"Social networking" used to mean going to a party, not using Facebook. But like a mesofact -- a fact that evolves over time, as we learn more about it -- the Internet vocabulary is evolving. We explain the origin and meaning of 25 new words, to keep you plugged in.
A mesofact is a fact that is slowly evolving over time. For example, the term "national healthcare" might have one meaning at first, but slowly evolves to become more concrete, as the actual laws emerge. Original use: on Wikipedia, users often add more detail to an entry as the original meaning and facts evolve.
News travels fast on the Internet. When it does, a meme is formed: It's any idea or concept that moves rapidly from one person to the next. Usually, a meme (rhymes with "team") is a self-contained idea that travels quickly. For example, the concept of downloading TV shows from the Web became a meme as college students realized they could watch "Lost" anytime they want without paying for it.
Here's a new term that will become more popular this year. Dwelling is what happens when you move your mouse or touch on a portion of a screen, hold for a while, and a pop-up appears. For example, on Netflix.com, when you dwell your mouse over a thumbnail of a movie, a pop-up shows you the movie's description.
RTLS is short for "real-time location system" and has everything to do with GPS technology, aka the satellites orbiting the Earth. Say you want to ship a copier machine -- you can attach an electronic tag, then use an RTLS to track exactly where the copier is at all times.
When a company makes a product, but you design it or even finish the work, you are participating in an act of co-creation. T-shirts and other clothes -- on sites like Blank-Label.com or CafePress.com -- are early examples, where you add a logo to a shirt, but in the next few years, co-creation could apply to, say, finishing a car or designing your own chair.
Anyone who uses a cell phone knows you can't get good coverage in an office building or in your basement. A femtocell is like having your own cell phone tower, a way to strengthen a signal even in areas where it is hard to connect. A femtocell actually captures a weak cell phone signal and re-broadcasts it.
An ideation is an idea that germinates over time, like a new business start-up idea or some concept that a group discusses in a meeting and creates together.
A deleb is a popular celebrity, such as Marilyn Monroe or Michael Jackson, who has died but is still popular on the Internet -- and still makes money. The word comes from the blending of the words dead and celebrity.
A new version of "Wi-Fi" (or a wireless network), Mi-Fi is a variation that means "my wireless" and is a small credit-card shaped device that connects to a cell phone network. Multiple people can use that same device to connect to the Internet over the cell phone signal. Both Verizon and Sprint offer the products. The big advantage: one person can sign up for data service, but several can use it.
Linkbait is any link that is so compelling ("Click here to win a free iPhone") that you just have to click on it. In some cases, a linkbait is nefarious, taking you to Web site that infects your computer with a virus or displays inappropriate images.
Books are so 2008. This year, a new concept called a vook is emerging -- a book that includes video snippets. The Apple iPad will help make vooks a reality as more of us use slim and light Internet tablets to read and browse the Web.
3D movies have existing for some time. The idea of 3DTV is brand new -- it involves programming on cable channels like Discovery or for NFL football games shown in 3D, where you need a 3D television and have to wear 3D goggles.
A "tweet" is a short 140-character sentence. It can describe what you are doing, but can also be any interesting observation, a link to a Web site, or any random thought. Most often used on Twitter.com, but quickly becoming a term on its own to describe a host of different microblogging sites (see #23).
A bokode, originally developed at MIT, is a new type of barcode that contains more detailed information. Based on the Japanese term bokeh, which is a blurred effect, a bokode is about the size of a pinhead but still contains the same barcode info. Yet the right scanner can read the barcode even from a few feet away.
Once describing a loyal and dependable associate, someone who you know well and is physically present in your life, the term friend now has a new meaning. It is both a verb and a noun: on Facebook, you "friend" someone to add them to your social network. A "friend" is anyone in this network.
Not to be confused with the classic arcade game Qbert, a qubit is a unit of measure that can be a zero, a one, or both a zero and one at the same time. The concept comes from quantum mechanics. From this field of study, we know that an electron circling the nucleus of an atom can be in multiple positions at once, but only locks into one spot when we observe it. It also explains why Lindsay Lohan seems to be in multiple places at once -- if you go by the tabloids.
What used to be a fluffy formation in the sky, the cloud (short for "cloud computing") means anything stored online. For example, when you use Yahoo! Mail or Flickr.com, you are using the cloud. Companies are now running applications and even their entire computer operations in the cloud. The advantage: the cloud gives you more flexibility because you can access information from anywhere.
One of the best onomatopoeias ever (meaning a word that sounds like it is spelled, like slush or croak), meh is an expression of disinterest. A new variation of the word: a mehsayer is someone who always expresses disinterest.
In this current Internet age, you are the most important person to you. A lifestream then is any information you distribute about yourself, including a video, Twitter status, photos, and a blog that lets people follow all of your shenanigans.
Originally used to describe someone new to multiplayer gaming, a newbie -- which is both derogatory and affectionate at the same time -- now implies a lack of knowledge or experience with just about any topic. You can be a Facebook newbie, a cooking newbie, or even a walking newbie (a.k.a., a two-year-old).
According to Doubletongued, a dittoism is defined as a penchant for Internet users to agree on the same topic only because that's the established norm. For example, when most reviewers ranked the new Apple iPad as revolutionary, a dittoism is that everyone agrees, even without trying one.
A "tag" is a keyword you apply to a photo, music, video, or any other content. For example, if you take pictures at a family reunion, you might tag these images as "family" to make them easier to find.
A blog is so passé -- who has the time to read it? A microblog entry on Twitter.com or Facebook contains just a few short sentences that describe what you are doing, your random thoughts and observations, or even philosophical questions about time immortal.
The classic definitions of networking are changing. At one time, it meant getting to know people in order to find a job, or sending data over a network. Today, networking is a form of social engagement -- posting on a friend's Facebook wall, adding new links to Digg.com, or just commenting on FoxNews.com articles.
RFID, from radio frequency identification, is the new barcode. These tags, which you attach to a box or even embed on a product, lets shipping companies find out what's inside a box or clerks identify what's on shelves. RFID tags could also be used to exchange photos between cameras, and -- if you're in an Orwellian mood, track humans.