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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A Little Place Called the Internet 

In general, I am a fan of Wired Style. In my day job, we use AP Style, which is effective in some places, but others it lags way behind the curve. For example, it wasn't until the 2004 edition of the stylebook that teenager could be spelled without a hyphen (teen-ager).

Wired Style, like the magazine itself, tended to make good, common sense usage decisions about Internet and computer terminology before AP ever included such items.

The latest decision to lowercase Internet, however, strikes me as wrong.
Effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the "I" in internet.

At the same time, Web becomes web and Net becomes net.

Why? The simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually, there never was.

True believers 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. In German, where all nouns are capitalized, it makes sense. It makes no sense in English. So until we become Die Wired Nachrichten, we'll just follow customary English-language usage. (Web will continue to be capitalized when part of the more official entity, World Wide Web.)
All in all, I think Wired News Copy Chief Tony Long's reasoning in this is off-base. My gut instinct is that the Internet is a proper noun referring to a specific place (even if that specific place is a nonphysical place that is distributed worldwide). That same sort of reasoning is supported in Wired News's decision to keep World Wide Web with caps.

(Net is less irksome to me lowercase; the pedantic side of me would insist on it being 'net to note the contraction, but I could see it just as net without worrying about it.)

But -- and this is where I blur on the issue -- none of this thinking applies to the use of these words as an adjective. A web browser, webcasting, even internet telephony, I can support, but lowercasing the noun form would be like lowercasing France -- France and french fries or the Internet and internet telephony, oui; france and the internet, non!

Long defends the lowercasing of Internet as "a stylistic reality check:"
But in the case of internet, web and net, a change in our house style was necessary to put into perspective what the internet is: 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.
I think this is selling the Internet short: Yes it is a medium, but as much as the networks may talk about "appointment television," radio and television and print all remain passive. You can do a crossword, you can yell at a shockjock, you can vote for Jasmine Trias, but none of that compares to interactive quotient of the Internet.

Blogger Commenting:
So, do you capitalize universe? How about galaxy? "Milky Way Galaxy," sure, but I think (I might be wrong; I often am) that the internet and the universe are similarly placed: they are generic things, even if they are the only ones of their kind. Actually, if I understand Ant (and I may not, since everything he says is Geek to me), there already is more than one internet, and there's going to be more. They sort of layer on top of one another, serving different populations -- AOL might qualify as a separate one, at that.

On the other hand, I want to steal the pencil of anyone who writes "net" instead of "'net." (And don't get me started on "disconnect" as a noun! No matter how many times I hear that on NPR, I will NEVER accept it as correct! Usage be damned!)
 
Hurm, you have a point about universe and galaxy, but internet still feels wrong to me. Maybe the parallel would be Earth. There are plenty of times where it would be lowercase, even when referring to the planet (earth stations, when talking about satellite uplinks, for example) but also times when it should be capitalized to my eye (Earth orbit or in oribt above Earth, for example).

And, yeah, there is Internet2 and other parallel networks are likely to be developed in comming years, but I still see Internet as both something different and somewhere different.

Maybe I'm just being cranky.
 
Well, I was going to make some point about Earth being a proper name for a planet: "This is planet Earth," seems correct to me. There's no proper name for the internet, like internet Larry. But I'm not sure because "This is Planet Earth," also seems correct.

So, I consulted Microsoft Manual of Style, 2nd Edition, which is my defacto style guide for all things trchnical (I do like Wired Style, too, but in my area, MSMoS is the accepted authority. I'm surprised when you rent an office, it doesn't come stocked with a copy on the shelves.) Anyway, Big Brother says:

Internet, intranet
The term the Internet (capitalized) refers to the worldwide collection of networks that use the TCP/IP protocols to communicate with each other. The Internet offers a number of tools, including e-mail, the World Wide Web, and other communication services.

The term internet (lowercase) refers to any large network made up of a number of smaller networks. In general, avoid use of the lowercase term or define it so that it's not confused with the Internet....

So, they back you up, at least as of 1998. I'm digging in my heels though, and refusing to capitalize it. It seems to convey too much authority and importance.
 
see tony long new oped update today 2011 in washington times
 
Replying to Dan and his co-authored Washington Times editorial, here's what I posted on the Times website ...

Well, since you appropriated an old blog post of mine, I guess I'm obliged to reply.

I have the exact opposite musing of Tom Blumer; yes, the Internet is a sort of place and entity. I still stand by capitalizing the Internet and hold to the same reasoning, it's not a medium (online is the medium), it's a place, albeit a nonphysical one.

Reread this op-ed and you see, expect for when referring to "internet" as a word (as opposed to a medium/place/thing), the definitive article precedes internet. You can easily say "I saw it on television" to say "I read it on internet" sounds wrong; you need the definitive article with internet because it is more than a medium, it's a pseudoplace.

As an aside, I’d like to see a citation for the capitalization of radio and television. That seems like a specious claim to me and a quick search on Google Books of magazine usage from 1920 to 1937 doesn’t support the claim for radio nor for television (searching 1940 to 1960).

Is it likely that this will change with time? Certainly. We lost the long-s/short-s diſtinction in the early 1800s; language and orthography change. It would be odd for capitalization norms not to change over time, especially for a technology that is still evolving and integrating with our lives. Are we there yet? I don't think so.

And if the best argument Long and Bloom can come up for why this "innovation" from 2004 hasn't been more widely adopted is a liberal media conspiracy, then I think it shows how thin their reasoning is.
 
Wait wait, Carter Ross, i call FOUL here... i never said it is LIBERAL MeDEA conspiracy, come on!...... where did we say that? I am progressive leftwing liberal from 1960s. the Al Gore thing was Tom Blumer's punchline, not mine or Tony's....... we done us wrong! ....smile...please apologize or rationalize your answer....DANNY in TAiawn, liberal to the core and there is no conspiracy here...these things just take TIME that's all.....
 
http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~nunberg/internet.html

Carter this is the RADIO AND TV links here.... it was cAPPED long ago....ask Dr Nunberg if you da na believe me!
 
http://

people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~nunberg/internet.html

Carter this is the RADIO AND TV gogoel here.... it was cAPPED long ago....ask Dr Nunberg if you da na believe me!
 
Dan, I apologize for taking Blumer's comment as yours, but it read as if you were endorsing the idea. I take that comment as a "liberal media" conspiracy because if the charge is that The New York Times isn't saying something because of how it would reflect upon Gore, then it falls into the trope of criticizing the media for being a liberal lapdog.

As to Dr. Nunberg's essay, that's a secondary source. It also is couched in the very vague "... people sometimes capitalized ...", IF that's true, and I don't concede the point without primary sources, then it's still a limited usage and not a direct parallel to how the capitalization of Internet has been adopted.
 
Dr Ross,

I accept both your notes above, re the apolo for thinking I was bashing liberals or the NYT or Al Gore, when in fact it was Blumer the rightwing basher who was doing that. I am on the side of Gore and NYT and you, i am lifelong liberal leftwing progressive Democrat from day one. 1949-2032.....i should have been more clear when I wrote that oped for the Wash Times.... AND as for the primary soource on long time ago people capping words like Radio and Television, you are right, we need Primiary Sources, and give me 30 days, i will scour the googlehood......until then, this remains ON HOLD... you are right
 
btw, good sir, what would be cool someday would be for you to do an update for your blog here on the entire 2004 to 2011 lowercase internet brewhaha......can do? your POV of course. maybe blog on how things have changed on this issue over the past 8 years and ho they have NOT changed at all.....
 
Dan, I'm not sure there is much of a brouhaha or movement on this issue, or that there is a need for me to blog further on the issue beyond our exchange in the comments here.
 
No brouhaha, no brewhaha, and very little movement, true, other than Eric Zorn in Chicago and me in Taiwan and a few other outliers here and there, and until AP and NYTimes style guides recommend lowercasing internet, nada has changed. but here is an update to your 2004 post above:

''UPDATE: A Little Place Called the Internet - 2004 post updated to 2011''

''In general, I am a fan of Wired Style. In my day job, we use AP Style, which is effective in some places, but others it lags way behind the curve. For example, it wasn't until the 2004 edition of the stylebook that teenager could be spelled without a hyphen (teen-ager).

Wired Style, like the magazine itself, tended to make good, common sense usage decisions about Internet and computer terminology before AP ever included such items.

The 2004 decision by Wired News copy chief Tony Long to lowercase internet, however, struck me as wrong then --and as still wrong now, in 2011.

Long wrote: "Effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the "I" in internet. "

He added: "Why? The simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize [this word]. Actually, there never was."

Long said in 2004 and he still says the same thing in 2011 in recent oped that appeared in the Washington Times in July 2011, [co-authored by lowercase internet crusader Dan Bloom]:
"True believers 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. In German, where all nouns are capitalized, it makes sense. It makes no sense in English...."

I blogged in 2004 after reading Long's reader's notice, and I still believe now in 2011 that he was and still is wrong: "All in all, I think Wired News Copy Chief Tony Long's reasoning in this is off-base. My gut instinct is that the Internet is a proper noun referring to a specific place (even if that specific place is a nonphysical place that is distributed worldwide). That same sort of reasoning is supported in Wired News's decision to keep World Wide Web with caps."

Long defends the lowercasing of internet both in his initial 2004 note and in his 2011 oped as "a stylistic reality check"....

But in the case of internet, web and net, a change in our house style was necessary to put into perspective what the internet is: 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.

I think this is selling the internet short: Yes it is a medium, but as much as the networks may talk about "appointment television," radio and television and print all remain passive. You can do a crossword, you can yell at a shockjock, you can vote for Jasmine Trias, but none of that compares to interactive quotient of the Internet.''

or however you want to write it...

smile
 
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