Adopting a change many Internet users made years ago, the Associated Press has announced that, as of its next Stylebook update, the words “internet” and “web” will be lowercase.
— AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) April 2, 2016
To American journalists working online, the change is welcome and long overdue. Many major European publications dropped the capital “I” years ago. Wired stopped using it in 2004, declaring, “It’s just the ‘internet’ now.” (It was forced to re-adopt it in ’06 after becoming part of Conde Nast, but the spirit was still there.)
To be fair to staid publications like the New York Times, where house style still favors the capital “I,” Wired has always been ahead of the curve in matters of style. In 1996, the magazine released its style manual, which Amazon called “a handy little reference for digerati, or those who think they are.”
We don’t have “digerati” anymore, and a printed manual of Web style now feels like a relic, but at the time, Wired was dragging newspapers along into the digital age (whether they liked it or not).
“In the case of internet, web and net, a change in our house style was necessary to put into perspective what the internet is: another medium for delivering and receiving information,” Wired explained in 2004.
Just last year, Susan Herring revisited the debate for Wired and discovered that the uppercase Internet still has its fierce adherents:
According to Bob Wyman, a Google tech staffer and long-time Net expert, the “I” should be capitalized to make clear the difference in meaning between the Internet (the global network that evolved out of ARPANET, the early Pentagon network), and any generic internet, or computer network connecting a number of smaller networks.
Even with today’s announcement, some are very concerned that the switch to lowercase doesn’t give enough credit to the Internet, the physical network whose name has now become shorthand for all our networked activity and the culture that comes with it.
@APStylebook That's simply wrong. There's only one Internet
— Michele Catozzi (@m_catozzi) April 2, 2016
It’s a fair argument, but one that Wired already addressed 12 years ago.
“This should not be interpreted as some kind of symbolic demotion. Think of it more as a stylistic reality check,” wrote copy chief Tony Long.
You can be technically correct all you want, but that won’t stop the evolution of English usage. It wasn’t so long ago that style guides still hyphenated email.
In her piece last October, Herring concluded the capital I will end up on the wrong side of history.
“The lower-case version will eventually win the day, though,” she wrote, “driven by age-old principles of language change.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Dot’s own style guide still calls for big-I Internet, for now.