NYTimes.com Article: Who Owns the Internet? You and i Do

Stephen D. Williams sdw@lig.net
Sat, 04 Jan 2003 22:14:43 -0500

Internet means you are connected to the public, global, peered, 
sanctioned "internet" vs. anything else that is an internet.  I suppose 
that if you consider intranets and extranets as having supplanted 
"internet", it might make sense, however there was originally 
("originally" meaning 91-94) a strong definition of both that made sense.


khare@alumni.caltech.edu wrote:

>This article from NYTimes.com 
>has been sent to you by khare@alumni.caltech.edu.
>I have to admit, this was a persuasive article. I think I'm going to try it out -- much as the book editor compromised, use Internet for historical references and internet for current ones. 
>The capitalization bit is definitely a signal... Kahn aside.
>Who Owns the Internet? You and i Do
>December 29, 2002
>SOMETHING will be missing when Joseph Turow's book about
>families and the Internet is published by M.I.T. Press next
>spring: The capital I that usually begins the word
>Mr. Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for
>Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, studies
>how people use online technology and how that affects their
>lives. He has begun a small crusade to de-capitalize
>Internet - and, by extension, to acknowledge a deep shift
>in the way that we think about the online world. 
>"I think what it means is it's part of the everyday
>universe," he said. 
>Capitalization irked him because, he said, it seemed to
>imply that reaching into the vast, interconnected ether was
>a brand-name experience. 
>"The capitalization of things seems to place an inordinate,
>almost private emphasis on something," he said, turning it
>into a Kleenex or a Frigidaire. "The Internet, at least
>philosophically, should not be owned by anyone," he said,
>calling it "part of the neural universe of life." 
>But, he said, dropping the big I would sent a deeper
>message to the world: The revolution is over, and the Net
>won. It's part of everyone's life, and as common as air and
>water (neither of which starts with a capital). 
>Some elements of the online world have already made the
>transition. Internet often appears with a lowercase I on
>the Internet itself - but then, spelling online is
>dreadful, u kno. 
>Although most everybody still capitalizes World Wide Web,
>words like "website," and the online journals known as
>weblogs (or, simply, blogs) are increasingly lowercase. Of
>course, the Internet's capital I is virtually engraved in
>stone, since Microsoft Word automatically capitalizes the
>lowercase "i" unless a user overrides its settings. 
>For Mr. Turow, the first step in his campaign was
>persuading his book editor to enlist. She compromised,
>dropping to lowercase in newly written parts and retaining
>the capital in older articles reproduced in the book. 
>Then he nudged Steven Jones, a communications professor at
>the University of Illinois at Chicago and president of the
>Association of Internet Researchers. Mr. Jones was cool to
>the idea, until he looked at copies of Scientific American
>from the late 19th century, and noticed that words for new
>technologies, like Phonograph, were often uppercased. 
>Today, Mr. Jones is a crusader himself. 
>"I think the
>moment is right," he said, to treat the Internet "the way
>we refer to television, radio and the telephone." 
>He shared his view with a few hundred close friends last
>month at a meeting of the National Communication
>Association, an educators' group. "I just noticed
>everybody's attention kind of snapped forward," he said. 
>"I'm used to having people say nice things," he said.
>"We're scholars, not wrestlers. But this time I was struck
>by the number of people who were saying the equivalent of,
>`Right on!' " 
>DICTIONARY editors, though, have dismissed Mr. Turow
>politely but firmly. 
>Dictionaries do not generally see themselves as making the
>rules, said Jesse Sheidlower, who runs the American offices
>of the Oxford English Dictionary. 
>"What dictionaries do is reflect what's out there," he
>said. He and his fellow dictionary editors would think
>seriously about such changes after newspapers make them, he
>That could take a while. Allan M. Siegal, a co-author of
>The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and an
>assistant managing editor at the newspaper, said that
>"there is some virtue in the theory" that Internet is
>becoming a generic term, "and it would not be surprising to
>see the lowercase usage eclipse the uppercase within a few
>He said, however, that the newspaper was unlikely to make
>any change that was not supported by authoritative
>Time to ask Robert Kahn, who is as responsible as anyone
>for the creation of the Internet, having helped plan the
>original network that preceded it and having created, with
>Vinton Cerf, the language of computer networks, known as
>TCP/IP, that allowed the vast knitting-together of systems
>that gave birth to the modern medium. 
>He cares deeply about the name, having led a fight for
>years to ensure that its use is not restricted or abused by
>the corporation that received the trademark in 1989. 
>A settlement was reached two years ago with the company now
>known as Concord EFS. The company agreed that it would not
>dun people who used the word, which meant that "Internet"
>now belongs to everybody, Mr. Kahn said. 
>"We defended the right of people to use the word `Internet'
>for what we think of as the Internet," he said. 
>THAT was the important fight, according to Mr. Kahn.
>"Whether you use a cap I or little I" hardly matters, he
>Which leads us back to a profound question for Mr. Turow:
>Don't you have anything better to do? 
>"That's a really interesting question," he said. "I was an
>English major. I'm very sensitive to the nuances of words,
>and I'm very concerned about the nuances, the feel that
>words have within the society." 
>Fair enough; Perhaps the next big thing, after all, will be
>small. At least initially.
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