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E-Commerce Glossary

E-Commerce Glossary

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  • ASCII:
    ASCII (pronounced as-key) is the American Standard Code for Information Interchange and is a standard way of representing ordinary text as a stream of binary numbers with a code set of 128 characters. The first 32 characters are control codes and the remaining 96 are upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and special characters.
  • Authenticate:
    To verify the identity of an Internet user or computer or person. For example, some merchants will use advanced security systems to authenticate your identity before they will accept your online order.


  • Bandwidth:
    The maximum speed at which data can be transmitted between computers in a network.
  • Banner:
    A component of a Web page containing an advertisement that is usually an inch or less tall and spans the width of the Web page. The banner contains a link to the advertiser's own Web site.
  • Baud rate:
    A measure of the rate at which a modem can transmit data. This is measured in bits per second (bps). Named after the French engineer Jean Maurice Emile Baudot.
  • Bit:
    The smallest unit of information understood by a computer. A bit can take a value of 0 or 1. A byte is made up of 8 bits which is large enough to contain a single character. For example the character 2 would be equivalent to "00000010" when represented in bits.
    A Kilobyte is equivalent to 1,024 bytes.
    A Megabyte is equivalent to 1,024 Kilobytes.
    A Gigabyte is equivalent to 1,024 Megabytes.
    A Megabit is 1,048,576 bits.
  • Bookmark:
    A bookmark is a stored URL set up by the user to a particular Web page. This allows the user to select the bookmark in the future to automatically retrieve that Web page.
  • Browser (also, Web browser):
    An application program which interprets HTML and presents the final Web page; used to surf the World Wide Web. Examples include: Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Mosaic.
  • Byte:
    A group of eight binary digits processed as a unit by a computer and used especially to represent an alphanumeric character. Also, a unit of computer information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives (as "yes" or "no," "on" or "off").


  • Cache:
    (pronounced "cash") A cache memory is a small, but very fast type of memory used to store frequently-used data or instructions. It tries to "guess" what data is going to be needed next by the processor, based on historical data.
  • Cookie:
    Small text files placed on a user's computer by a Web server. Each cookie contains unique identifying characteristics, usually in the form of a long string of seemingly random characters. A cookie can later be read by the same server and matched against the server's own database in order to learn which pages on that server have already been seen by the user.
  • Cryptography:
    The process of scrambling and unscrambling information so that only the intended parties can read it. For example, when you send your payment data over the Internet for a purchase, cryptography can prevent everyone but the intended merchant from reading your Visa account number and card expiration date.
  • Cyberspace:
    The online world of computer networks. The term was coined by science-fiction writer William Gibson in his 1984 novel,Neuromancer.


  • DES:
    Data Encryption Standard. A commonly-used standard method for encrypting and decrypting data. Encryption is necessary, as valuable and sensitive information is often sent from one computer to another via a network that technically can be accessed by anybody. It provides a degree of security should the information fall into the wrong hands. DES was developed by the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology.
  • Dial-up connection:
    A temporary connection between two computers via a telephone line, normally using a modem. Dial-up is the most common method used to access the Internet.
  • DNS:
    The Domain Name System is how the Internet links together the thousands of networks that comprise the Web. DNS is used whenever you send an e-mail or access a particular Web page. Each computer on the Internet has one or more Domain Names, such as "". The .co indicates a commercial organization and the .uk indicates that the computer is physically located in the United Kingdom.
    Standard conventions used in domain names include:
    ac - Educational institution
    co - Commercial organization
    com - Commercial organization
    edu - Educational institution
    gov - Non-military government organizations
    int - International organizations
    mil - Military government organizations
    net - Networks
    org - Non-profit organization

    You will also see these codes in URLs, such as "". These DNSs convert the domain names to a unique number known as an IP address (the IP stands for Internet Protocol). You will often see the IP address displayed by your Web browser when you are connecting to a particular computer.
  • Domain name:
    A unique name that represents each computer on the Internet. (Some machines do have more than one domain name.) The DNS converts the domain name requested by an Internet user into an IP address.
  • Download:
    To copy files from another computer to your own computer via a network or using a modem.


  • E-commerce:
    Business which takes place between companies using services such as the Internet, Electronic Data Interchange, or Electronic File Transfer. Two companies-the supplier and the customer-can transmit inquiries, orders, invoices, or payments directly through their computer systems.
  • E-mail:
    Electronic Mail. A way of sending other people messages from your PC, e-mail is a widely-used facility on the Internet that basically sends addressed messages over a network.

    Your e-mail address consists of two halves, a user name, and a domain name, joined by the @ sign ( If you're on AOL and your screen name is Bruno, that means your e-mail address would be

  • Encryption:
    The process of converting data into "unreadable code" is so that prying eyes cannot understand the content. Encryption is necessary as valuable and sensitive information is often sent from one computer to another via a network that technically can be accessed by anybody. It provides a degree of security should the information fall into the wrong hands.
  • Extranet:
    Very similar to an intranet with the added feature that the information contained can be accessed externally by business partners.


  • FAQ:
    Frequently Asked Questions. A set of questions asked rather often about a given topic at a Web site so the site's owners post a list of the queries and answers. The user then can access the FAQs any time they want.
  • File extension:
    In DOS or Windows, computer files have to be named using a standard consisting of a name, a point, and a file extension. AUTOEXEC.BAT has a file extension of BAT, indicating it is a batch file. Each file extension corresponds to a file type.
  • Firewall:
    A combination of specialized hardware and software designed to keep unauthorized users from accessing information within a networked computer system.
  • FTP:
    File Transmission Protocol. A standard for moving files from one computer to another, and predominantly used on the Internet. The master copy of this document resides on Visa's computer. When we make a change to it, we use FTP to transfer the updated files to the computer of our Internet Service Provider.

    A computer on the Internet that specifically stores files forusers to FTP to their own computers is called an FTP site.

    When the FTP site does not require the user to have a specific user ID and password, it is called an anonymous FTP site.


  • GIF:
    Graphics Interchange Format. The most common type of image file used on the Internet. These files are compressed so they take up a minimum amount of space and can therefore be downloaded a lot quicker than other graphics files. GIFs can be used for backgrounds, banner ads, or buttons. They can be animated or transparent, but are limited to 256 colors. Interlaced versions are designed to allow the image to be gradually revealed as it is downloaded. GIF is also the extension for GIF files.


  • Hacker:
    A person who deliberately logs on to other computers by somehow bypassing the security system. This is sometimes done to steal valuable information or to cause irreparable damage.
  • Hit:
    This occurs when a Web page is accessed by a user or a program. A "hit" was registered on this particular Web page when you requested to look at it.
  • Home page (also, welcome page):
    The opening Web page for a Web site. It should contain some navigation and contact information about your business.
  • Host:
    Any computer that can function as the beginning and end point of data transfers. An Internet host has a unique Internet address (IP address) and a unique domain or host name.
  • HTML:
    HyperText Markup Language. The text-based language used to construct Web pages, interpreted by Web browsers.
  • HTTP:
    HyperText Transfer Protocol. When you select a link, you are sending a request for that file to the http protocol on the computer hosting the Web site. For example, selecting a link to "" sends a request to the hosting computer at Visa. The file is then transmitted to your Web browser (you're probably using either Netscape or Explorer.)
  • Hyperlink:
    A highlighted, underlined phrase or word on a Web page that can be selected to proceed to another part of the page or even to another Web page.
  • Hypertext:
    Text which contains links that can be selected with a mouse. When the user clicks the link, he/she is taken to another document or a different section of the current document. This glossary is a good example of hypertext.


  • Internet:
    A world-wide computer network through which you can send a letter, chat with people electronically, or search for information on almost any subject. Quite simply, it is a network of computer networks.
  • Intranet:
    An internal or company network that can be used by anyone who is directly connected to the company's computer network (e.g., sales reps, partners, vendors).
  • IP address:
    Internet Protocol Address. A unique number that is used to represent every single computer in a network. All the computers in cyberspace have a unique IP address. The format of the IP Address is four sets of numbers separated by dots (eg.,


  • Java:
    A modern programming language first used in 1995 to bring Web pages to life. Java programs are referred to as "applets." Java applets are always small in size and can be downloaded from the Internet and executed as part of the Web page being displayed.
  • JPEG:
    Joint Photographic Experts Group. A type of image file used on the Internet. Like GIF files, JPEGs are compressed. Unlike GIFs, JPEG files cannot be interlaced or transparent. The file extension, ".jpg", is used for JPEG files.


  • Kilobyte:
    A unit of measure for data storage. One kilobyte is equivalent to1,024 bytes or 8,192 bits.


  • Link:
    A component of a hypertext document which, when selected with a mouse, takes the user to another document or a different section of the current document. For example, this glossary has links for each of the letters of the alphabet.
  • ListServ:
    Stands for List Server, a program that allows you to subscribe to a mailing list which distributes e-mail to members, usually on a specific subject matter.


  • Mailbox:
    The file or directory where your incoming e-mail messages are stored by your Internet Service Provider.
  • Mailing list:
    A single e-mail address comprised of several different e-mail addresses. An automated software allows you to send e-mail to one address, at which point your message (e.g., a newsletter) is copied and sent to all of the other mailing list subscribers. The list can consist of one, ten, 100, 1000, or more people.
  • Megabyte:
    A unit of measure for data storage. One megabyte is equivalent to 1,024 kilobytes or 1,048,576 bytes or 8,388,608 bits.
  • Menu:
    A list of options presented to the user to enable them to perform a specific task. Each option on the list will perform a different task.
  • Modem:
    Modem comes from the two words: Modulation and Demodulation. A modem converts information from analog to digital and vice versa. Digital information is represented in a series of 1's and 0's. Analog information varies continuously, such as a sound wave. Typically, when you send an e-mail, your modem converts the digital e-mail message to analog.
  • MPEG:
    Moving Picture Experts Group. A standard used on the Internet for video and audio files. Compression techniques enable the files to be transmitted significantly more quickly than other audio and video files. The Web browser you are using must be capable of running MPEG files. The file extension, ".mpg", is used for MPEG files.
  • Multimedia:
    The presentation of video, sound, graphics, text, and animationby software.


  • Newbie:
    A term used to describe somebody who is new to the Internet.
  • News group:
    One of the many facilities available on the Internet. Like most of the Internet, news groups are run voluntarily and cooperatively. A news group is centered on a discussion topic, like business ownership (e.g., Within these news groups, several discussions or threads take place on themes within the discussion topic. If you see a particular news group of interest, you can "subscribe" to it, and then "post" your comment or query. Eventually it will be seen by anyone else who subscribes to the particular news group.

    Some categories of news groups include:
    rec - recreational activities
    biz - business related groups
    comp - computers including technical discussion & support
    soc - social issues
    sci - scientific discussions
    alt - alternative groups


  • Opt-in:
    A term popular in news groups and e-mail. You can opt-in to receive e-mails on a certain subject. For example, by establishing an opt-in on your Web site, you can send customers an e-mail when you have a sale.


  • Page impression:
    Occurs every time a particular Web page is displayed by someone using the Internet. A page impression is similar to a "hit," except that a hit is also registered when a spider, or similar program, accesses the Web page.
  • Peripheral:
    A device that attaches to a PC and is controlled by its processor (eg., printer, modem, joystick, zip drive).
  • Plug and play:
    The concept of adding new components to a PC (such as an external modem) without having to manually configure anything. In other words, the operating system does it all for you.
  • Portal:
    A portal is a Web site that serves as a gateway to the Internet, often consisting of a collection of links to the most popular Web services on the Internet.
  • Push technology:
    An Internet technology that sends prearranged information to users before they actually request it. The user sets up a profile specifying the type of information that they require.
  • Profile:
    Personal information about you that's stored with a merchant and usually consists of your address and shopping preferences, which makes it easier for merchants to tailor their services to your individual needs.


  • Query:
    This term generally refers to databases. A query is used to retrieve database records that match certain criteria. For example, you might query a system with:
    • List all customers from Melbourne
    • List the total sales for March 1999 by region
    • List customers who spent more than $10,000 last month


  • Radio button:
    Radio buttons often appear in Windows applications. They are used when you have to make a choice. Each option may have a circle by it, and if you click inside the circle it becomes selected (e.g., goes from white to black). If you select a second option the first one becomes deselected because you can select only one from the list.
  • RTF:
    Rich Text Format. A file format developed by Microsoft. Most word processors can process RTF files. The format was developed to enable documents to be transferred between application programs. RTF files have the file extension, ".rtf".


  • Scaleable:
    Hardware or software that is scaleable can be easily expanded to suit future requirements. For instance, a particular application program may be set up to run for two concurrent users but can be scaled up for more users if the company using it needs to expand in the future. This is very important quality when you are making purchasing decisions.
  • Server:
    A host computer that stores information (e.g., Web sites) and responds to requests for information (e.g., links to another Web page). The term "server" is also used to refer to the software that makes the act of serving information possible. Commerce servers, for example, use software to run the main functions of an e-commerce Web site, such as product display, online ordering, and inventory management.
  • Shareware:
    Free software. The author usually, however, requests a small fee to pay for registration and/or documentation.
  • Shortcut:
    A term most commonly used in Windows. It is an icon set up to lead to either a file on the hard disk, network, software program, or the Internet. When the icon is selected, the file is executed, the program starts, or an application opens with a selected document.
  • SOHO:
    Small Office/Home Office. This describes businesses that are either run from home or a small office. Software and hardware companies sometimes promote products as being suitable for the SOHO market.
  • Spam:
    (n) Unsolicited (usually commercial) e-mail sent to a large number of addresses
    (v) To send unsolicited e-mail to numerous addresses.
  • Spider:
    A search engine that obtains its information by starting at a specified Web page and visiting each page linked to it, and so on. This process continues as a spider moves its way across the Web.
  • Splash screen:
    Images depicting a company logo and normally displayed just after an application program has started. Microsoft uses this technique-the clouds that display when Windows starts and ends is a splash screen.
  • SSL:
    Secure Sockets Layer. A security standard that many merchants use to keep their Web sites secure and to protect the safety, privacy, and reliability of payment data traveling over the Internet. SSL encrypts the channel between browser and Web server so only the intended parties can read certain data, such as payment or customer information.
  • Surf:
    Looking around the Internet, jumping from page to page, just going to wherever takes your fancy at that time. Similar to channel-surfing with a TV remote control.


  • Thread:
    This term has many different meanings but the most common refers to e-mail and news groups. A series of messages or postings all related to the same topic.
  • Toolbar:
    Sits across the top or down the side of a particular window. The toolbar allows the user to perform certain tasks such as opening a file or submitting a print. The toolbar can usually be customized so that the user can add those tasks most regularly performed.


  • Upload:
    To copy files from your own PC to another computer via a network or a modem. This is the opposite of download.
  • URL:
    Uniform Resource Locator. Pages are identified by URLs. It is the address at which a page resides. Hypertext links allow you to jump from page to page without typing in a long URL each time.


  • Virus:
    This is a program that can damage your PC files. It is often created intentionally to do so.
  • Visits:
    A term used to indicate how many times a Web page has been visited by people on the Internet. For example, if a site has received over 200,000 "visits," the main page has been displayed by different users all over the world more than 200,000 times.


  • Web browser (also, browser):
    An application program that interprets HTML and presents the final Web page. A browser is used to surf the World Wide Web. Examples of browsers include: Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Mosaic.
  • Web page:
    An HTML document that contains information which can be viewed from the Internet. For example, you are currently on a Web page within a Web site.
  • Web site:
    A group of Web pages that collectively represents a company or individual on the World Wide Web. A group of Web pages that are developed together to present information on a specific subject is also a Web site.
  • Welcome page (also, home page):
    The opening Web page for a Web site. It should contain both some navigation and contact information about your business.
  • WWW:
    World Wide Web (proper noun). The Internet facility thatallows you to browse linked Web pages.


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