Erin Jansen

An interview with
Erin Jansen

Founder of


What is NetLingo?

NetLingo is dedicated to documenting Internet culture and history: the lingo, acronyms, catch phrases, monumental dates, new business terms, emerging technologies, and more that define the tech world around us. houses thousands of definitions that explain the online world of business, technology, and communication, including the famous list of text and chat acronyms ;-) We entertain and educate students, teachers, parents, gamers, designers, techies, bloggers, journalists, and industry professionals worldwide. It began in 1995 as a Web site which started tracking hundreds of new words and terms that were emerging on a daily basis surrounding the community and technology of the Internet, the World Wide Web, computers, and the high-tech industries. It acts as a digital reference guide that helps millions of people around the world learn about the most commonly used words, smileys, acronyms and so on, that keep sprouting up on the Internet. Dubbed "the semantics storehouse of cyberspace" NetLingo tracks the new vocabulary surrounding the technology and community of the World Wide Web...all of the "net lingo."

NetLingo Inc. is a consumer-technology publishing company and provider of personalized Internet information and educational tools. These tools motivate tech-conscious people to learn, understand and grow in knowledge of hardware, software and online technology, business and communication. As an educational content provider, NetLingo has received recognition from leading magazines, newspapers, periodicals, universities, radio, and television shows, and tens of thousands of Web sites, giving it industry standard status.

What exactly is a dictionary of Internet terms, I mean I think I know but please explain.

"Net lingo" as it is known, is the "talk of the Internet", the "cyber speak," the new terms and technology and companies and products that have sprung out of the creation and community of the Internet. Hundreds of new words have emerged since the christening of the Web and millions of people who use the Internet for personal and professional reasons have had to learn, quite literally, a new language. Those in the high-tech industry surrounding the development of the World Wide Web have acquired this new vocabulary over time, and these people contribute it. Now the slang, jargon, styles of e-mail communication, technological terms, chat shorthand, emoticons, acronyms, Internet companies, groundbreaking Web sites, has infiltrated our daily lives and people and employees have varied levels of understanding. NetLingo is the current authoritative reference on Internet terminology. It is widely used within the Internet industry and for the general public. It is an online publication where users go to "look up" a word (just like we do with a regular dictionary).

Which terms are considered NetLingo ?

Most NetLingo terms are words or acronyms that were developed by people who use the Internet to communicate. Since the Internet is still a relatively new communications medium for many people worldwide, and since many of these terms are new, and since most people are new users, NetLingo serves a large need. I've categorized the words as either Online Jargon, Net Technology, Software, Hardware, Web sites, etc., and I've described the terms in very easy-to-understand definitions. The actual words themselves relate to the vast network we call the Internet. For example, some terms are older communication terms (such as Arpanet and POTS); some are standard computing terms (for example compression, cache and so on); some are the names of software programs which have become standard Internet programs (like Netscape and MSIE); some are Web sites which are used so frequently people refer to them when discussing the Internet (such as Amazon and Yahoo!); some are acronyms used to shorten longer cryptic names (such as DNS for "domain name server" and URL for "uniform resource locator"); many describe the future technologies that we are already implementing today (such as RFID and GPS); and finally the need to say a lot more in a lot less time has created an enormous amount of terms, in fact, our most popular content is the list of text and chat acronymns (like POTATO for "people over thirty acting twenty one"); there's also leetspeak which uses numbers and symbols in place of letters (like d00d, n00b, and w00t); some terms are only numbers (143, 182, 459) and the variety of emoticons and emojis which add human subtleties to what could otherwise seem to be very stale, static messages ;-) see what I mean?

Where do the terms come from?

The terms and definitions in NetLingo come from a variety of sources, lots are user-added terms that I research and approve. Many entries widely used in the industry are standard technical terms that I have indexed and further defined or edited over the years. Other NetLingo jargon and phrases come from authoritative sources on a particular subject. And many NetLingo acronyms and smileys come from our users. In fact this is one of the best things about the online world, it is very easy to interact with your audience, and the people who interact with you make up the community. I keep in touch with the NetLingo online community and they submit new word ideas regularly.

When you say "we" who is we?

The "we" refers to the company, NetLingo Inc. I run the company and the Web site. It may also refer to the online community in general, it depends on the context. NetLingo Inc. is the company that publishes information products and it is an established business. Founded as an S-Corp in 1999, I knew there would come a time when people would be getting online for the first time, and not know what all of this new Internet jargon means. The first words I added were @, bookmark, and browser. (Back then people didn’t even know how to pronounce the @ sign, they’d say the “a” with the circle around it ;-) As you can imagine, since it is a dictionary about the Internet, on the Internet, NetLingo has grown tremendously.

What are some sample terms?

Terms such as ASCII, boolean logic, CobWeb Site, TEOTWAWKI, Bozo filter, worms, spiders, Trojan Horses, and so on are considered old fashioned. Now there's terms like leetspeak in which a coded language is replacing letters with other keyboard characters, for example each of these numbers means i love you: 143, 1432, 459, 831. And there will always be terms such as blogging, geocaching, Googlewhacking, Dutch auction, podcasting, brogrammers, ghosting, even web hosting and so on, that continue to need explaining because they continually evolve. Enter NetLingo ;-)

To what do you attribute it’s popularity?

It’s a niche product, created at the right time, in the right element. It is a leader in the Computing/Internet/Help/Reference categories due to its original content, unique design, and innovative technology. It’s a dictionary about the Internet, on the Internet, I mean that’s pretty well positioned. And it’s been around since the beginning of the Internet revolution. Mind you it wouldn't stay popular if I didn't keep it updated on a regular basis, so overall, I'd say that's probably the most important component. My users have told me time and again that the new content keeps them coming back.

You said before that NetLingo has received a lot of press coverage, can you be more specific?

There have been many news articles written about NetLingo, you can see most of them in the press section under "all press clippings." has been reviewed in hundreds of publications, and on TV stations, radio stations, and webcasts. Prominent mentions include: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The London Times, USA Today, Fortune Magazine, Reader's Digest, People Magazine, PC Magazine, Fast Company, The Net, MSNBC, The Martha Stewart Show, the BBC, Fox News, TNN, E! Entertainment, SciFi channel, Headline Spot, blink Earthlink magazine, Access magazine, Computer Currents, Apple, Inc. Online, and more.

What’s your biggest concern?

It’s called the content conundrum: how to make money with online content. I posted a user survey poll on asking the users whether I should make an annual paid subscription, and include specialized content for parents and educators and journalists, or if I should keep it free, with ad banners: the users said both. So I'll be launching a subscription service along with the free site and continue maintaining relationships with ad networks, partner text links and affiliate programs, as well as those who sponsor dictionary defintions. Off the record, I can't believe some big Internet company hasn't responded to the opportunity of sponsoring in an integrated sponsorship campaign. This would mean integrating Intel’s brand, for example, with the NetLingo brand on the Web site. Only one company would be the sponsor, their brand would be all over the thousands of pages of the Web site, and it would be in a "NetLingo is brought to you by Intel " kind of environment. It seems like a great marketing vehicle for a large Internet player. I intend to get a sponsor like that ;-)

Who is your competition?

My online competition is and (bought out by, however these sites are run by teams of male engineers and their angle remains to be somewhat arcane, technical, computer definitions. I'm more interested in Internet culture and jargon, and my calling card has always been that NetLingo is written by a woman using layman's language that everyone can understand. There's also Wikipedia by now (but DBEYR) and Urban Dictionary type sites, but my focus remains on online lingo (not street jargon). My print competition is the Dummies Dictionary series (which is actually full of incorrect information and I can’t stand it) and a handful of other Internet Dictionaries, but they tend to be the arcane, technical type. They may have more bells-and-whistles on their sites but when it comes down to it, it's all about the content. NetLingo continues to receive praise for its simplistic style.

Why should people buy the NetLingo book if they can use the Web site for free?

It’s about which type of medium you prefer to consume your content. What that means is that some people still prefer to read books, others like looking up information on Web sites, and still others download the e-book version to take with them on their own mobile device or the PDF version to use on their desktop. Regarding the book, it is easier to get an overall understanding of the Internet and its terms by flipping through the book. When you see the content in book form, and you can view all of the terms together at a quick glance, it really makes sense as a whole. Even though it is easy and free to go to the Web site to look up a word, it is also easy to have this handy reference guide near your desk. It depends on your preference, I'd be remiss if I only offered it in only one medium.

Do you get any fan mail?

I get email from people all over the world who are amazed that this site was actually developed by one person and continues to be published by a woman ;-) Almost all of them say that they are so thankful NetLingo exists and several emails come in each day with new Internet terms or acronym suggestions!

What are the most popular pages on the Web site?

Definitely the Acronyms and Text Messaging page. Overall people use the dictionary portion of the Web site mainly but they also like the Smileys page. I get a lot of people who love the Pocket Dictionary too.

Can NetLingo be used by someone else in an offline or printed version for a public presentation or report?

Yes, however, NetLingo is copyrighted and trademarked. Any use of NetLingo (it's name, logo, or contents) requires written permission and approval from NetLingo Inc. All of this information is listed in detail on the copyright page. To request approval, people must send an email.

How do I add a word to NetLingo ?

It's easy, go to the Add Your Own Lingo section --or-- send it in via email to

Do you offer partnerships or opportunities?

Yes, companies or organizations can advertise on the Web site with an integrated sponsorship campaign, they can license the content for use on public Web sites or private intranets, they can customize copies of the book and receive bulk discounts, and they can partner with NetLingo to produce a variety of information products and smiley-type merchandise. I've also licensed the content to cybersafety organizations and participated on their advisory boards.

How can we contact NetLingo Inc.?

The telephone number and email address is on the Contact Us page.
This interview was conducted by Robin Reed of, thank you!

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