Online Collaboration | Glossary

Terms you need to know when thinking and talking about online collaboration.

Application Programming Interface (API)

An API is a documented interface that allows one software application to interact with another application.


Asynchronous Communications

Independent of time or place, and messages go to and fro rather than appearing in one place in real time (see synchronous communication). Examples of asynchronous communication are email lists, bulletin boards and forums.


Blog (also known as Weblog)

A website that contains information, written material, photos, or links in the form of an online journal, usually compiled by one or many users. These sites are continually updated by the contributor(s).



Describes the totality of blogs on the Internet, and the conversations taking place within that sphere.


Bulletin Boards

The early vehicles for online collaboration, where users connected with a central computer to post and read email-like messages. They were the electronic equivalent of public notice boards. The term is still used for forums.



Refers to the letter and number combinations you have to decipher and type in when filling out a form on the web. It is a mechanism used to check whether or not you are human and is used to prevent spam and to ensure that a person, as opposed to a software program, is writing the response.



Individuals working together, typically each contributing to an overarching goal. Collaboration suggests that each contributor holds a piece to the overall puzzle, and must work with the other individuals in order to accomplish the larger goal.


Collaboration Software (also known as Groupware)

Application software that allows concurrent workers located at separate workstations to work together on a single project. Collaboration software typically allows individuals to communicate electronically and manage projects either online or through software installed on desktops.


Collective Intelligence

A shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision-making in social networks.



Any meaningful material –text, pictures, video, etc—that is on the Internet.


Enterprise Wiki

A private wiki located within a business or enterprise (aka collaborative software). Enterprise wikis can house documentation or serve as project management software for internal projects. Some companies use wikis to replace their intranets.



Securely extends a company's Intranet out to suppliers, vendors, partners, customers and other businesses through the use of internet protocols and networks. Typically, an extranet requires security and privacy obtained through firewalls, server management, and encryption.



Discussion areas on websites, where people can post messages or comment on existing messages independently of time or place. Before blogs, email lists and forums were the main means of conversing online. Forum discussions happen in one place, and can be managed and facilitated in ways that blog conversations cannot.


Groupware (also known as Collaborative Software)

Allows users located at separate workstations to work together on a single project using communication and project management software tools.



A tag used on the social network Twitter as a way to annotate a message. A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a "#". Hashtags are commonly used to show that a tweet is related to a specific theme or event.


Instant Messaging (IM)

Allows individuals who have downloaded client software to locate individuals who are online concurrently and communicate with those individuals in real-time. While most instant messaging is the exchange of text messages, it is advancing to the point of being able to conduct voice and video conversations via the messaging software.



Typically a secure, local area network (LAN) used by organizations to store or share internally relevant information and data.


Knowledge Management

Refers to the creation, organization, sharing and flow of information in organizations. Enterprise Knowledge Management (EKM) seeks to leverage the information within the organization to further the organization's strength within the marketplace. This is accomplished by building a central repository where information can be shared, exchanged, acquired and expanded.


Online Communities

Groups of people communicating mainly through the Internet who may have a shared interest or learn from each other. Online communities can use email lists or forums where content is centralized. Communities can also emerge from conversations between bloggers.



The framework or system in which online tools work. That platform may be as broad as mobile telephony, or as narrow as a piece of software that has different modules like blogs, forums, and wikis in a suite of tools.


Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

A way of syndicating content over the web that allows users to receive amalgamate information in the form of a "web-feed" onto their desktop. Commonly used for news and discussion sites, RSS allows information to come to the user, rather than the user having to visit websites to receive the latest information.


Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

A cryptographic protocol which provides secure communication over the Internet.


Social Media

A term for the tools and platforms people use to publish, converse and share content online. Social media includes logs, wikis, and podcasts, in addition to sites enabling you to share photos and bookmarks. Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.


Social Media Monitoring

A process of monitoring and responding to mentions related to a business that occur in social media.


Social Networking Sites

Online places where users can create a profile for themselves and then socialize with others using a collection of social media tools—such as blogs, video, images, tagging, lists of friends, forums and messaging.


Synchronous Communications

Communications occurring in real time—for example, chat, audio and video.



Keywords attached to a blog post, bookmark, photo or other item of content so you and others can find them easily through searches and aggregation. Tags can usually be freely chosen, while categories are predetermined.


User Generated Content

Text, photos and other material (content) produced by people who have previously been able to just consume.


Virtual teams

A group of individuals working across time, space, and organizational boundaries, facilitated by layers of communication technology, such as telephones, email, and collaboration software. Geographically dispersed teams allow organizations to hire and retain the best people regardless of location.


Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

Enables you to use a computer or other Internet device for phone calls without additional charge, including conference calls. By using headphones and a microphone you can also free your hands to use instant messaging to keep a shared note of conversations, or use other virtual presence tools. You can use Voice over IP to do interviews for Podcasts. The best-known VOIP tool is Skype.


Web 2.0

A term coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004 to describe blogs, wikis, social networking sites and other Internet-based services that emphasize collaboration and sharing. Web 2.0 refers to a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted which facilitate collaboration and sharing between users. This is in contrast to websites that do not feature interactive components or community building. Web 2.0 has had a major impact on how people think, communicate, prioritize, express themselves and collaborate in both professional and personal settings.


Web conferencing

Refers to the ability to hold group meetings or live presentations over the Internet, where each participant sits at his or her computer and connects into a central location through the Internet. Different elements of the meeting can be delivered through the Internet. The most basic feature of a web conference is screen sharing, whereby conference participants see whatever is on the presenter's screen. Usually this is accompanied by voice communication done through a traditional telephone conference. Sometimes, the entire presentation – voice and lecture - is delivered via the Internet.



An element of a graphical user interface that displays an information arrangement changeable by the user, such as a window or text box.



An online forum in which any user authorized to do so is able to easily add and edit content. The wiki broke down technology barriers by vastly simplifying the creation of HTML webpages, and thus, became an effective collaboration tool. Wiki is derived from the "Wiki Wiki" line of Chance RT-52 buses in Honolulu International Airport. The name is based on the Hawaiian term wiki, meaning "quick," "fast," or "to hasten."


Wiki Farm

A collection of individual wikis, usually hosted by the same website.



The equivalent of glossy surfaces where you can write with an appropriate marker pen and wipe off later. They are tools that enable you to write or sketch on a web page, and as such are useful in collaboration online.