How Strange the Change

August 18, 2009

Is it ‘Web site’, ‘web site’ or ‘website’? There may be a few hundred people in the world who care, and one or two of them may even read this, but I am guessing that most will not want to hear about the long years I have spent {i}agonising{/i} over the issue. What is probably of more interest is that I have given up worrying about it and the implications that has for IT lawyers and perhaps all who work in IT.

When I was even younger than I am now, there was the World Wide Web and it definitely had initial caps. Now, www is lower case so it seems natural for people to assume that it is ‘the web’, assuming that users know what ‘www’ actually stands for.

I am not entirely adjusted: as Ella said, ‘how strange this change from major to minor’. The real importance of the change is that the web has lost its niche and floated into the mainstream. In truth, that probably happened a good while ago – it has just taken me this long to admit that that has an impact on the magazine’s editorial style guide.

When was the last time a listener glazed over when you mentioned the web as they frequently did in the good old days, enabling you to spout any old rubbish and still seem like an expert? When it comes to social exchanges, working in any web-related area now is like being a lorry driver – the listener might possibly acknowledge that you have some special road expertise but it carries no status; they have their own road stories to tell and, if you are lucky, they will share a selection of them with you. If you are unlucky, they will tell you all of them.

How you view the difference between ‘Web’ and ‘web’ will depend on your character and which side of the bed you got up on. Is it a loss of special status and a premium rate? Or is it acceptance as a major player in the mainstream of legal work, while still having the smug knowledge that you do have a special expertise which has increased in value as those with little knowledge will constantly prove what a dangerous thing that is? If you take the first view you may have to rebrand, like refuse operatives did or in the same way that those dealing with the minutiae of contracts have become ‘transactional lawyers’. If you take the latter view, the world’s your oyster, provided you get the work/life balance right (otherwise, Oyster’s your world).

Of course I lied in the first paragraph about no longer agonising. After I have finished counselling, I do indeed hope to stop worrying about ‘web site’. But ‘website’ is still just not on, and I am still carrying on the fight for ‘Internet’ with a capital ‘I’ despite the insidious advance of ‘internet’.