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The 10 Most Misunderstood Terms in IT

Here are the ten terms that we believe are currently the "most misunderstood" by those who work in information technology. The list is arranged in alphabetical order.

We also list a number of terms suggested by our readers that don't quite make the "top 10."

We also list a second list of 10 most misunderstood terms, based on an informal survey of our fellow editors here at Whatis.com and TechTarget.

 

  1. acronym
    An acronym is not any abbreviation, just one that forms a "sayable" word. Apart from that confusion, acronyms and other abbreviations cause confusion any time a reader is likely not to know what the spelled-out version is.
  2.  

  3. ASP
    Active Server Page or application service provider ( ASP ) - which is it? These are both frequently-used abbreviations in many development shops.
  4.  

  5. ATM
    Automatic teller machine - or Asynchronous Transfer Mode? IT people who work at banks sometimes use both kinds of ATM.
  6.  

  7. bandwidth
    Does bandwidth mean "capacity or speed in general"? Or does it have a more technical meaning of how wide a broadcast band or other data channel is? Is it OK if it means both? (No one mentioned channel as confusing but it has at least six meanings.)
  8.  

  9. JavaScript
    JavaScript is not the same as Java and some people tend to think it is.
  10.  

  11. kilobit
    Is a kilobit 1,000 bits or 1,024 bits? Whatis.com says it's 1,000 bits but no one is very comfortable with their position. Since "kilo" has a power-of-ten origin, a standards group has invented a new prefix kibi to represent something that is a unit of (decimal) 1,024 or (binary) two to the 10th power.
  12.  

  13. .NET
    .NET is Microsoft's term for using XML to define and share data across the Internet so that many application services can now be performed remotely. But the set of tools related to this idea keeps evolving and Microsoft somewhat understandably keeps redefining the details.
  14.  

  15. platform
    Is a platform hardware (a particular processor and its instruction set ) or software that will run on it (the operating system ) - or is it both? Or is it just "whatever products are needed to run something on"? Although many readers understand the term in context (or may not care to make the distinction), this term represents many other such fuzzy terms that seem to come in handy for writers if not for readers.
  16.  

  17. server
    Is a server a program - or a computer that is dedicated to a certain purpose? Often it means both at the same time, but sometimes it can be important to know, especially if you've just been asked to install it.
  18.  

  19. Windows
    The term " Windows " all by itself is a frequent source of misunderstanding since different versions of Windows (95, 98, 2000, XP, etc.) offer different behaviors and problems.

Some Other Misunderstood Terms

Readers also believe that these terms are often misunderstood: architecture , backup , bind or binding , dependency , DNS vs. DSN (two similar terms), groupware , intelligence , interface , intranet , knowledge , metadata , middleware , mirror in data storage, MPOE , prototype , repeater , robust ness, snapshot in data storage, subnet mask , and third generation ( 3G ).

A General Concern

One concern expressed by more than user is the assignment of a new meaning to an existing term (for example, adding a new meaning for channel or block ). These users would prefer that a new term be created that has a single meaning. (But a frequently-expressed commonplace about IT terminology is that there are already too many terms!)

The 10 Most Misunderstood IT Terms at TechTarget

Before we launched our user forum, we asked all of our editors and those in other departments to tell us the terms they felt were most misunderstood. Note that there is a small amount of overlap with our users' Top 10.

 

  1. enterprise
  2. frame ( packet )
  3. interoperability
  4. .NET
  5. object-oriented
  6. OEM
  7. platform
  8. router
  9. server
  10. solution


Other suggestions included: autonomic , GUI , integrated , WINS , DHCP , middleware , and virtualization .

Send Us Your Most Misunderstood Terms

Send them to contactus@whatis.com.
This was last updated in September 2011

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