When we went through a brand refresh at Green Light Wireless, we thought long and hard about a seemingly simple question – should we talk about the Internet as “Internet” or “internet”?
As an Internet company, this question brought us to research the history behind capitalizing “Internet” and how it slowly became “internet” in mainstream day-to-day writing.
The transition from I to i
The “I” is capitalized to differentiate the Internet as the global network from any generic inter-connecting of smaller computer networks. The capital “I” in the word Internet reflects the perceived status and formal recognition of the global network as a unique entity. Today, the capitalized word of “Internet” still lives in the guidelines of many respected news sources, style guides, and dictionaries.
However, as technology progresses and the Internet is a necessity at homes, offices, and schools, it is changing from a named entity into a generic noun through common use. For the younger generation that grew up with the Internet, this technology is a part of their everyday lives just like other communication and entertainment mediums such as the radio, television, and telephone. The Internet has become something a bit more generic in people’s understanding, which started the trend of normalizing it as “internet”.
In addition, the act of decapitalizing a word is part of a universal linguistic tendency to reduce the effort required to process commonly-used words. In 2016, The Associated Press Stylebook, the go-to writing guideline for journalists and PR professionals, announced its intention to lowercase Internet and Web in all instances. Some argue that decapitalized words such as “internet” and “web” also enable faster writing and reading.
Should you capitalize “internet” or not?
It depends. There are no right or wrong ways of doing it. Using “internet” and following the trend of decapitalization in your writing can make you seem friendly and progressive. On the other hand, “Internet” describes the technology correctly and gives a sense of formal professionalism.