Capitalization of Internet

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A 2016 Oxford English Dictionary study found differing rates of capitalization in the United States and United Kingdom.

Orthographic conventions have varied over time, and vary by publishers, authors, and regional preferences, on whether and when Internet should be capitalized. When the Internet first came into common use, most publications treated Internet as a capitalized proper noun, but this has become less common. This reflects the tendency in English to capitalize new terms and move them to lowercase as they become familiar. The word is sometimes still capitalized to distinguish the global IP-based internet from internets that are smaller or not IP-based, though many publications, including the AP Stylebook since 2016, recommend the lowercase form in every case. In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary found that, based on a study of around 2.5 billion printed and online sources, "Internet" was capitalized in 54% of cases, with Internet being preferred in the United States and internet being preferred in the United Kingdom.

The Internet versus generic internets[edit]

The Internet standards community historically differentiated between an internet, as a short-form of an internetwork, and the Internet: treating the latter as a proper noun with a capital letter, and the former as a common noun with a lower-case first letter. An internet is any set of interconnected networks, whether they use Internet Protocol or otherwise.[1][2] The distinction is evident in Request for Comments documents from the early 1980s, when the transition from the ARPANET, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, to the Internet, with broad commercial support, was in progress, although it was not applied with complete uniformity.[3][4]

Another example from that period is IBM's TCP/IP Tutorial and Technical Overview from 1989 (updated in 1998), which stated that:

The word internet (also internetwork) is simply a contraction of the phrase interconnected network. However, when written with a capital "I", the Internet refers to the worldwide set of interconnected networks. Hence, the Internet is an internet, but the reverse does not apply. The Internet is sometimes called the connected Internet.[5]

In the Request for Comments documents that define the evolving Internet Protocol standards, the term was introduced as a noun adjunct, apparently a shortening of "internetworking"[6] and is mostly used in this way.[citation needed]

In its generic sense, internet is a common noun, a synonym for internetwork; therefore, it has a plural form (first appearing in the RFC series RFC 870, RFC 871 and RFC 872) and is not capitalized.

Within Internet studies[edit]

In their 2009 book Internet Inquiry, academics Annette Markham and Nancy Baym reported that the current tendency within the field of Internet studies has been to use an uncapitalized internet.[7]: vii  Markham and Baym state that to capitalize internet arguably provides power and agency to the medium better provided to developers and users.[7]: vii 

Evolution of the word[edit]

Conventions for the capitalization of Internet have varied over time. The term internet was originally coined as a shorthand for internetwork in the first specification of the Transmission Control Program, RFC 675, by Vint Cerf, Yogen Dalal, and Carl Sunshine in 1974.[8][failed verification] Because of the widespread deployment of the Internet protocol suite in the 1980s by educational and commercial networks beyond the ARPANET, the core network became increasingly known as the Internet, treated as a proper noun. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the global network is usually "the internet", but most of the American historical sources it cites use the capitalized form.[9] Increasingly, the proper noun sense of the word takes a lowercase i, in orthographic parallel with similar examples of how the proper names for the Sun (the sun), the Moon (the moon), the Universe (the universe), and the World (the world) are variably capitalized in English orthography.

The spelling internet has become often used, as the word almost always refers to the global network; the generic sense of the word has become rare in non-technical writings. As a result, various style manuals, including The Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press's AP Stylebook, and the AMA Manual of Style, revised their formerly capitalized stylization of the word to lowercase internet in 2016.[10] The New York Times, which followed suit in adopting the lowercase style, said that such a change is common practice when "newly coined or unfamiliar terms" become part of the lexicon.[11] The same trend was previously applied to mentions of Web site (website).[12]

In 2002, a New York Times column said that Internet has been changing from a proper noun to a generic term.[13] Words for new technologies, such as phonograph in the 19th century, are sometimes capitalized at first, later becoming uncapitalized.[13] In 1999, another column said that Internet might, like some other commonly used proper nouns, lose its capital letter.[14]

Capitalization of the word as an adjective (specifically, a noun adjunct) also varies. Some guides specify that the word should be capitalized as a noun but not capitalized as an adjective, e.g., "internet resources."[15]


Increasingly, organizations that formerly capitalized Internet have switched to the lowercase form, whether to minimize distraction (The New York Times)[11] or to reflect growing trends as the term became generic (Associated Press Stylebook).[16] In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary found that, based on a study of around 2.5 billion printed and online sources, "Internet" was capitalized in 54% of cases.[17] The study found that Internet remained more common in the US, while internet had become predominant in the UK.[17]

Organizations and style guides that capitalize Internet include the Modern Language Association,[18] Garner's Modern English Usage,[19] the Internet Engineering Task Force,[20] Ars Technica,[21] the Internet Society,[22] and CloudFlare.[23] Organizations and style guides that use lowercase internet include Apple,[24] Microsoft,[25] Google,[26] Wired News (since 2004),[27] the United States Government Publishing Office,[28] the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology,[29] the Associated Press (since 2016),[30] The New York Times (since 2016),[31] The Chicago Manual of Style (since 2017),[32] APA style (since 2019),[33] The Guardian, The Observer,[34] BuzzFeed, and Vox Media.[35]


  1. ^ Padlipsky, M. A. (September 1982), A Perspective on the Arpanet Reference Model, p. 20, RFC 871, retrieved 4 January 2024
  2. ^ Padlipsky, M. A. (September 1982), TCP-on-a-LAN, p. 2, RFC 872, retrieved 4 January 2024
  3. ^ RFC 871 (1982) "The 'network' composed of the concatenation of such subnets is sometimes called 'a catenet,' though more often—and less picturesquely—merely 'an internet.'"
  4. ^ RFC 872 (1982) "[TCP's] next most significant property is that it is designed to operate in a 'catenet' (also known as the, or an, 'internet')"
  5. ^ ISBN 0-7384-2165-0 (1998) section 1.1.2. Murhammer, Martin; Atakan, Orcan; Bretz, Stefan; Pugh, Larry (23 February 1998). TCP/IP Tutorial and Technical Overview. IBM Itso. OL 31855915M. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  6. ^ The form first occurring in the RFC series is "internetworking protocol", RFC 604: "Four of the reserved link numbers are hereby assigned for experimental use in the testing of an internetworking protocol." The first use of "internet" is in RFC 675, in the form "internet packet".
  7. ^ a b Baym, Nancy K.; Markham, Annette N. (2009). "Introduction: Making Smart Choices on Shifting Ground". In Markham, Annette N.; Baym, Nancy K. (eds.). Internet Inquiry: Conversations About Method. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. pp. vii–xix. doi:10.4135/9781483329086. ISBN 9781412910019.
  8. ^ Vint Cerf, Yogen Dalal, Carl Sunshine, Specification of Internet Transmission Control Program, RFC 675, (December 1974)
  9. ^ "internet". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  10. ^ McCoy, Julia (6 April 2017). "Chicago Style Gets With the Online Grammar Times (A Recap)". Express Writers. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  11. ^ a b Corbett, Philip B. (1 June 2016). "It's Official: The 'Internet' Is Over". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  12. ^ Goldsborough, Reid (October 2016). "With the Internet, to Capitalize or Not?". Teacher Librarian. p. 57. Retrieved 5 August 2023 – via ProQuest.
  13. ^ a b Schwartz, John (29 December 2002). "Who Owns the Internet? You and i Do". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 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 years.'
  14. ^ Wilbers, Stephen (13 September 1999). "Errors put a wall between you and your readers". Orange County Register. Santa Ana, California. p. c.20. If you like being ahead of the game, you might prefer to spell internet and web as internet and web, but according to standard usage they should be capitalized. Keep in mind, however, that commonly used proper nouns sometimes lose their capital letters over time and that Internet and Web may someday go the way of the french fry.
  15. ^ "MIT Libraries House Style". MIT Libraries Staff Web. 14 August 2008. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  16. ^ Hare, Kristen (2 April 2016). "AP Style alert: Don't capitalize internet and web anymore". Poynter. Archived from the original on 16 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  17. ^ a b Coren, Michael J. (2 June 2016). "One of the internet's inventors thinks it should still be capitalized". Quartz. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  18. ^ MLA Handbook. The Modern Language Association of America, ninth edition. 2021. ISBN 978-1603293518.
  19. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190491482.
  20. ^ "Internet Security Glossary, Version 2".
  21. ^ Bangeman, Eric (30 May 2000). "Ars Technica style guide". Internet should always be capitalized.
  22. ^ "We capitalize Internet—every time. But why?".
  23. ^ "Cloudflare's Annual Founders' Letter". 26 September 2021. We always capitalize the I in Internet, in spite of what the AP style guide has said since 2016, because it's a proper noun, we believe there is and only should be one, and we have an enduring respect for what a miracle it is that it exists.
  24. ^ "Apple Style Guide". Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  25. ^ pallep. "internet, intranet, extranet - Microsoft Style Guide". Microsoft Learn. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Word list | Google developer documentation style guide". Google Developers. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  27. ^ Long, Tony (16 August 2004). "It's Just the 'internet' Now". Wired. Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009. ... what the internet is: another medium for delivering and receiving information.
  28. ^ U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual (PDF). 2017. p. 65.
  29. ^ "internet - Glossary". National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  30. ^ Hare, Kristen (2 April 2016). "AP Style alert: Don't capitalize internet and web anymore". The Poynter Institute. Retrieved 3 April 2016. The changes reflect a growing trend toward lowercasing both words, which have become generic terms
  31. ^ Bromwich, Jonah (24 May 2016). "Bulletin! The 'Internet' Is About to Get Smaller". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Announcing The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition". CMOS Shop Talk. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  33. ^ "Preferred Spellings". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Guardian and Observer style guide". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 19 April 2008. internet, net, web, world wide web. See websites.
  35. ^ Martin, Katherine Connor (5 April 2016). "Should you capitalize the word Internet?". Oxford Dictionaries Online. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2016.