Glossary of Web Terms

Navigating a new world of tech terms, topics, and technologies.

Back in the days when texting abbreviations were widely used (ie. middle school), a host of proto-clickbait articles sprung up to help parents navigate the scary new landscape of internet slang.

This article aims to do the same, except instead of parents, it is aimed at people who don’t know what Hackathon Hackers is (*shudders*), and instead of middle school texts, it explains the jargon of web developers, straight from the mouths of the node.js generation.


Explanation: An Application Programming Interface is the part of a server that communicates with other web services. Think of it as a handyman: (s)he lists out the things (s)he can do (an API doc), you call him/her, identify yourself (authentication), and then tell him/her the request that best fits your needs (please come fix my faucet). In real life, your random quote generator app may call the Facebook API, identify itself, and then tell it to post some beautiful quotes to your wall.

In other words: APIs are the reason every hackathon project can easily tack on “natural language processing,” why hackathon projects seem so cool to non-devs, and why natural language processing is so passe to devs.


Explanation: Twitter Bootstrap is a front-end framework used to make responsive web projects. In other words, it’s a bunch of boilerplate (ie. copy-pasteable) code to use when you want to create a quick, easy, ok-looking site.

In other words: Bootstrap’s life story: Easy to use -> Popular -> Overused -> Annoying -> Mocked

DDoS (Attack)

Explanation: A Distributed Denial-Of-Service (DDoS) attack occurs when a malicious agent attempts to bring down a website/service by overwhelming it with traffic. Because the ‘attack’ is typically distributed on to many devices around the globe, it becomes very hard for targeted agents to identify and block bad requests.

In other words: You don’t need to worry about this; no one has used anything you’ve built but disinterested TAs and your parents.

(Internet) Explorer

This won’t be on the quiz. Pass


Explanation: Microsoft’s new and improved, 21st century web browser, ie. Internet Explorer on steroids, ie. the Chrome-killer, ie. the new windows default, ie. ???

In other words: That friend who went to Silicon Valley to change the world but is really just working for Yo.


Explanation: HTTP is a protocol used by the web to inform servers how/what to respond when presented with a given request. When you type in a URL into Chrome, for example, you’re actually making a HTTP GET request to retrieve the content of the website you’re trying to access. The S sometimes appended refers to secure, as it implies communications are encrypted (for example, by using SSL).

In other words: What your grandmother reads out loud when telling you about something a link you should see on the site


Explanation: A popular web stack (set of technologies) used for building web applications. MEAN stack projects use:

  • MongoDB for database needs (storing and retrieving information)
  • ExpressJS as a web framework (used to simplify processes like routing, redirecting, view-creation, etc., that would be painful if all done manually)
  • AngularJS for frontend needs (handles the client-side code)
  • and Node.js for application server code (deploying a server that your app will make requests to, ie. holding all of the stack together)

In other words:


Explanation: A popular security protocol used to help in authentication of user requests. When you post a funny quote directly from your Kindle app onto your Twitter feed, Kindle and Twitter communicate with each other using the OAuth system to ensure that the request is legitimate, without having you give Kindle your Twitter username and password.

In other words: The screens you see when Google tells you “Doodle Jump wishes to access all of your personal information, emails, location data, and wants to be authorized to send and receive mail or Google Plus posts on your behalf” are part of the OAuth process.


Explanation: An approach to creating webpages that ensures they can be used comfortably by devices with different screen sizes. Many HTML/CSS templates (including Bootstrap, for example) automatically include styling code for the reorganization of content based on device size.

In other words: The buzzword your IT consultant will use when telling you it’s time for a “complete redesign of your entire site”


Explanation: An architectural principle to be aware of when designing APIs that aims to simplify and standardize how APIs work. RESTful APIs ensure all requests are of one of four types (GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE), are stateless (ie. each request is independent of past and future ones, and no information from other requests is needed), etc.

In other words: What developers of APIs need.

Server vs. Client Side

Explanation: The client side is the end user’s side; it deals with how the site/app looks and behaves. The server side does the meat of the ‘processing’ involved; for example, it typically accesses databases for information, performs authentication, creates assets, etc.

In other words: Server side = back end. Client side = front end.


Explanation: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a security technology used in securing communications between your computer and other services. Using SSL ‘certificates’ at the intended ends of the requests, your browser/email client/etc. can scramble (encrypt) the communications being sent along to ensure that third parties don’t know what you’re saying.

In other words: Why P = NP is a big deal.