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The term netizen is a portmanteau of the words Internet and citizen, as in a "citizen of the net" or "net citizen".[1][2][3] It describes a person[4] actively involved in online communities or the Internet in general.[5][6]

The term commonly also implies an interest and active engagement in improving the Internet, making it an intellectual and a social resource,[4] or its surrounding political structures, especially in regard to open access, net neutrality and free speech.[7] The term was widely adopted in the mid-1990s as a way to describe those who inhabit the new geography of the Internet.[8] Internet pioneer and author Michael F. Hauben is credited with coining and popularizing the term.[4][9][10][11][12]

Quotations from Michael and Ronda Hauben[edit]

My initial research concerned the origins and development of the global discussion forum Usenet....I wanted to explore the larger Net and what it was and its significance. This is when my research uncovered the remaining details that helped me to recognize the emergence of Netizens. There are people online who actively contribute towards the development of the Net. These people understand the value of collective work and the communal aspects of public communications. These are the people who discuss and debate topics in a constructive manner, who e-mail answers to people and provide help to new-comers, who maintain FAQ files and other public information repositories, who maintain mailing lists, and so on. These are people who discuss the nature and role of this new communications medium. These are the people who as citizens of the Net I realized were netizens.

— Michael F. Hauben, Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet[13][11][12]

Welcome to the 21st Century. You are a Netizen (a Net Citizen), and you exist as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible. You consider everyone as your compatriot. You physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network. Virtually, you live next door to every other single Netizen in the world. Geographical separation is replaced by existence in the same virtual space.

— Michael Hauben, The Net and Netizens: The Impact the Net Has on People's Lives[11]

Hauben describes the distinction to Internet users in general by saying:[14][15][16]

Netizens are not just anyone who comes on-line, and they are especially not people who come on-line for isolated gain or profit. They are not people who come to the Net thinking it is a service. Rather they are people who understand it takes effort and action on each and everyone's part to make the Net a regenerative and vibrant community and resource. Netizens are people who decide to devote time and effort into making the Net, this new part of our world, a better place.
Lurkers are not Netizens, and vanity home pages are not the work of Netizens. While lurking or trivial home pages do not harm the Net, they do not contribute either.

In China[edit]

In Mandarin Chinese, the terms wǎngmín (simplified Chinese: 网民; traditional Chinese: 網民; Wade–Giles: wang3-min2, literally "netizen" or "net folks") and wǎngyǒu (simplified Chinese: 网友; traditional Chinese: 網友; Wade–Giles: wang3-you3, literally "net friend" or "net mate") are commonly used terms meaning "Internet users", and the English word netizen is used by mainland China-based English language media to translate both terms, resulting in the frequent appearance of that English word in media reporting about China, far more frequently than the use of the word in other contexts.[17][18]

The Netizen Prize[edit]

The international nonprofit organisation Reporters Without Borders awards an annual Netizen Prize in recognition to an Internet user, blogger, cyber-dissident, or group who has helped to promote freedom of expression on the Internet.[19][20][21] The organisation uses the term when describing the political repression of cyber-dissidents such as legal consequences of blogging in politically repressive environments.

See also[edit]

  • Digital citizen – citizens (of the physical space) using the Internet as a tool in order to engage in society, politics, and government participation[22]
  • Netiquette – social conventions for online communities
  • Cyberspace – the new societal territory that is inhabited by Netizens
  • Active citizenship – the concept that citizens have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment and should actively participate
  • List of Internet pioneers – those who helped erect the theoretical and technological foundation of the Internet (instead of improving its content, utility or political aspects)
  • Participatory culture – a culture in which the public does not act merely as consumers and voters, but also as contributors, producers and active participants


  1. ^ Seese, Michael. Scrappy Information Security. p. 130. ISBN 978-1600051326. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  2. ^ Hauben, Michael. "The Expanding Commonwealth of Learning: Printing and the Net". Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  3. ^ Hauben, Michael F. (November 24, 1995). "The Netizens and Community Networks - Presented at the Hypernetwork '95 Beppu Bay Conference". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c DeLoach, Amelia (September 1996). "What Does it Mean to be a Netizen?". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  5. ^ netizen,
  6. ^ The Net and Netizens by Michael Hauben, Columbia University.
  7. ^ What is netizen? definition
  8. ^ Thompson, Steven John. Global Issues and Ethical Considerations in Human Enhancement Technologies. p. 4. ISBN 978-1466660106. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Butler, Simon. "Michael F. Hauben". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Hauben, Ronda. "Internet PIONEER Michael Hauben". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Horvath, John (July 27, 2001). "Death of a Netizen". Heise Online. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Orlowski, Andrew (June 30, 2001). "Michael Hauben, Netizen, dies". The Register. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Hauben, Michael; Hauben, Ronda. "Preface: What is a Netizen". Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet (PDF). pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-8186-7706-9.
  14. ^ DeLoach, Amelia (September 1996). "What is a Netizen?". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  15. ^ "The need for a Netizens Association". March 1996. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  16. ^ Hauben, Michael; Hauben, Ronda (November 1995). "What is a Netizen?". first monday. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  17. ^ Brian Fung, "'Netizen': Why Is This Goofy-Sounding Word So Important in China?", The Atlantic, 11 October 2012
  18. ^ Matt Schiavenza, "Enough with the word "Netizen"", The Atlantic, 25 September 2013
  19. ^ "World Day Against Cyber-Censorship: new "Enemies of the Internet" list". March 11, 2011. Archived from the original on June 28, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  20. ^ "Netizen Prize 2012: nominees". February 27, 2012. Archived from the original on April 21, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  21. ^ Manea, Elham (November 5, 2014). "Reporters Without Borders award Raif Badawi the Netizen Prize for 2014". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  22. ^ Mossberger, Karen. "Digital Citizenship - The Internet, Society and Participation" by Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Ramona S. McNeal. 23 November 2011. ISBN 978-0819456069

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]