Basic Web Terminology

This will be the first in a line of informational posts for those looking into starting a website, or just learning more about how these things work.  Before we dig into the really big details, and the smaller (equally important) nuances, we need to lay down a solid foundation.  The following is going to be a pyramid style list of terms, from most basic building upward.

Internet: A connection of computers.  In our case regarding a long distance connection between a server and a client.

Server: A computer that is left running and available to client computers.

Client: A computer that is connecting to a server.  In a standard, everyday, setup this is your computer as you read this.

Host: A host is the entity that manages the servers and related technologies that make them run.  This will be the person that you pay.

Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD): You know these as .com, .org, .net, .edu…  This can be important as most people will instinctively enter .com and it can be confusing if you choose a .net that has a less than favorable .com counterpart.

Domain: This is the address portion of your website.  For instance if you look above the domain of this website is  For our purposes the www and the http at the beginning don’t matter as it is considered a good practice to make both www and http only both function.

Subdomain: This is anything that goes before the domain.  An example of this would be  The webmail portion is a subdomain.  For all intents and purposes it is an entirely separate website.

Subdirectory: This is the folder structure that follows the gTLD.  In this case /2011/02/17/web-terminology.  /2011 is a folder, /02 is a folder, /17 is a folder.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP): The way that we connect to the file side of our websites.  An FTP client allows you to navigate and manipulate the files on the server as if they were on your computer.  It often will mimmic the Finder on a mac, or windows Explorer on a PC.

Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP): A more secure file protocol.  If it is available for your server and your client application you should use this whenever possible.

Content Management System (CMS): A way to keep your files sorted and managed.  This website is powered by wordpress.  A site can be backed by many different technologies, or entirely lack a CMS and be made separately.

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