A Guide to 2021’s Top Tech Terms

    22 December 2021

    As new technologies progressed over the past year, some words used to describe them rose in popularity. Here is a look at some technology terms that gained wide attention during 2021.


    In this file photo, hands holding a tablet computer are pictured during a tour through the urban NFT LAB called GAME OVER by the artist group Die Dixons (aka XI DE SIGN) in Berlin, Germany, on October 6, 2021. (REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo)
    In this file photo, hands holding a tablet computer are pictured during a tour through the urban NFT LAB called "GAME OVER" by the artist group Die Dixons (aka XI DE SIGN) in Berlin, Germany, on October 6, 2021. (REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo)

    Major tech companies began talking more about the "metaverse." The term describes a non-physical world in which individuals can interact through different kinds of virtual technology.

    For example, a metaverse could permit people living on different sides of the world to meet up through technology and virtually go on a vacation, play sports or work together on projects.

    The main technologies that would drive such a world would be virtual reality, or VR, and augmented reality, AR. Other, yet-to-be invented technologies would also be used to improve experiences within the metaverse.


    NFT stands for non-fungible token. It is based on a technology called blockchain, which is also used with digital currencies known as cryptocurrencies.

    An NFT can be attached to a piece of digital artwork or other things existing in digital form. The NFT can be used to provide proof that the pieces are real. While anyone can view the work, the buyer has official ownership rights over the pieces.

    In March, an NFT created by American artist Beeple sold for nearly $70 million at Christie's. It was the first sale ever by a major auction house of art that did not exist in physical form.


    Web3 is used to describe a possible next stage of the internet: a decentralized internet run on the record-keeping technology blockchain.

    This model would permit users to hold ownership over their presence and control their own data on the internet. Today's internet, known as Web2, permits major technology companies like Meta's Facebook and Alphabet's Google to provide services in exchange for user data.


    The term decentralization became widely used in the tech industry. It describes a process that aims to reduce the amount of power companies or governments have over technology platforms. The idea is to hand this power over to users.

    Social Audio

    A growing number of social media companies announced they were developing ways for their users to communicate through voice. The moves came after a rise in popularity of the social media app Clubhouse. The app permits users to communicate through audio in virtual discussion rooms.

    Among other companies announcing new audio services were Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit.


    GameFi is a term that describes the process of gamers earning cryptocurrency through playing video games. An example is when players earn financial tokens, or awards, for winning battles in the games.


    The word altcoin covers all cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin. This ranges from Ethereum -- which aims to support a future financial system – to Dogecoin, a digital currency that began as a joke, but was later popularized by Tesla chief Elon Musk.


    The term fabs is short for semiconductor fabrication plant. A semiconductor is a material necessary for producing a wide range of electronic devices. The word became popular as a limited supply of chips from fabs were blamed for a worldwide shortage of everything from automobiles to personal electronic devices.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.

    We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    virtual – adj. existing or occurring on computers or on the internet

    virtual reality – n. digital environments that can be entered and controlled by humans

    augmented reality – n. a technology that can project computer-created imagery onto special eyeglasses.

    auction – n. a public sale at which things are sold to the people who offer to pay the most

    platform – n. something that permis someone to tell a large number of people about an idea, product, etc.

    app – n. a computer program that carries out a specific job

    fabrication – n. the act of producing a product

    chip – n. a small piece of semiconducting material used to make parts that help power computer processors