The most misunderstood tech terms revealed (and explained)



A woman looking straight ahead behind a variety of tech codeTech trends continue to emerge and evolve at a rapid pace, with new terms and phrases cropping up all the time. While many of the more niche, technical terms rarely appear outside of a tech industry context, there is plenty of digital-native language that permeates into the mainstream through news and media.

Thanks to the breakneck acceleration of digital transformation we’ve seen over the past few years, even your grandpa has probably heard of cryptocurrency at this point, even if he has no idea what it means.

The speed these new concepts are introduced and adopted can make them difficult to keep track of—particularly as the tech industry is so fond of acronyms and initialisms.

To gauge how much the use of such abbreviations in tech creates confusion or misunderstanding, Mason Frank has conducted new research into Google search volume data, collating the top five most searched-for terms and their trend patterns over the last 12 months.

Here’s what we found:

Google Search Term Average Global Monthly Search Volume Trend (Last 12 months)
what is API 246,000 +50%
what is AI 135,000 +233%
what is HTML 110,000 +49%
what is DevOps 90,050 0%
what is CSS 60,500 +49%

Commenting on the results of the research, Mason Frank International Chairman and CEO James Lloyd-Townshend said: “Jargon, shorthand, acronyms, and abbreviations can all be useful in our day-to-day tech work conversations, but we have to be mindful about how somebody new to the space or sector might be experiencing that. We don’t want folks to feel overwhelmed by all the new information they have to decode.

“It’s also worth thinking about using full terms and taking the time to explain them, even briefly, especially when you’re in an inter-departmental context or speaking with a non-tech audience, for example. If you regularly assume knowledge, it can stigmatize asking for explanations or clarification, which isn’t a positive experience and can lead to further miscommunication.”

Let’s clear up the confusion around these misunderstood tech terms.

What is API?

An API is an application programming interface. In the simplest terms, an API lets one product or service communicate with another product or service.

For example, the weather app on your phone retrieves the latest forecast from the weather bureau’s database via an API.

Or, if you’ve ever downloaded an event or appointment reminder to add to your Google calendar, the website you’re on will use an API to connect to Google and ask it to generate that calendar event.

What is AI?

The conversation around tech in 2023 has so far been dominated by the phenomenal rise of generative artificial intelligence, and its ongoing, and often controversial, development. The unveiling of AI language models like ChatGPT and their impact on our world has been big news lately, and AI’s explosive entry into public discourse is reflected in this new research with searches for “what is AI” jumping 233% over the last year.

So what is AI? AI is an initialism, standing for artificial intelligence: a term that was originally defined as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines” by Emeritus Stanford Professor John McCarthy in 1955.

As language and technology have shifted though, the term has come to refer to machines and systems that can demonstrate certain traits of human intelligence including learning, problem-solving, and perception.

The current conversation is focused primarily on generative AI which is a technology that produces content informed by its access to existing banks of digitized knowledge.

What is HTML?

Having been around for 30 years, HTML (or Hypertext Markup Language) is far from a cutting-edge concept. But despite the fact that most people will have encountered both the term and the technology through regular internet use, its meaning still evades many.

HTML is a standardized system for tagging text files. It’s commonly used in the building and formatting of webpages, and is the foundation upon which most webpages found on the internet are created.

HTML code essentially tells web browsers how to format the text on a webpage, determining factors like the size and colour of the text, paragraph breaks, and more.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is an approach to software development that focuses on releasing software faster by using automation to carry out tasks like testing, and making small, regular improvements to code instead of putting out bulky releases infrequently.

DevOps isn’t strictly one thing, but a collection of practices, attitudes, and automated tools that help software developers work more efficiently.

The term DevOps is an amalgamation of ‘development’ and ‘operations’. The philosophy gets its name from the integrated way that development and operations teams work. In traditional development, these two teams work separately, passing products off only when they’re complete.

In DevOps teams, they work together, regularly testing small batches of code and fixing errors quickly. This enhanced communication and rapid method of collecting and addressing feedback allows DevOps teams to build release-ready software more quickly, and improve the overall quality of their products.

What is CSS?

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and is a simple design language used to dictate how a webpage looks.

While HTML is used to create the text content of a webpage, as well as style it in limited ways, CSS is a separate selection of code that complements HTML and makes a webpage look nicer. CSS allows users to separate the content from its presentation; by amending CSS code, the style of a website can be changed without changing its content.

CSS makes websites more presentable, flexible, and most importantly, accessible. CSS makes it possible to present the same document in different styles for different rendering methods including on-screen, in print, via text-to-speech, and on Braille readers.

Data was collected via in May 2023, and corresponds to global English-language Google search volumes for the preceding 12-month period.

Get thousands of salesforce professionals at your fingertips

Mason Frank's Candidate Search gives you access to the best talent on the planet... fast.