Sunday, March 27, 2005Danville, California – The California-based Engligh language tracker, Global Language Monitor, released its 2005 list of most confusing – yet frequently cited – high tech buzzwords to be “HTTP,” “Voice Over IP” (VoIP), and “Megapixel.” Closely following were “Plasma,” “Robust,” “WORM” and “Emoticon.”

In early March, the group used a predictive index computer algorithm to track specific words and phrases in the media and on the Internet. They were tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.

The Global Language Monitor claims to analyze and catalogue trends in word usage and word choices, focusing on the linguistic impact on various cultures. The GLM says it relies upon a global network of volunteer linguists, professional wordsmiths and other bibliophiles to monitor the trends in the evolution and demise of world languages.

GLM’s list, in order of frequency of use, of the most-confusing technology terms with the group’s explanation as to why they are faulty follows:

  1. HTTP – HyperText Transfer Protocol is the standard protocol used for transmitting web pages (which are written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language)), not text written while hyper on too much Starbucks coffee. There are more than 1 billion references to HTTP on the web alone.
  2. Voice over IP – Voice over Internet Protocol, (pronounced voyp, similar to Detroit) is a way of transmitting voice data over the Internet. VoIP is becoming more popular as services such as Skype offer people free voice communication with anyone with a broad-band connection.
  3. Megapixel – Approximately one million pixels, not a single, big pixel (“mega” is the metric system prefix for million). “Pixel” itself is a technical term which means “picture element”. Digital pictures consist of a grid of millions of pixels, which are square or rectangular dots, each having a single colour.
  4. Plasma – A plasma display (commonly used in televisions) is a flat, lightweight surface with a grid of millions of tiny glass bubbles containing plasma. A digitally controlled electric current flows through the bubbles causing the plasma inside to glow various colours. Plasma displays have nothing to do with blood plasma.
  5. Robust – Robustness generally means “it won’t break easily.” It supposedly describes computer programs or hardware that have been well-tested and demonstrated to not crash or fail often, but since it is a vague term by nature (how robust is robust?) it is frequently used by marketing types regardless.
  6. WORM – While a worm is a type of computer virus, WORM stands for ’Write Once, Read Many’. It describes a file system primarily used for optical disks, such as CDs and DVDs. For example, CD-Rs can only be written (or “burned”) once but afterwards can be read many times (otherwise you could only listen to your music CD once). This excludes re-writable CDs which can be written many times.
  7. Emoticon – Emoticon stands for emotional icon. An emoticon is a sequence of characters that look visually like a face and are used in text chat to convey emotion. The most common emoticon is the smiley face – 🙂 – which looks like two eyes and a mouth turned 90 degrees.
  8. Best of Breed – Not to be confused with the Westminster Dog Show, a best-of-breed product is a personalized solution made of components from various manufacturers; in other words, it’s a sort of high tech ‘mix-and-match’.
  9. Viral Marketing – A recent marketing trend which relies on word-of-mouth to spread, rather than traditional advertising strategies. It is called “viral” because as people talk about it, the marketing message “spreads” to new people, who in turn inform others, and so on, which is how viruses spread. The Burger King “Subservient Chicken” campaign is considered an example of viral marketing. Computer viruses used by spammers to turn desktop computers into “zombie” spam relays are something completely different.
  10. Data Migration – Data migration is an idealistic (though usually impossible) concept where data can be used by different versions of the program in which it was created (newer or older). The migration (migration means “to move”) refers to the fact that the data is moved from one version (or program) to another without difficulty or loss of information. It is a subset of backward and forward compatibility.

Other terms being tracked included “client/server,” “solution,” “paradigm,” “backward compatible,” and the “STUN protocol.”