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English usage: How to write Internet
Thread poster: Marketing-Lang.
Marketing-Lang.  Identity Verified
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Oct 26, 2005

Dear all,
This is a question primarily for English natives. How do you write Internet?
- Internet, or
- internet?
Since the earliest days, I've become accustomed to writing "that word" with a large "I". Internet was something big, almost all-powerful. A bit like God (and not god).
My trusted online dictionary says:
"The Internet is the largest
internet (with a small "i") in the world. " (Thanks, www.dictionary.com).

And yet more and more customers are insisting upon internet, and even widespread UK websites and newspapers are using the small "i".

The change comes, I presume, as young folks who grew up with the internet take it for granted. It's no longer something special, exotic, a portal for transferring your spirit to far away countries... It just is, and always was: the internet. Download your logos and ring tones here...

So what is a person to do? I can't afford to be a fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-mud. But I don't like bowing to every whim or fad either.

Is there a "definitive" version as set down by somebody wise?
Thanks for letting me know
-Mike-

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-10-26 16:55]


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Christian
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It depends ... Oct 26, 2005

This article may be of help:

"Naming conventions

In formal usage, Internet is traditionally written with a capital first letter. The Internet Society, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the World Wide Web Consortium, and several other Internet-related organizations all use this convention in their publications. In English grammar, proper nouns are capitalized.

The majority of newspapers, newswires, periodicals, and technical journals also capitalize the term. Examples include the New York Times, the Associated Press, Time, The Times of India, Hindustan Times and Communications of the ACM.

In less formal usage, the capital letter is often dropped (internet), and many people are not aware that there is a convention of using a capital letter. There are also some people who argue that internet is the correct formal term.

Since 2000, a significant number of publications have switched to using internet. Among them are the Economist, the Financial Times, the London Times, and the Sydney Morning Herald. As of 2005, most publications using internet appear to be located outside of North America. One American news source, Wired News, is well-known for its use of the lowercase spelling."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet

Kind regards,
Christian


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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Internet vs. internet Oct 26, 2005


My trusted online dictionary says:
"The Internet is the largest
internet (with a small "i") in the world."

That's correct
Internet and internet shouldn't be used interchangeably; there is a convention.

"The Internet is a global network of networks that use a specific set of protocols.": this is the definition given in my college textbook "Communication Networks" by Jean Walrand, MacGraw-Hill.

Further down in the same chapter there's a figure showing "a small internet", i.e. a small network (the figure includes computers, shows the links between them and illustrates how packets are sent from one to another with the help of routers). "Fig 2.6 shows a small internet. This is a network that uses the same rules of operation as the Internet. We follow accepted conventions and reserve the capitalized Internet for the (global) Internet."

So Internet is a name, it's what the ARPANET network of the late 60s evolved into, and it's a collection of interconnected networks. On the other hand, internet is any network that uses the principles of Internet.

Maria


P.S. The book was last updated in 1998. Network technology has changed a lot since then, but I don't think conventions have.




[Edited at 2005-10-26 08:22]


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Ian M-H
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internet Oct 26, 2005

The Guardian style guide recommends internet - but the fact that it's considered to be worth an entry shows, as does the fact that Mike's asked this question, that we're in a transition phase.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide/page/0,5817,184827,00.html

For what it's worth, I use lower case but probably wouldn't correct "Internet" when proof-reading unless usage was inconsistent. But give it another year or so and I suspect I'll find the upper case "I" as as 'wrong' as the Ws in "World Wide Web" already look...

[Edited at 2005-10-26 15:59]


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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Guardian style guide Oct 26, 2005

Ian Harknett wrote:
The Guardian style guide recommends internet


Does it recommend "internet", or does it simply include only one of the two terms? When it specifies "lc" (lowercase) I assume it means that we should write "internet" when we refer to any network. But what do we do when we refer to the name Internet, i.e. to the global network?
For example, in the term "Internet protocol" (IP), we are talking about the protocol of Internet with an uppercase I, not to just any network. E.g. we couldn't replace "Internet" by "net" or "web" in IP; we specifically refer to THE Internet.

It is confusing, obviously; the same term is used to mean two different things (well, not so different, I suppose you can say it's just a different scale), but that doesn't mean that we're in a transition phase and that we have to forget about naming conventions.

Maria


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Ian M-H
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IP Oct 26, 2005

Maria Karra wrote:
couldn't replace "Internet" by "net" or "web" in IP; we specifically refer to THE Internet.
[/quote]

IP is a standard abbreviation and as such capitalised. Looking back to the 1981 (!) definition of the IP in RFC791, "internet" and "internet protocol" are mostly written with a lower case "i" - the exceptions being headings and places where the abbreviation is being focused on: http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc791.html

I'm not a technology expert, but isn't IP (at least as part of TCP/IP) used in almost all contemporary networks, small and large, at home and in the office, as well as over 'the' internet?

Either way, even if some specialists prefer "Internet" in certain contexts, I'd use "internet" for most audiences, most of the time.

[Edited at 2005-10-26 08:28]


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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IP Oct 26, 2005

Ian Harknett wrote:
Maria Karra wrote:
couldn't replace "Internet" by "net" or "web" in IP; we specifically refer to THE Internet.


IP is a standard abbreviation and as such capitalised.
[/quote]

IP is capitalized, yes, because it's an acronym. Internet Protocol is _not_ capitalized because it's an acronym. The reason for the capital I is because it's the protocol of the Internet.

I'm copying from Communication Networks (same book as above, p. 23): "A global directory system enables a host to find the Internet protocol (IP) address that corresponds to a given name. Using this system, called the Domain Name System (DNS), an application that wants to send a packet to a computer with name x first finds the IP address of that computer."


I'm not a technology expert, but isn't IP (at least as part of TCP/IP) used in almost all contemporary networks, small and large, at home and in the office, as well as over 'the' internet?

Absolutely, it is used in all contemporary networks, small and large. But which protocol is it? Where does it come from? It's the protocol of the Internet, which we use in any small or large internet. See the definition above: ""The Internet is a global network of networks that use a specific set of protocols."

Now that you mentioned TCP, I looked it up and it's written as "transmission control protocol" (all lowercase!) "The main protocols of the Internet are the Internet protocol (IP) and the transmission control protocol (TCP). Many companies build isolated networks also using TCP/IP. These networks are called intranets. Such networks may be attached to the Internet, usually through a firewall that protects the security of the intranet. We call a network that uses the TCP/IP protocols an internet."

I hope the above clarifies the use a bit; it was certainly useful for me because I had completely forgotten about capitalization in TCP.


Either way, even if some specialists prefer "Internet" in certain contexts, I'd use "internet" for most audiences, most of the time.

And you would be right, because most of the time we use the word "internet" to refer to any network (e.g. our office network), and even as an adjective (e.g. internet connection).

Maria

[Edited at 2005-10-26 08:54]


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tectranslate ITS GmbH
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Proper noun, plain and simple Oct 26, 2005

I'm not a native speaker, but I furiously insist that THE Internet be spelled with an uppercase I.

It's not just some old internet, it's a proper noun. You wouldn't all of a sudden switch to the spelling "the central park in New York City" either, or would you?

B


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Marketing-Lang.  Identity Verified
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TOPIC STARTER
I think that's the core of the issue... Oct 26, 2005

Hi Benjamin, hi all,
Indeed, that is the question. Is "Internet" a proper noun? After all, it's not a place you can go to, and it's not somebody you can speak to. It's not even a brand or trade mark (is it?).
This is what is causing the confusion, in my view.

The Internet was a wonderful mystery 10 years ago, and people addressed it with awe. Now it's an everyday thing, "it" bombards you with spam, and it even pops up on your mobile phone.

I'm inclined to agree with Ian. In 10 years everybody will be on the "internet", probably plugged directly into their skulls.

But will some of us fuddy-duddys still be reminiscing about the Internet of old? Next question...

-Mike-


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
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My FEELINGS on the matter... Oct 26, 2005

I remember when my friend's dad got the first modem in the neighborhood, BBS-systems and then the beginnings of the "Internet" (at least since it was publicly accessible). After reading this interesting post, I realized that - probably for the last five years or so - I have stopped regarding the "Internet" as something with a proper name, i.e. I spell it almost exclusively in lower-case. It has become a thing, a general thing to be used and is no longer something in particular (I don't know how else to explain my feeling toward it).

If I were to write a sentence containing the word now, I would invariably write it as "internet" without even thinking about it. Interestingly enough, as I began to read the first post, I noticed that internet was capitalized; I also noticed that I felt it was wrong.

In the long run I bet you'll be seeing less and less of Internet and more internet, regardless of naming conventions - languages are living beings and don't lend themselves well to being pressed into conventions (IMHO).


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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they are not the same Oct 26, 2005

Mike Hodshon wrote:

Hi Benjamin, hi all,
Indeed, that is the question. Is "Internet" a proper noun?
'm inclined to agree with Ian. In 10 years everybody will be on the "internet", probably plugged directly into their skulls.
[/quote]

You are probably right, Mike, in 10 years perhaps we'll stop seeing it written this way; but that will be -in my opinion- because most people think it's the same thing whether they write it with I or i. Should we encourage this? I read about preferences in this thread, and I don't understand why it's a matter of preference at all. This is not about what we like. I'm not an expert either, but this is one of the first things I was taught about networks (and it IS a question that comes up a lot; the teacher explained the difference in the first or second lecture, and I remember it because I was surprised to learn that internet didn't have the same meaning as Internet; I'm just glad it was also in the book so that I could look it up and give a reference). I thought that by citing the definition and the explanation from a textbook about networks specifically, it would be clear that Internet and internet are not one and the same. Was it not clear? Internet (uppercase I) is a name, it's the network developed after ARPANET; any network that uses the protocols of Internet is called an internet. I don't think there's much room for our preferences here, and naming conventions in engineering should never be ignored.

Maria (puzzled, thinking that nobody read my posting )


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
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Conventions v. Opinions v. Real Usage Oct 26, 2005

Hi Maria (puzzled, thinking that nobody read my posting ),

Rest assured that your posts were read by at least everyone responding to this topic. Nevertheless, opinions and reflections on real usage (conventional or not) are not only allowed, but welcome - or should be (IMHO).

Best regards,

Derek


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Jennifer Baldwin  Identity Verified
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Capitalized Oct 27, 2005

I agree that it is a proper noun and should remain capitalized. A query on Google for "on the internet" (or "on the Internet") yield many more capitalized results than not. Even if it were to eventually go the way of "kleenex" and be used primarly with all lowercase letters, that is certainly not its most accepted usage today.

The same is true of the Web.


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Ian M-H
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Google results reflect online usage Oct 27, 2005

Jennifer Baldwin wrote:
A query on Google for "on the internet" (or "on the Internet") yield many more capitalized results than not.
e same is true of the Web.[/quote]

By its nature, Google only captures online usage. That obviously incldues lots of newspapers and examples of texts that were not originally written for the net, but valuable as Google searches can be the results need to be looked at carefully. In the case of the expressions "on the web" and "on the internet", headlines, headings and page titles account for a large number of the hits - so it's not surprising that there's a lot of capitalisation to be found.

The one example below seems typical of something quite common - the headling has "Radio Stations on the Internet" - but in the text the authors refer to the "internet" (and, incidentally, to "radio stations") with a lower case initial.

http://www.radio-locator.com/

I'm with Derek on this one: whether we like it or not, usage just isn't governed by rules and conventions alone. That's not a plea for sloppy writing, and clearly there are very many cases where particular way of spelling, capitalising or punctuating something is right and alternative versions would be seen as incorrect by almost everybody, but there are grey areas too and - thank goodness! - languages are alive and things change.

Capitalisation is one of the things that has changed considerably in recent decades, along with the use of full points in abbreviations. At school, I was taught to punctuate most acronyms and abbreviations - P.L.U.T.O., the U.N., 8.00 a.m., e.g. - and to use capital initials for Government (if I meant a specific government, on the basis that it was a proper noun) and Prime Minister. Today the only one of those rules that I still follow (unless the job is a press release or item of official correspondence) is to write "e.g." - and even there I'm one of a dying breed.

To return to the present discussion: it's interesting to note that none of those preferring a lower case "i" for "internet" has been insistent in tone, whereas some of those who favour the capitalised version have been. I sympathise completely with the emotion, even if I don't share it in this case, and suspect that most people working with language react similarly to what they perceive as sloppy usage - but in this case I think you're probably fighting a losing battle.



[Edited at 2005-10-27 08:44]


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tectranslate ITS GmbH
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Google Oct 27, 2005

Jennifer Baldwin wrote:

I agree that it is a proper noun and should remain capitalized. A query on Google for "on the internet" (or "on the Internet") yield many more capitalized results than not.

You went through 210,000,000 search results to confirm that? As Google doesn't make a difference between upper- and lowercase, that would be the only way to actually tell which results are written in which way...


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