What do all of those acronyms mean?

May 11, 2008 business
This post is more than 18 months old. Since technology changes too rapidly, this content may be out of date (but that's not always the case). Please remember to verify any technical or programming information with the current release.

Whether you’re looking at web hosting advertisements or speaking with an internet firm, you’re going to run into various acronyms. If you’re not familiar with the industry, this can get confusing. Let’s check out the main ones to see what they really mean to you.

HTML – HyperText Markup Language – HTML is the way that web pages determine what content means on them. You can think of it like a template. For example, if something needs to be emphasized on the page, a specific HTML template item marks it to show emphasized. HTML itself does not do anything programmatic or exciting – it is simply used to organize your content.

CSS – Cascading Style Sheets – CSS is the language that refers to the way information that has been marked up by HTML is presented to the browser. So, if HTML has marked something to be emphasized, what should emphasize look like? Should it be bold? How about italicized? CSS can transform all of the HTML markings to be presentable. If it weren’t for CSS, all of your information would simply run together in one size on one line.

JS – JavaScript – JS or JavaScript is the way that actions happen immediately in the browser. For example, if you click a plus sign to the left of an item, and more content shows up almost immediately, it was because of JavaScript. JavaScript is a programming language that can manipulate both HTML and CSS. For example, HTML could have a marked spot for the visitor’s zip code. When the page loads, no one knows where the visitor is, however. JavaScript can be programmed to ask the visitor for their zipcode, and then fill that value into the marked up spot immediately. It could also turn the zipcode red by modifying the CSS.

PHP – PHP: Hypertext Processor – (PHP is a recursive acronym) – PHP is the language that resides on the web host for processing data and doing actions. For example, if you visit a web page that has a contact form, the form sends the data to PHP. PHP then determines what to do with that data. It might send an e-mail to someone and then generate a new page. PHP can generate HTML (and CSS and JS too…) and send it back to the browser to be viewed by you. PHP has to be installed on the web hosting server by an administrator. Many web hosts have this installed already. PHP is an open source project created by a technical community online. This means it is also free to install and use.

FTP – File Transfer Protocol – To remotely connect to a web hosting server, a specific type of connection of the internet is created. This is called an FTP connection. This allows the developer to upload content to the server directly. Because this is connecting one computer to another, there has to be security measures in place. Normally, a developer will ask you for your FTP address (which means – which computer should I be connecting to?), your FTP username (which is to say, which account should I be using on this web host) and your FTP password (the secret way you identify that you are the owner of the FTP account).

MySQL – My Structured Query Language – MySQL is an open source database system. A database is a type of software that stores data on the server. This data is retrieved by various programming languages like PHP or ASP. When dealing with inventory, forums or other dynamic catalogs of information, a database is needed. As with PHP, this has to be installed on a web hosting server. Many web hosts have this installed already. Because of the security of data that is most often needed, MySQL usually requires credentials just like FTP does.

ASP – Active Server Pages – ASP is similar to PHP. ASP is owned by Microsoft and requires special licensing to install on the server with associated fees. Most things that can be done in ASP can be done in PHP – and vice versa.

Linux – Not an acronym – Linux is the name of the operating system that can be used on a web server. Linux is open source – and most versions are free to use and install. Another common operating system for web servers can be Windows – but is usually a slightly different flavor than that which is on a PC.

Apache – Not an acronym – Apache is the name of the software that instructs the web server how to send page content back to the internet and your browser. Apache is normally bundled with Linux based servers – and is open source. Generally, Apache and PHP work together well.

IIS – Internet Information Services – IIS is the name of the software used on Microsoft based web servers to send page content back to the internet. IIS has specific licensing and possible associated fees. Generally, IIS and ASP work together well.

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