Our guide to what applet, java, and plug-in mean

By Ty Burr
Updated July 18, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

For the cyberflummoxed: Our latest mini-Webster’s of abstruse but necessary multimedia terms.

Applet. What It Means: A small Java program (see below) that is sent downstream to your Web browser, where it plays animations, performs calculations, etc. What It Doesn’t Mean: A really tiny Macintosh computer.

Java. Means: A computer language that sends on-the-fly programs down the pipe to your Web browser; promises — or threatens — to fill the Internet with a billion singing, chattering, dancing websites. Doesn’t Mean: Computer programmer’s beverage of choice (then it would be called Jolt).

Plug-In. Means: Third-party software that you must download and attach to your Web browser, allowing you to hear sounds, play video, experience 3-D worlds, etc. Doesn’t Mean: What you must do to your computer if you want it to be more than a $3,200 paperweight.