13 June 2003

…and another thing:

Back in the 90s, the folks at WIRED decided that the web was so fundamentally new and important that it needed to have a capital W, even though nobody capitalizes things like radio and television and boring old books. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations who should know how to recognize bullshit nevertheless adopted WIRED’s style diktats wholesale into their own style guide. Hence in journalism, it’s not uncommon to see capital Ws all over the place in articles about the online world.

Some people attempt to rationalize capitalizing web by saying that it’s because it’s short for World Wide Web; but unfortunately for them, radio is short for Radio Telegraph or RT, and was even written that way when it was invented, yet we still don’t write about “listening to a Radio show” or “talk Radio”.

Some come up with the rationalization that web is a proper noun because there’s only one web. If you want to take that approach, which is at least somewhat justifiable, then you would refer to something being “on the Web”, but you’d still write “web browser” and “web site” with lower case ‘w’. Personally, though, I don’t buy the ‘proper noun’ argument either; the web is not a place. It’s very like the telephone network; there’s only one phone network, but nobody writes about talking to their mother “on the Phone” or considers the Telephone Network to be a proper noun that needs capital letters.

Finally, if you look at actual common usage, practically nobody writes web with a capital W except journalists who are slavishly following style guides.

So basically, capitalizing ‘web’ is not consistent with how other media and networks are treated; it just comes across as pretentious and “WIRED told us this was cool and we don’t know any better”.

What drives me even more nuts is people at work who write web with a capital W, but don’t manage to write Web Services capitalized. They write “Web services”, which is wrong no matter how you look at it.

(Copied and expanded from a post elsewhere.)

((And Tim Murtaugh agrees.))

© mathew 2017