Internet (capitalization)

Many American style guides recommend capitalizing the first letter of Internet, and most major American publications (as well as many Canadian ones) do so. Outside North America, internet is rarely capitalized.

The non-U.S. approach makes more sense. There is no good reason to capitalize internet. The convention in English is to capitalize the first letters of proper nouns, which are the official names of people, places, objects, or events. The internet is none of these. It was originally capitalized to differentiate the Internet (the global network that anyone can access) from an internet (any network of interconnected computers), but in common usage this distinction is now irrelevant. Internet is now just a generic term for the communication medium.


The capitalized Internet still prevails in many major American and Canadian publications—for example:

Performance art, in the broadest sense, has existed since long before the Internet. [New York Times]

David Cameron appears to have had a change of heart on the subject of Internet freedom. [Globe and Mail]

A wastewater treatment plant worker’s photos of a ‘weird-looking’ creature go viral on the Internet. [Los Angeles Times]

Elsewhere (and in a few North American publications), the lowercased internet is more common—for example:

It may sound like the stuff of science fiction but these cyber cows are at the forefront of the evolution of the internet. [Guardian]

Spending too much time on the internet and mobile phones is an increasing problem in marriage and relationships. [Irish Times]

These days, the internet provides us with thousands, if not millions of outlets for news and opinions, catering to the most niche of tastes. [Sydney Morning Herald]

20 thoughts on “Internet (capitalization)”

    • We could get on board with this if people used “Internet” on its own without “the.” Names typically don’t take the article. We don’t say “the Mars,” and “earth” is usually uncapitalized when it’s preceded by “the.”

      • Oh please. “Internet” IS a proper noun.

        Celestial bodies have their own rules.

        These examples from the Guardian, IT and Sydney Herald are nothing more than a ridiculous display of laziness.

        • Laziness? Using laziness as a scapegoat for an editorial decision is in fact lazy in my opinion. The internet is no longer a proper noun because it is no longer a MAGICAL place, it’s part of our daily, hourly lives. THY ONE HOLY INTERNET SHALT BE CAPITALIZED. No. There are many internets, we are using the world wide web right now, which is a tool, just like a computer, or phone network, or church, all of which are not capitalized.

          • There are many internets, as an internet is just a network of networks (an inter-network). However, the Internet, the one that most people mean, is singular institution, which makes it a proper noun, right?

  1. The internet is not a place. You cannot jump inside it and go there. It is a thing that people use. They should allow it to be interchangeable if some people insist on spelling it this way. I agree with the Grammarist Mod in a way. The word “the” makes the internet important enough. So why capitalize it when there isn’t a need to differentiate it anymore? I hate weird grammar rules that break other grammar rules. It is just silly.

    • You’re mixing the concepts of abstract nouns with proper nouns.

      The fact that you say there’s only one implies that it is something proper.

      These are not silly things and are exactly why people have different opinions.

  2. The Internet is a concept. God is a concept. The word “God” is capitalized in some instances, so should “Internet”. The original intended differentiation makes sense.

    Also, @keebali:disqus’s argument that because the article “the” is usually used with “Internet” is not strong. There are other words that are commonly capitalized yet include “the” or another article.

    • An “internet” is a concept, however – the Internet is a proper noun. There’s only one Internet, it has a series or regulatory bodies that govern it, and a series of technical specifications that define how it is used. Anyone can create an internet, using a protocol of their own devising, and having their own name resolution service. However, you cannot have another Internet.

  3. “The” Internet – the one to which we are all attached while reading and commenting here – is the name of a specific internet. In the same way that God – the Judaeo-Christian deity – is the name of a specific god. It technically *should* be capitalised.

    HOWEVER, when such a word becomes massively widespread in its use, it tends to lose its initial cap through common usage: people can’t be bothered to hit the shift key; consider the hoover (originally, and technically still, the name of a specific brand of vacuum cleaner) and the biro.
    Internet, the word, just happens to be in the middle of that process.

    Which you choose to use depends on personal preference, so long as you are consistent, and that is what house styles are all about.

  4. I find it exceptionally ironic that the convention for writing about a thing which inherently connects us with writers all over the world ignores the convention for writing about that thing everywhere else IN the world.

    And I fall soundly on the side of thinking it absurd to capitalize the word. “Internet” is not a proper name, any more than “television,” “radio,” “newspaper,” or “network” are proper names.

    • No, Internet is a proper noun; the Guardian is quite wrong on this.

      As an example: a television network is just that – a concept. Likewise, an internet is just that – a concept, or category. However, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, etc are all specific kinds of networks that are organized and run by specific groups of people. Likewise, the Internet is a specific network, run by a specific group of people (ICANN and the IETF, mainly). There can be many internets, but there is only one Internet.

      • Your examples of proper nouns are specific child objects underneath the “networks” taxonomy. The internet of which we are speaking is the broad parent of smaller networks. By your own logic, a child network could be proper, but the broad and generic term or idea would not be.

        • You’re absolutely right! The generic term – internet – isn’t capitalized at all. An internetwork, or internet for short, is simply any network of networks. An internet could use any variety of transport and routing protocols and employ any number of name resolution mechanisms. I could, for example, setup a LAN in my house, a LAN in my neighbor’s house, and connect them with a router. We would have an internet. However, it would not be the Internet.

          The Internet, the one we are using right this moment to communicate with one another, is not a generic term or idea. It’s a very specific network, originally created through a collaboration between DARPA, a branch of the US military, and the Bell Telephone corporation. Originally the Internet was confined within the borders of the United States; it only was extended to NATO countries in the late 1970s, and in fact it had to compete with other internets.

          The success the of the Internet was due to three factors; one, it adopted an open, non-proprietary protocol named TCP/IP, which meant any vendor could develop hardware for it, and any software company could write software for it; two, TCP/IP was also used as the communication and routing protocol for Unix computers, which were prevalent in academic institutions, and three, when Tim Berners-Lee devised HTTP and the World Wide Web, he set it up to run on TCP/IP (since it was free) and on the Internet (since HTTP was originally devised for the use of academic and research institutions to exchange papers).

  5. It should be capitalized for this reason:

    An “internet” is a network of networks. Anyone can create an internet, potentially.

    However, *the* Internet, the one based on the old ARPANET, that’s governed by the IETF and ICANN, the one that’s delivering this website, is a singular institution.

    • You are absolutely correct. The argument that lowercase supporters should be making is that it is now convention to make an exception to lowercase it out of the sheer commonness of it.

  6. Before I thought making it lowercase just out of CONVENTION was the rule. But well, the foundation of the entire article on this site is that people basically shouldn’t capitalize things if they’re used a lot. Before I read this article I wanted to write it lowercase but now I realize that there is no reason to write it lowercase. Especially since now it explains that there’s a common internet and a specific proper Internet. I think that’s plenty argument to capitalize it right there.


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