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There seems to be some inconsistency on whether people capitalize the words internet and web (as in World Wide Web) as proper nouns. What is the official ruling on when or if these words should be capitalized?

Obviously, I am not asking about when they are the first word in a sentence or in the title of a book or other publication.

Example:

"The web is the most commonly known feature of the Internet."

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    There is no official ruling, because there is no official body governing English usage. Wikipedia always uses "Internet" while the BBC quite happily uses "internet". The World Wide Web Consortium consistently calls it "Internet". Aug 14, 2010 at 11:25
  • 1
    Granted, but is there at least some consensus among the more popular style guides/dictionaries on this?
    – JohnFx
    Aug 24, 2010 at 15:25
  • Should interblag be capitalized?
    – tox123
    Dec 6, 2015 at 23:38

8 Answers 8

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My reasoning is that there is really only one network named Internet - therefore it's the Internet, while "web" is a more generic term, meaning any network (but probably referring to YouTube anyway ;).

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    You claim that things of which there are only one should be capitalized?
    – delete
    Aug 13, 2010 at 7:25
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    web is not just a generic term for a network. Not in this context anyway. web is short for World Wide Web, one of many applications that run on the Internet. Jan 15, 2011 at 7:15
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    The word "Internet" is most often used today to refer to the Internet, but it really means any network of networks. So your statement that "there is really only one network named Internet" is not really true. At my workplace we do have a couple of internets. In that usage, the word is not capitalised. Kevin Lawrence's on this page answer expains this pretty well.
    – CesarGon
    Jan 15, 2011 at 18:34
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    But when talking about "the web", aren't you abbreviating "the World Wide Web"? There's only one of those. (Regardless, I'd personally write both internet and web lower case.)
    – Hugo
    Oct 27, 2011 at 14:42
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    Lots of unnecessary confusion here. The "web" in the example sentence is clearly referring to the World Wide Web, which is a specific technology linking hypertext documents created by Tim Berners-Lee. It is a distinct (and very popular) part of the Internet (email, FTP, and other technologies also exist alongside it on the Internet). It should absolutely be capitalized for the same reasons the Internet is capitalized. If the word is in the adjectival form ("web page", "web browser") it is lowercase.
    – wxs
    Jun 25, 2014 at 14:20
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I think it helps to know the history of the word Internet.

When computers were first connected together the resulting configuration was called a network.

Later people connected networks together. That was called an internet.

Eventually most of the networks in the world were connected into one large internet that became known simply as the Internet.

In other words, there is a technical distinction between an internet and the Internet.

For what it is worth, my iPad wants me to capitalize Internet.

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  • I kept my answers separate because I was less sure of myself with the web answer and didn't want to drag down this one where my confidence is greater. Jan 15, 2011 at 20:55
  • The AP Stylebook, a significant influence on conventions of the English language, has chosen to switch to lowercase for the internet that we currently refer to as the Internet, effective June 1, 2016: twitter.com/APStylebook/status/716384777406922753 Apr 5, 2016 at 4:53
  • This is correct. The large online network we all use has been named Internet. We could have named it anything else, but we chose to name it that. The Internet is an internet. Oh, and Web and Net are capped as well.
    – user231780
    Sep 27, 2017 at 23:13
  • As far as I know, no style guide in English recognizes the use of capitalization for words in said way. Lots of words are equivocal or have special distinctions between singular/plural, etc, but don't need capitalization to help distinguish between them. Context does that. The etymology of the word is interesting, and I think that's why most people like this answer. Still, it's not a proper noun but a common noun, so it should not be capitalized. Nov 23, 2023 at 8:55
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The fact that Web is short for World Wide Web, Sir Tim's wonderful invention, makes me think that Web should be capitalized too.

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It's a matter of style.

The Guardian style guide uses lowercase:

internet
net, web, world wide web

web, webpage, website, world wide web

.

is there at least some consensus among the more popular style guides/dictionaries on this?

Not really. Wikipedia has a page on the topic, Internet capitalization conventions, with a section on usage:

Examples of media publications and news outlets that capitalize the term include The New York Times, the Associated Press, Time, and The Times of India. In addition, many peer-reviewed journals and professional publications such as Communications of the ACM capitalize "Internet", and this style guideline is also specified by the American Psychological Association in its electronic media spelling guide.

More recently, a significant number of publications have switched to not capitalizing the noun "internet." Among them are The Economist, the Financial Times, The Times, the Guardian, the Observer and the Sydney Morning Herald. As of 2011, most publications using "internet" appear to be located outside of North America, but the gap is closing. Wired News, an American news source, adopted the lower-case spelling in 2004. Around April 2010, CNN shifted its house style to adopt the lowercase spelling.

Wired has a 2004 piece on their decision to use internet, web and net.

Pick your own style and be consistent.

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    -1 because it's not "a matter of style". The author of a so-called style guide can write whatever they like, and even impose such "style" on their minions. The Guardian does not own the English language. Nov 5, 2012 at 22:07
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    I think it can be argued both ways: it should be capitalised because it's a proper noun / it should not be capitalised because it's become a naturalised word.
    – Hugo
    Nov 5, 2012 at 22:41
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    ... the term (Hoover ---> hoover; Wellingtons ---> wellingtons/wellies etc) is genericisation. Nov 23, 2023 at 12:23
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Regarding Internet, the Wikipedia disambiguation page mentions:

The Internet is a worldwide publicly accessible system of interconnected computer networks.
Where not capitalized, internet can refer to any internetwork.

You could apply the same reasoning for Web (World Wide Web) as opposed to any "web".
Although there is still the debate about Web site vs. "website" ;)

If you consider proper noun as referring to "specific people, places, or things", Internet and "the Web" do qualify for their capitalize letter.

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    "The world" refers to a specific thing, but is not a proper noun. Nov 2, 2010 at 11:53
  • @CharlesStewart True, but is the name of the world World? No, its name is Earth. Is Internet the name of the large network we are using? Yes, so capped.
    – user231780
    Sep 27, 2017 at 23:14
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Wired magazine has a feature article on exactly this question, with reasons to support answers both ways, and in short it depends on your context and audience. However, it concludes that the lowercase version will eventually win the day.

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I would say that it is becoming less and less common to write "Internet", as if it were a proper noun. Indeed, the use of the phrasing "the internet" tends to indicate that "internet" is not a proper noun, because if it were, the word "the" would be redundant, and we would happily (still) refer to the internet as simply "Internet" (which used to be an accepted style, but will likely look odd to any reader not versed in the history of the internet).

The proportion of people who are familiar with the origin of "the internet" as a proper noun, or indeed to who understand that the phenomenological features of the internet qualify it as being capable of having a proper noun, seems to be dwindling. My guess is that most people think of the internet as being like the telephone system or the air - a thing that lacks either unity, number, or identity.

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  • I'm not clear as to why you think "the" makes Internet less likely to be a proper noun. "a queen", but "the Queen". Nov 5, 2012 at 22:10
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In most registers of English, the reality is that the capitalized form Internet will not work. It's merely a common noun. The etymology and technical background being interesting in their own right, these are no more essential when to the point since in common parlance, such isn't and simply will never be known. The singular reason it will be capitalized in some circles is posts just like this; people just like you. Educated people trying to figure out what is right, what should be right, etc. In the higher registers of English, it'll remain a question where some people refer to what they've always seen, bewildered as to why they should need to capitalize it. That will mostly come from applications that correct people's mistakes.

The only reason I could see it as needing to be capitalized is that it could be perceived as a kind of institution or segment of human civilization that is very important, and the capitalization marks such. Look at it like the sun, the moon, and the Earth. I would say as well that as a foundational pillar of the Information Age, in academic writing, its capitalization marks its status for human society. However, there should be no real grammatical reason that it be capitalized and, like I said, I don't think it will be in the long run, most of the time.

You could find lots of distinctions between other nouns that serve different purposes, such as data in the singular or plural etc. That hardly merits capitalizing the one but not the other. It's not a company, isn't some department... I think we would like for it to be capitalized (those who are reading) just because it's a stylistic addition and we intuit that it enjoys a very, very special status in the grand scheme of human inventions. Still, even from that perspective, rockets, phones, cars; they're all mere common nouns. In short, English is an economic language, not an academic one. Short and simple tends to win the race. Applications like Word will eventually be updated, eliminating the question for 99% of people who would have otherwise thought to ask.

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