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By Tony Long and Dan Bloom

InternetBack in 2004, [Tony Long] told his readers at Wired News that “effective with this sentence, [our website] will no longer capitalize the first letter ‘I’ in internet.”

In that very same note, he also informed them that “at the same time, Web becomes web and Net becomes net.”

Why did Long go out on a limb in 2004 to lowercase ”internet”? The simple answer is because then—same as now, in 2013—there was no earthly reason to capitalize the word any longer.

True believers, of course, are fond of capitalizing words, whether they be marketers or political junkies or, in this case, techies. If It’s Capitalized, It Must Be Important.

* * *

My decision to lowercase the word ‘internet’ back in 2004, when I was Wired News’ copy chief, wasn’t made lightly. I believe I was right, and I believe I’m even more right some nine years later. Still, most newspapers and news websites in America continue to capitalize the word.

At the time, I felt strongly that a change in Wired News’ house style was necessary to put into perspective what the internet was then, and is even more so now: just another medium for delivering and receiving information. That it transformed human communication is beyond dispute. But no more so than moveable type did in its day. Or the radio. Or television. And American newspaper editors once capitalized ‘Radio’ and ‘Television.’

I felt then and I feel even more so today that by lowercasing ‘internet,’ Wired News was simply giving the medium its proper due. And yet in the ensuing years, not much has changed on this side of the Atlantic. In Britain, yes, internet is routinely written in the lowercase form. Do the Brits know something about the internet that we don’t know? Or are American copyeditors just being stubborn?

Some editors, of course, still have mixed feelings about this issue, but many are now leaning towards—but are not necessarily committed to—lowercasing ‘internet.’

American blogger Tom Blumer makes sense when he contemplates lowercasing the word: “Is it a place (the big web in the sky)? Not really. Is it a specific entity? Again not really.”

On the other hand, I realize that some people still feel the internet is a specific network, and therefore deserves a capital. I’m with the Brits on this: It’s time to go lowercase.

Could it be that the American media is holding out against lowercasing the Internet because they just don’t want to be seen as downgrading Al Gore’s invention, as Blumer quipped on his blog?

In the end, everyone knows that things are trending down, and that the handwriting is on the wall on this issue.

Tony Long is the former copy desk chief at Wired.com. Dan Bloom is a freelance writer in Taiwan.

 
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