Back in 2004, I (Tony Long) told readers of Wired News that “effective with this sentence, [our website] will no longer capitalize the “I” in internet.”
I also informed them in that 2004 note, “at the same time, Web becomes web and Net becomes net.”
Why did I go out on a limb in 2004 on lowercasing internet? The simple answer was then - and is now in 2011 - because there was and is no earthly reason to capitalize the word.
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 on lowercasing internet back in 2004 when I was Wired News’ copy chief wasn’t made lightly and I believe that I was right, and even more right seven years later. Still, most newspapers and news websites in America still 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 than moveable type did in its day. Or the radio. Or television. American newspaper editors once capitalized Radio and Television.
I felt then and I still feel strongly today that by lowercasing internet, Wired News was simply giving the medium its proper due. 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 copy editors just being stubborn?
Some editors, of course, still have mixed feelings about this issue, but many are now leaning toward - but not 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 that the internet is a specific network and therefore deserves a capital. But I’m with the Brits on this: It’s time to go lowercase.
Could it be that the American media are holding out against lowercasing the Internet because they just don’t want to be seen as downgrading Al Gore’s invention, as Mr. Blumer quipped on his blog?
In the end, everyone knows now that things are trending down and the handwriting is on the wall on this issue.
Tony Long is the former copy desk chief at Wired.com and now a San Francisco cab driver. Dan Bloom, a freelance writer, also contributed to this article.