Re: Web vs. web?

Subject: Re: Web vs. web?
From: Michael Clark <miark -at- MIJENIX -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 1998 14:18:57 -0600

>The fact that -- at the moment -- there is only one internet/web =
>does not make it a proper noun...The example I always use
> that there is only one sky, and (on this planet) there can only
>ever be one sky. Nobody ever capitalises "sky" though.

If you admit at all that there are other skies, then you must also
admit that the phrase "the sky" is just another phrase that identifies
one of a category of things. So, the phrase "the sky" is really no
different than "the doorway" or the "the car" or "the keys on the

What is differerent is the variety of our encounters with these
things. I see dozens of different cars every day, so if I talk of "the
car", you need a lot context to discern which of those cars I'm
referring to. But because most people see only one sky everyday, we
can talk of "the sky" without introducing any context, and without
introducing any confusion. So while we can get away with using "sky"
as a proper noun in speech, it's true nature is that of a plain noun,
and its written form does nothing more than accurately reflect it.

>I would go on to say that the only reason there is even
>the merest suggestion [to capitalize] is ...simply traditional.

We have only one known WWW in the entire universe. It's singular and
has clear definition. I think it qualifies perfectly well as a proper
noun. If we colonized Mars and and set up a web on it (I'm talking
about global webs here, not intrawebs.), THEN we'd have a category of
computer networks that we could call "webs". THEN we would talk of
"the web" and mean "this planet's web" just as we talk of "the sky"
and mean "this planets sky". But as of now, the WWW is the only thing
of it's kind and I don't know any reason in the world not to treat it
as a proper noun.


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