7 Reasons to Lowercase ‘Internet’

When the New York Times and the Associated Press finally issue the press release, we will no longer be behind the curve

It hasn't happened yet in either the Lower 48 or Alaska, but it's bound to happen soon.

And on that day when the style desks of the New York Times and the Associated Press finally issue a nationally-televised press release about the need to start lowercasing the word "internet" in all news articles, headlines and blogs, we will know that America has finally woken up to web-based reality.

We don't capitalize words like Radio or Television or Motion Pictures anymore, do we? Once, of course, we did.

Now, we know better.

However, regarding the internet, we are still behind the curve, behind the Brits, lost in capitalization land. The Guardian and the BBC websites got it right, long ago. We need to play catch up. Now.

On the day when the New York Times and the Associated Press finally issue a press release to all newspaper and online editors about the need to start lowercasing the word internet in all news articles, headlines and blogs, America will finally have seen the light.

On that day:

–We will, as a society, have finally acknowledged a deep shift in the way we think about the online world.

–We will, as a society, have given substance to the belief, finally, that the internet is part of the everyday universe and not some uppercase novelty.

–We will have come to understand that capitalization of internet earlier in history seemed to imply that reaching into the vast, interconnected ether was a brand-name experience when it really wasn't.

–We will have realized that the earlier capitalization of internet seemed to place an inordinate, almost private emphasis on it, turning it into a Kleenex or a Frigidaire. But we now know that the internet, at least philosophically, should not be owned by anyone and that it is really part of the neural universe of life.

–We will have realized that the digital revolution is over, the internet won and is now part of everyone's life, as common as air and water (neither of which starts with a capital letter).

–We will have realized that the moment was right to treat the internet the way we now refer to the movies, television, radio and, dare I mention it, the telephone.

–We will have realized that the New York Times was right back in 2002 when it said that there was some virtue in the theory that the internet was becoming a generic term, and that it would not be surprising to see lowercase usage eclipse uppercase usage within a few years.

Maybe before 2011 is over?

I recently asked Phil Corbett, a top editor at the New York Times, what the Times policy is on lowercasing or capitalizing words, especially the word internet (lowercase), or as the Times still writes it, Internet (caps). He replied in internet time, saying:

"Our current style is to keep the uppercase "I for Internet." I agree that the trend is toward lowercase, and I suspect that at some point we will review our style. But our preference is to follow established usage, not to lead the way. So I can't predict when the change might be made."

So, do we follow the Brits here, or do we lag behind for 10 more years?