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The most misunderstood tech buzzwords – what do they mean?

James Lloyd-Townshend, Mason Frank International

Tech trends continue to emerge and shift at a rapid pace. The conversation in 2023 has so far been dominated by the unveiling of generative artificial intelligence to the public, and its ongoing development. 

The speed at which these new ideas are introduced and adopted can be difficult to keep track of – particularly where abbreviations are concerned. 

To gauge how much the use of acronyms and abbreviations in tech lends itself to confusion or misunderstanding. New research into Google search volume data reveal the top five most searched for terms, as well as their trend patterns over the last 12 months. 

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.” 

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. 

What is AI?
AI is an acronym for artificial intelligence. The term 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 as informed by its access to existing banks of digitized knowledge. 

What is HTML?
HTML, Hypertext Markup Language, is a standardized system for tagging text files. HTML is used to structure most pages found on the internet by informing web browsers how to format text – including page breaks, paragraph breaks, font highlights, and more. 

What is DevOps?
DevOps is an amalgamation of ‘development’ and ‘operations’. DevOps is principally a set of tools and practices used in software development and the wider IT industry. Its main tenets are shared ownership, workflow automation, and rapid feedback. 

What is CSS?
CSS corresponds to Cascading Style Sheets, and is a language used to describe the presentation of a web document written in a markup language, such as HTML. By separating content and presentation, CSS enables greater flexibility and by extension, accessibility. 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. 


*Collated by Mason Frank International

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

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