Developers and tech-savvy people have always been attracted to numbers, so it’s just a matter of course that numeronyms, or number-based words have become quickly beloved by them. Numeronyms are used to abbreviate long words that would be too cumbersome to accurately type all the time. We can call an abbreviation a numeronym if it contains both letters and numbers.
There’s no strict rules about how to create a numeronym, but they usually use the following formula: you take the first letter and the last letter and count how many characters are in between them.
Probably the most well-known numeronym in tech circles is i18n for internationalization. It’s i18n because the first letter is -i, it’s followed by 18 characters and finally the letter -n. First it can seem crazy, but in reality numeronyms can be fun and you can even generate your own.
The Origin of Numeronyms
According to online rumours the first numeronym dates back to a DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation – later merged with Hewlett-Packard) employee named Jan Scherpenhuizen whose name was found too long to be an account name, so the system administrator gave him an email account with the username s12n.
The approach was found humorous, and DEC began to use the formula to abbreviate long words. i18n for the word internationalization was supposedly used as early as in the mid 1980s, and it was followed by many others – both in the tech and non-tech world.
Now let’s see what are currently the 10 techiest numeronyms out there:
1. i18n For Internationalization
i18n refers to the development of a software or an app that makes later localization possible for different target audiences around the world.
i18n doesn’t mean that the product is actually translated, but it’s about adding to the possibility of a later translation, and other adjustments to a different language. In the process, i18n developers provide features that may not be used until the localization actually happens. The goal of i18n is basically to make the software adaptable and usable in other parts of the world.
2. l10n For Localization
The twin term of i18n is localization, represented by the numeronym l10n. l10n happens when a software or an app is adapted to a specific culture.
l10n can be easily added to products that have been internationalized before. L10n doesn’t only mean translation; it also refers to things like the use of the specific currency, timezone, collation, legal requirements, symbols and many others local characteristics.
If you want to understand the difference between i18n and l10n, read the guide of W3C (which also uses a numeronym for the abbreviation of its own name: W3C stands for World Wide Web Consortium). Here’s an example of how international symbols for pedestrian crossing was localized for Portuguese people.
3. m17n For Multilingualization
M17n takes place somewhere between i18n and l10n. We talk about it when an app or software is localized to multiple languages and cultures. A multilingualized software supports many languages at the same time, and also other local features of the supported languages such as timezones, date, time, and currency formats.
When we speak about m17n, we also need to mention the need for the support of other writing systems that don’t only use ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) characters.
WordPress for example provides us with a beautiful multilingualized interface, as it allows us to choose the language we want to use during the installation process and later on the user interface.
4. a11y For Accessibility
a11y has become a popular term in web design, especially since W3C released its accessibility web standards. a11y supports people with different kinds of disabilities or sensory impairments, as well as those with kinds of disadvantages such as the elderly and people in rural areas with low bandwidth.
a11y covers a quite wide area. Visually impaired people who can hardly distinguish colours need high colour contrast ratio; people who cannot use a mouse need to be provided with all functionalities via keyboard; people who can’t hear need transcripts, etc. There are many other use cases of a11y that product designers need to solve.
5. c14n For Canonicalization
C14n occurs when certain data have more than one representations, and you need to convert them into a standardized format. These days you can see this term most frequently in SEO best practice guides like this one from Google, which advises webmasters and website owners about the usage of canonical URLs.
In search engine optimization, c14n is needed when an individual web page can be loaded from more than one URL, as this practice is frequently penalized by search engines. In Google Webmaster Tools you can set your prefered domain format (with or without the www subdomain). Yoast has some great advice about SEO and c14n, too.
As a web developer you can also see the term within XML where c14n ensures that an XML document follows a specific format.
6. i14y For Interoperability
i14y refers to the portability and compatibility of the components of a system or a product. As more and more things exist as a part of a network, i14y has lately become a marketing buzzword in product descriptions in the IT sector.
The term i14y has also appeared in the world of web design when designers began to talk about interoperable CSS, a standard for loadable and linkable CSS. Cloud computing also uses the concept of i14y, as it’s a field where there’s a high need for building systems from reusable components that are able to work together under many different circumstances.
7. P13n For Personalization
p13n refers to the adaptation of products to the needs of different individuals. Real-time personalization of websites is a concept in online marketing and a task for web developers to solve.
There are many great analytic tools for online targeting, so the next step logically is to personalize the content for the different segments of the online audience. The concept of p13n denies the one-size-fits-all approach, as research shows that nearly three-quarters (74%) of online consumers get frustrated when the content that appears have nothing to do with their interests (e.g. offers, ads, promotions).
8. v12n For Virtualization
During the process of v12n, developers create the virtual version of an operating system, server, or other network resource. V12n has very simple forms too, such as dividing a hard drive into different partitions.
Desktop v12n can speed up web development process, as you have the opportunity to test your website or web app in different environments. The most popular softwares for desktop v12n are VMWare Workstation and Oracle VirtualBox. We also have many great v12n guides here on hongkiat.com, such as how to install Windows on Your Mac, and how to use Vagrant for local WordPress development.
9. The c10k Problem
The numeronym for the C10k problem was created with a different formula as the others mentioned before. It refers to the “10 thousand clients” problem. The C10k problem is a potential issue in web server administration, it occurs when a web server has to handle 10,000 clients simultaneously.
The need for solving this issue has become increasingly important recently, as websites need to deal with more and more traffic, as the number of internet users, their needs and the number of their connected devices has been quickly growing.
If you are interested in web server scalability, here is a great primer on the C10k problem.
10. The Y2K38 Problem
The Y2K38 problem is the numeronym for the Year 2038 problem that is a time-related data storage issue that will occur in the year 2038. The bug is caused by 32-bit processors that store time values as signed 32-bit integers.
The problem is that the range for these integers is limited, and it will reach its largest positive value on January 19, 2038. When it happens, it may occur that computers will be unable to tell the difference between 2038 and 1970 that can lead to serious disfunctions and crashes.
There’s no universal solution for the problem, but it can definitely help if you begin to use 64-bit systems that will be surely utilized by the vast majority of devices in 2038, but web servers and other backend hardwares may still use 32-bit date systems when the time comes.
If you want to count down to the day the supposed tragedy might happen, you can easily do it here.