language (built for asking questions) for RDF, that can query diverse data sources. The acronym stands for SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query language (that’s the W3C’s version of a joke). Learn about the difference between SPARQL and SPARQL 2 here.
  • Uniform Resource Locator (URL) – the address of a document on the Internet.
  • Web 2.0 – also called “the social web,” Web 2.0 refers the generation of the web distinguished by social networks, user participation, and software built on the web instead of the desktop. The term was popularized and outlined by Tim O’Reilly in 2004, who has a short definition of it here, but was publicly slammed by Tim Berners-Lee in 2006.
  • Web 3.0 – a general term to describe the next generation of the WWW. “Web 3.0” is often used synonymously with “The Semantic Web,” but will probably encompass more than just structured data; it will be about real-time information and Internet-enabled objects.
  • Web browser– an application for presenting and navigating information on the WWW. Examples include Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox.
  • Web Ontology Language (OWL)– like RDF, OWL is a W3C-specified XML-based language, but its power comes from placing constraints on properties (like the property “ReceivesGreatSalaryFrom” can only be present between two things where “HasJobAt” is present) so that it can reason about statements (and deduce that I have no salary).
  • Web portal – an application that presents different kind of information (email, weather, news headlines, stock prices) in a consistent, unified way. Examples include Yahoo, AOL, and iGoogle.
  • Web server – a computer that stores the information that’s on the web and lets others access it over the Internet. This information, for example, is stored on the WordPress server.
  • Wiki– a website running a type of software that lets people create and edit its pages from their web browsers. The most famous example, of course, is the ever-glorious crowdsourced encyclopedia Wikipedia.
  • World Wide Web (WWW) – an information-sharing service that operates over the Internet, like email and instant-messaging. The WWW was created in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee as an information space on the Internet made up of hypertext pages with links to one another.
  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – a neutral body that develops web standards and protocols and oversees the development of the web, directed by Tim Berners-Lee.
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