Should we capitalize Internet?

In US publications, Internet is usually capitalized. The argument is that it is a proper noun (like Rome or Richard or Ritz Crackers), and thus it should follow the capitalization rules for proper nouns and have the first letter capitalized. (Note, however, that web and website are not capitalized, but World Wide Web is.)

I can almost agree with this thinking. In a way, the Internet is sort of a place (and proper nouns are the official names for people, places, and things), but it comes to you instead of you visiting it, as you would, say, Texas. You can’t go to a server, touch the box, and say, “Hey! I’m at the Internet! I should get a post card for Grandma!”

I’m more aligned with the prominent UK style, which is to leave it lowercased. It’s not a brand name, and brand names get capitalized. And it’s not really a place, not like Texas or Rome. When I think of the Internet, I think of it as a technology. We don’t capitalize general names of technologies; think about radio or television. Why should the Internet be different?

As a US-based book editor, I’m a slave to style. So, I capitalize Internet. But I’m hoping we move away from the capitalization soon. To me, it doesn’t make sense.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section.


9 thoughts on “Should we capitalize Internet?

  1. I’m in the UK and have never understood why it gets a capital when it does. And Word underlines it as an error – but as a grammar error so won’t let you teach it otherwise like you can with a spelling error. Grrr.

  2. I worked in high tech (specifically, in server and network support) for a decade, Erin, and I can offer some extra insight into this one for you.
    In networking “an internet” is any network of networks: any combined network built up from more than one system. So, for example, if you had a network in accounting on the 2nd floor, one in marketing up on the 5th, and another over in the warehouse across town, when you combined them you’d refer to it as “the internet” (or at least those responsible for it would). Any equipment that connected these networks but had no individual life of its own was also called “an internet.” Short for “internetwork,” by the way, if that wasn’t self evident.
    The distinction — and I’ve seen it many times in technical print materials, at least in ‘the olden days’ — is that any local internet would be a lowercase ‘i’ internet. But the big world wide cloud of internetworks that forms ‘The Internet’ would be the uppercase ‘I’ Internet. In technical docs, at least when I worked in the field, this was a very important distinction, and those case changes mattered a lot. Are you connecting to the internet? Or connecting to the Internet? (Could better terminology have been chose? Too late.)
    As I’ve composed this, I’ve tried to think of other analogues in English — words that are lowercase when they refer to a smaller or generic object, but uppercase when they refer to one, particular global or well-known object. I know there are some, but only a couple spring to mind. Titles often do this. For example, you would write about “President Obama,” but if you described an action by him, you’d write “the president called for action.” AP recommends that “the Bible” be in uppercase, but “the AP style guide is an industry bible” be in lowercase. There must be many other examples.
    Probably because I’m aware of the logic of ‘i/Internet’ (above), I’m meticulous about how it’s capitalized. But I don’t think that outside of technical literature the distinction is either widely known or important. I suspect it will fall by the wayside and shift to all lowercase eventually.

  3. There are two major stumbling blocks to lowering the I:
    1) the argument that there is more than one inter-web and therefore when referring to the www it has to be capitalised for the sake of differentiation
    2) the international standards body responsible for development of the internet insists on using a capital (because of point 1).
    But … more and more US news agencies are seeing the light. CNN for example now takes it down.
    It’s only a matter of time before Internet becomes internet. But in my opinion not soon enough.

  4. I’m loving the comments thus far. Great points–especially about possibly needing to make a distinction for technical documents. I had read about the reason for capitalization being to differentiate between THE Internet and another internet. But, outside a technical atmosphere, I don’t think that reason holds much weight.

  5. I agree with your explanation. However, when it comes to grammar, US and UK should follow the same rules. Because it is still the same language spoken with sightly different accents in both countries.

  6. Is the Internet a proper noun? Person place or thing? Maybe it was. Or maybe it’s something in transition. Technical and academic and government style/writing tends to capitalize everything, and far too much. I’m imagining that with the passing of time, if it is not replaced by some corporate name that sounds like Google, or Facebook or Skynet that requires capitalization ;-), it will be lowercase all the way: the internet, sorta like the phone, the car, the house, the jeans, the watch, the computer, the doctor, the school, the highway, the typewriter, the telex, the fax machine…

  7. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you
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