What is a TLA?

Confusing, befuddling and intimidating … no one likes jargon, but the internet is full of it.

And peppered throughout is the Three Letter Acronym (TLA). Please bear with as as we try to demystify a few (and a few of their buddies) …


We know, we know it’s not a TLA. But the A record is a fundamental part of DNS. The ‘A‘ stands for Address record. For every website address there is an A record which contains an IP Address. When you enter google.com in your web browser, your computer looks up this IP address and sends requests for information (graphics, code etc.) to that address.


We know, we know it’s still not a TLA. The internet is big and getting bigger. It is fast running out of old style IP addresses and so the boffins have invented the newer IPV6 address format. For DNS purposes, IPV6 addresses are too long to fit in an A record so they invented the AAAA record.

AAAA does not really stand for anything but is sometimes referred to as Quad A.


Still not a TLA. Apache is web server software – the software computers use to send web pages and data to web browsers and applications across the internet. The name Apache is actually a joke – “A Patchy Web Server”.

Nonetheless, it’s an excellent piece of software and still is used (at the time of writing) by most of the world’s websites.


Canonical Name records are part of DNS. They are typically used to differentiate a subdomain (like portal.little-fire.com) from the main web server. This way, web pages and email can use the same domain name (e.g. www.little-fire.com and mail.little-fire.com) but access different servers.


CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a technology used to manage interactions with customers and potential customers. A CRM system helps organisations build customer relationships and streamline processes so they can increase sales, improve customer service, and increase profitability. Hubspot, Monday.com and Pabau are all CRM systems.


Cascading Style Sheets are what make html pages look like a design. HTML tells the browser what to display (‘put a header here, then add a logo and a menu’). The CSS – separate file loaded with the html – tells you how those things should look (‘make the header dark grey and not very tall, make the logo go at the left and make the menu small and white’).


DomainKeys Identified Mail is a system that allows an organisation to take responsibility for the emails they send. An email can be passed through many mail servers on its way from your laptop to your Aunt Mabel in Adelaide. If you have DKIM set up and an associated record in your DNS configuration, each of those servers can check that the email really does come from you. In this way, a correctly-set DKIM record can help prevent the emails you send from ending up in Mabel’s junk folder.


This is the Domain Name System … effectively the phone book for the internet. It’s the system which allows computers to match user-friendly domain names (e.g. little-fire.com) to a numerical reference (IP address) and find things on the internet.

For every working domain there will be a set of ‘records’ – a list of instructions for what to do when a device asks for a web page, an email etc. This is called the DNS configuration.

For example, when you enter ‘little-fire.com’ into your web browser, your computer asks the DNS for the IP address for the web server associated with the domain name and sends the browser to look there.


The File Transfer Protocol is a set of rules (a protocol) by which files can be copied from your computer to a location on the internet. This is often employed when uploading files on a website. Web developers often use a separate piece of software – an FTP client – to move files around the internet.


Not quite a TLA but essential nonetheless: IP stands for Internet Protocol and refers to a set of numbers or letters by which everything on the internet is identified – its IP address.

An IP address is like a phone number – each device, every computer, every phone, every server, every smart device within a network (in this case the whole internet) must have a unique number.

Old style IP addresses (IPV4) quite complicated (e.g.

Newer addresses (IPV6) are really complicated (e.g. 2607:f8b0:4003:c00::6a:80).

Clearly, no sane human being should be expected to remember such things. Fortunately we have DNS so computers can remember it all for us.


Internet Relay Chat platforms are everywhere. When you use the contact widget in the bottom left of many website – that’s a little IRC programme running. Anywhere where text conversations are carried out real time, that’s IRC.


A Mail Exchange record is part of DNS. It identifies a mail server as the destination for emails sent to any given domain (e.g. info@little-fire.com).


Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance is yet another DNS record. DMARC, is a technical standard that helps protect email senders and recipients from spam, spoofing, and phishing. A correctly-set DMARC record can help prevent the emails you send from ending up in other peoples’ junk folders.


The Graphics Interchange Format is an older image file format. It supports simple transparency and animation. Better than a JPG (JPEG) for displaying logos but these days a good developer will normally use a PNG or an SVG if they want a crisp transparent image. Stephen Wilhite, the guy who invented the format, insists it should be pronounced “jif” but what does he know? Most people use the hard G (sounds like “glyph”).


HyperText Markup Language is the page-description language which your browser uses to build and format web pages. It is an extension of XML with a specific set of tags which allow for the placement of images (identified by a URL), text and inclusion of scripts to make the page appear in your browser.


The HyperText Transfer Protocol is a set of rules (a protocol) by which data is transferred across the internet for web pages. HTTP is understood by all browsers and web servers – it is the language of the World Wide Web. HTTP allows a server to send a set of instructions for building a web page and the browser the ability to understand those instructions and build it.


HTTP is not a secure protocol – a crook with appropriate knowledge can read your internet activity in transit through the internet. If the bank is showing you your statement online, this is not a good idea. The HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure is an enhanced set of rules which allows your computer and the server to agree to encrypt everything that happens between your device and the web server.


Another common abbreviation (and occasional file suffix) for JPG – stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.


Until recently the most popular image file format on the internet. The Joint Photographic Experts Group file format allows photographic images to be compressed before being saved for download across slow internet connections. The degree of compression can be controlled the user. The better quality the image the larger the file size. These days, Google prefers the WEBP file format which offers less quality loss and a smaller file size.


The term ‘MVC’ is a favourite amongst programmers. It stands for Model View Controller and refers to a method (or a design pattern) for organising computer code. It’s offers a means or writing code that is easy for developers to read, understand and expand upon.

If a client asks “Can I have my web page as a PDF?”, with MVC, the answer is probably “Yes“.


NGINX is web server software (that is it passes web pages and data to your browser or app). It can also be used as a reverse proxy, load balancer, mail proxy and HTTP cache. It performs many of the same functions as Apache but by and large is faster. According to Wikipedia, NGINX pronounced “engine x” /ˌɛndʒɪnˈɛks/ EN-jin-EKS but what to they know?


JavaScript Object Notation is a data exchange format. Unlike XML, it does not have an agreed standard set of tags and it does not include any unwanted instructions or data. As a result it makes for small (fast) files which are very hard for puny humans to read. It is particularly useful when creating online applications where Javascript sends data to and interprets information from the web server, making a web page responsive.


Left to themselves, HTML pages are boring. Even nicely-designed ones just sit there … just beautiful images and powerful, poetic words – doing nothing. JavaScript is there to change all that. Originally used to do ‘rollover’ images, JavaScript has evolved to become an incredibly useful part of web design: from validating an email address before submitting a form, ensuring the images that you actually want to see are loaded from the server (saving your phone valuable data) to all those lovely carousels. It can even power whole web applications.


The term PCI is frequently-used shorthand for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) which is the set of rules set out by the payment card industry to establish whether a web server is sufficiently up to date and well protected to be considered secure enough for receiving and storing payment card details. In all but the most demanding cases, Little Fire Digital will use payment gateways which handle the collection and storage of client card data – meaning we never store your payment data if we can avoid it. All our e-commerce solutions are scanned regularly to ensure their compliance nonetheless. We consider it the ‘baseline’ security level for protecting your, and your clients’ data.


The Portable Document Format was created by Adobe® Corporation as a standard document type which could be opened and read on any computer. It cannot be edited in the same way as, say, a Word document; but almost every device allows you to open it and it will look as the designer intended.


Left to themselves, HTML pages are boring. Even nicely-designed ones just sit there … just beautiful images and powerful, poetic words – the same day after day. PHP Hypertext Protocol is there to change all that. The PHP bit isn’t really an acronym – it‘s what passes for a joke amongst web developers. PHP is what’s known as a server language – there are others – but 80% of the world’s websites are powered by PHP (including this one). Server languages allow the web server to build websites that are infinitely flexible referring to databases and external sources of information to choose which content to display. For example a PHP page could identify you from a cookie, establish that you are logged in, refer to a calendar, look up an RSS feed and show you all the news that has happened since you last visited the website.


Really Simple Syndication is a version of XML, specifically designed for sharing news stories between websites. It’s a very simple format – a list of headlines, sub-headlines, images, dates and URLs. RSS is still widely used.


Search Engine Optimisation the big one. Barely a day goes by when someone does’t mention SEO. In short, its a series of methods and practices to ensure your website appears near the top of the results when users search for relevant terms in Google, Bing or other search engines. The internet is a big, busy and ever-changing environment, without SEO your website is likely to get lost in the noise.


A Secure Socket Layer is a standard security technology for sending encrypted data between a server and a client – whether it be a web server (website) and a browser, or a mail server and email client (Outlook, Gmail or Apple Mail). SSL relies on a system of SSL Certificates issued by trusted, third-party providers (e.g. Digicert, Qualys etc) which allows your website to be independently verified and trusted.


Adding a Sender Protection Framework record to your DNS records allows you to specify which organisation and devices can send out emails purporting to be from your organisation. It is particularly useful for enabling websites and other services to send emails to your clients. It helps prevent your emails from ending up in your clients’ spam folders.


Unlike other image formats, the Scalable Vector Format image format describes an image as a set of curves and outlines rather than a grid of coloured pixels. For simple logos and diagrams, this can mean a much smaller file size. SVG’s can be displayed pin-sharp at any size. We like SVG files.


The Transmission Control Protocol means by which data is communicated across the internet. Everything sent across the internet is chopped up into tiny parcels of data (octets). TCP establishes the connection between your device (the client) and the website (server); sends your request (‘get me this picture’) and receives and validates the octets of data which come back and reassembles it into that picture you asked for of a cat in a scanner.


The Uniform Resource Indicator is a unique sequence of characters that identifies a logical or physical resource used by web technologies. Anything, anything, on the internet needs a unique address – there are a lot of entities out there to which the rest of the world might need access. Get the wrong one and your website or application may break.


The Uniform Resource Locator a class of URI. Also known as an internet address. In theory, every single item connected to the internet can be identified by a URL such as


A url is made up of several components:

  • Protocol http:// … get me a web page, https:// … get me a secure web page, ftp:// … get me a file
  • Domain name … ‘little-fire.com’ … I want to get itfrom those little-fire guys
  • Path … ‘contact’ … I want to visit those shmoos, where’s their office?


A Virtual Learning Environment is an online application specifically designed to assist online learning – Moodle is probably the most well-known, mature and widely adopted VLE. Virtual Learning Environments typically offer a framework for the distribution of learning materials, IRC for communication in term time and a test framework to establish the success of the students’ learning.


A Virtual Private Network is a piece of software used to keep your internet activity private and secure. The VPN creates a secure tunnel between your phone or computer and a private VPN server before forwarding your traffic on to the website or application you’re trying to reach.

Putting another machine between you and the rest of the internet means that someone looking from the ‘outside’ ‘in’ …  can only see the VPN server’s IP address which means it cannot identify you.


Described as a ‘progressive image format’, Web Picture format images are (as of 2022) Google’s preferred image format. Offering animation, transparency and massive compression – it’s probably ours too.


Most people know this – World Wide Web. Although recognised by most people, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not the internet as such. It’s just the part of the internet which is made of web pages and the links between them. All those other bits where, for example, your phone app talks to your bank … that’s the rest of the internet.


This stands for Extensible Markup Language. XML is a data exchange format – an agreed means of writing text so that computers can pass information to each other and understand it (in some ways computers are still very stupid).

Markup is a means of writing text combined with instructions relating to it.

For example, the markup:

<p style=”text-align: center”>Look at this <strong>bold</strong> text</p>

will appear in a web browser as:

Look at this bold text

XML is extensible and has many, many variants – sets of tags – which means it has almost limitless uses. It is normally relatively easy for a human being to read.

Well known XML variants include HTML which is used to format web pages and RSS

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