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Context Description:

I'm a programmer. One day I find an interesting software IPFinder published by Fred, but I can't understand how it works. So, I want to write an email to ask Fred.

  • A. What's the mechanism of IPFinder?
  • B. What's the principle of IPFinder?

Which is more proper in such a context, mechanism or principle?

  • I agree with @ruakh (but am no programmer): what's wrong with asking How does this work? – anongoodnurse Dec 20 '14 at 5:28
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Both questions are valid, but they mean slightly different things. This is how I would interpret them:

What's the mechanism of IPFinder? = How does IPFinder perform its task(s)?

What's the principle of IPFinder? = What is the concept that underpins the way IPFinder is written?

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I don't think either of those sentences is very clear. The way that something works can definitely be a mechanism or a principle, but each of those words has a variety of meanings, and "What's the mechanism/principle of IPFinder?" just doesn't give enough context to identify the exact meaning that is meant.

I think you're better off just asking:

How does IPFinder work?

or, to make clear that you're interested in technical details rather than end-user documentation, you might write something like:

How does IPFinder work under the hood?

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