Portal:AOL-Files/AOL Technical Glossary

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(Originally by AOL-Files staff member BMB)


Affinity code

The numeric value assigned to all people in an affinity group. This is used by the people setting up the group and associated promotions and is not seen by the users.


Part of the Member Services organization which tracks problems with information or navigation on the AOL service. For instance, if there is a typo in an AOL designed area (such as the promotions on the sign-on screen) or a keyword does not lead to the expected area, that information is reported to ALOG. ALOG disseminates information on problems to the rest of the member services organization and attempts to get the problem corrected. To report a problem, use keyword ALOG.

Alpha Test

The first test release of a new piece of software. Because such software almost always has serious bugs, alpha tests are conducted by a limited groups of experienced users. At AOL, alpha tests are conducted entirely in-house. See also: Beta Test.


The name of a graphics format created by the Johnson-Grace company and used by AOL in the AOL client software.


A single command in the FDO91 language.

Atomic Debugger

The debugger used by developers to test code written in the FDO91 language.


Server used to let users change their name, address, and billing information.


Beta Test

The round of testing a new software release which follows the alpha test. There are generally many rounds of testing included in a beta test. During each round, a new (and hopefully more perfect) version of the software is distributed to a group of users to test. At AOL, client software beta tests start with internal staff and a few selected users and grow to include thousands of users during the late rounds of testing. In agreeing to participate in a beta test, users gain access to leading edge technology with the agreement that they will report any problems they encounter. By the end of a beta test, all major bugs should have been discovered and repaired.


The process of shutting down and restoring all or part of the service. Can be used in reference to a particular part of the system: "We're going to bounce message boards." Can also be used in relation to the entire system: "There will be a system bounce Thursday at 4am." Bounces can be used to reset a process which is running improperly or for an emergency installation of a new version of a piece of software (see Bounce In). In either of these cases, the bounce takes only a few minutes. System bounces are planned in advance and are used for major software installations, network reconfiguration, and other tasks which may involved keeping the entire service down for several hours.


To disconnect a member's session for his or her misbehavior.


Canned Text

Errors messages and other pieces of text which may be sent to a user while they are online. Canned text is localized for each new country.

Canned Forms

Forms for which the design is complete but data is to be filled in by a process at the time the user displays the form itself. For instance, the Top News forms are stored complete in appearance but without a list of articles. At the time a user asks to display the top news, the news program displays the form and then fills in a list of articles.


Communications control language. CCL is a scripting language that allows AOL developers to "tweak" the connection sequence to the communications network without having to rebuild the client code. CCL comes into play when you are making your host connection during logon. CCL tells the logon code the logon sequence. The logon code is the same for all networks; the CCL contains the differences.


The number and password used by the member during the registration process to register an account. Certificates are used for security, marketing, and control purposes. (For example, the codes track and identify the promotion through which the member was attracted. Through links in the billing system, a member's pricing is determined by the certificate number entered by the member during the registration process.) Key for the certificate file.


The software which members use to access the service. Currently, there are AOL clients for the DOS, Windows, Macintosh, and Magic Cap operating systems, and there are AIM clients for Windows, Macintosh, and Java. Client software is developed by the Clients and Applications Development group.


CSL files are used with client versions 4.0, 5.0 and higher to connect to test systems and production.

Customer Support Systems

At AOL, the primary systems are Online CRIS and AutoRep.



Form Definition Operator - 1988 Version. The FDO language is the language used to describe forms on the client. The 1988 version of FDO (FDO88) is used in the GEOS version of the AOL client (PCAO) and the Macintosh clients before version 3.0. See also: FDO91.


Form Definition Operator - 1991 Version. The version of the FDO language used in the Windows client, the Magic Cap client, and the Macintosh client (versions 3.0 and later). See also: FDO88.


A window which is a part of AOL. Data for most forms reside on the host and are sent to the client at the time the user enters a given area. For instance, the appearance of the MTV area is stored on the host and sent to the client at the time the user goes to keyword MTV.


A host-based tool used by AOL producers to create and manage forms.



Global Identifier. Forms and artwork are identified by a unique number (GID) on the host. The GID can refer to a form/artwork or a logical group of forms/artwork. When a form/artwork is sent down to the client from the host, or is called up from the client's local database, the GID associated with that form/artwork identifies that instance of the form/artwork.


Golden Master. The final version of a software product which is actually sent into production or to the disk manufacturer for reproduction.


A program written by Johnson-Grace which converts certain files to ART format. See also: ART.



The central computer systems run by America Online which provide the functionality and content of the America Online service (e.g. keeping membership lists, storing electronic mail, delivering form definitions).


A button created using Rainman or Pageman which has an action associated with it.



Abbreviation for "Internationalization" - an "I" and an "N" with 18 letters in between. See L10N.


Modifying a part of AOL's client or host software to enable it to handle non-English text. See also: Localization.


International Quality Assurance. Teams responsible for making sure the forms are localized and function as expected. There are two IQA teams: Host and Client.


Information Provider. An organization which creates content for the America Online service. IPs build and maintain their areas and receive a commission based on the number of hours spent in their area by AOL members.

IP Tunnel

Server which routes (IP) packets between AOL users and the Internet.



  1. The company that created one of the compression methods used by AOL for graphics, video, and sound.
  2. The name of the compression technology used within AOL. Johnson-Grace was purchased by AOL in 1996.


Joint Venture. Used generically to describe a business venture in which two or more companies agree to jointly pursue a business opportunity by forming a third company. At AOL, most often used to refer to the joint ventures with Bertelsmann, A.G. in Europe and with Mitsui and Nikkei in Japan.



Stands for Kilimanjaro and refers to AOL's 5.0 clients.


K2 stands for 6.0 clients.



Standard abbreviation for "Localization". See also: I18N.


The process of creating forms, text, and design elements appropriate for a particular language, country, or culture. Client software and all necessary forms must be localized before AOL can be launched in a particular country. Localization of a given part of the software cannot be performed until that software has been internationalized.



A non-readable file in the AOL software that stores artwork and client forms.

Master File

The database which contains the list of all AOL members.


The people and supporting software that run and care for

  • billing AOL customers
  • ordering software and merchandise
  • providing customer support systems
  • tracking , monitoring and reporting on membership and system usage and activities.


A single complete Stratus system and its related peripherals. Each module has a number which identifies it. E.G. "Module 27 just blew a gasket I can't get at the Porch test system." Stratus modules may be linked together a work cooperatively. See also: StrataLink, Stratus.



Network Operations Center. The NOC staff monitors the AOL service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. NOC staff ensures that the system is operating as expected, that routine problems with the host are rectified quickly, and that non-routine problems are reported to the appropriate staff members. The NOC staff also maintains contact with the telecommunication network providers.


A term for which there are at least two different meanings within AOL. (1) On the internal corporate network, a node refers to any single machine with a unique address on the network. (2) In the telecommunications world, the term node is often used to refer to a particular point-of-presence in a particular city. As in: "The node in St. Louis just went down and 1000 people were knocked off the service."


Online CRIS

Online Customer Relations Information System. An online area which allows customer service representatives to access and modify members account information when the users calls in to ask a technical question or request a change in billing information.


Short for "Operations." The department in AOL Technologies responsible for configuring hardware and software and monitoring and maintaining the online services.



The proprietary protocol used to ensure the integrity of data transmitted between the client and host computers.


Page Manager. The server that displays infomration published with Rainman.


An early America Online service (tailored to Tandy and PC DOS). This service no longer exists.


As in "peas in a pod." An organizational unit in the AOL host system. One pod is designed to support the communications, download, and Internet access needs of approximately 24,000 simultaneous users.

Promo code

The internal tracking numbers assigned to a specific promotion that enables us to track how we acquire a customer, for example from PC World Magazine or a direct mailing. It's the key for the Manage Promotions System.



Quality Assurance. The department or process responsible for testing software to make sure it performs as expected.


The original AOL service for the Commodore 64. (Set up primarily for use after work hours.) This service no longer exists.



Remote Automated Information Manager. A program which allows producers and information providers to create online content by writing simple scripts and sending them to the system by email. An online publishing tool that allows for graphics, text, and other multimedia on the same page (form). See also: Visual Rainman.


Process to help a customer give AOL their name, address, billing information and to define a new screen name.

Remote Staff

Hundreds of volunteers who receive discounted online time in exchange for moderating online areas, checking uploaded files for viruses, helping members online and other related tasks. Their activities are coordinated by AOL Networks.


Remote Managed Gateway. Software which allows parts of the AOL service to access data on computers at a remote site while looking to the member as if it was part of the AOL service. For example, the American Express ExpressNet area can access American Express's computers to show a member the balance on their American Express card.


Rules of the Road. Related to Terms of Service, it is another way of saying that a member will abide by the Terms of Service agreement for a country when using that service. For example, a German user in a US chat room will be held to the US Rules of the Road. See also: TOS.


Silver Master

The final, preapproved copy of the AOL client disk from the disk duplicator. When this disk is approved by QA, it becomes the golden master that is duplicated for production distribution.


The token-ring network which connects Stratus modules. See also: Stratus, module.


The brand of mini-computer on which the entire AOL host system was created. Until 1994, all of AOL run exclusively on Stratus systems. Stratus machines are fault-tolerant. That is, they have redundant hardware designed to stay running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. See also: module, StrataLink.



A brand of fault-tolerant computer used to store AOL's master file.

Test System

Any AOL system used to test AOL software.


Terms Of Service. The rules of behavior members and employees agree to abide by in becoming users of AOL. Violation of these rules can result in a member being bumped or even TOSed.



Update Disk Operation. At time of sign on, updates the client database to account for changes in forms, artwork, etc.



Views and Permissions. A feature which allows the designer of an online area to control access to or presentation of that area based on characteristics of the member. For instance, an area featuring multimedia files could be limited to users who are running a version of AOL that supports such files, or the state government forum for a particular state could be restricted to people calling from within that state.


The database system used by the customer service organization to track member calls as well as all known problems and their symptoms and solutions.


viewrules are assigned to each template, dictating under what circumstances the template can be invoked.

Visual Rainman

An interface to Rainman which allows the author to work in a GUI environment rather than using a scripting language.



Slang reference to the Windows version of the America Online software. Pronounced like "whale." No-longer considered proper usage.