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To ICANN or not to Icann

It’s irritated me for ages that whenever you see a reference to ICANN in the British press, it’s always called ‘Icann’. This gets right up my nose, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. The practice of denying us our God-given capital letters just seems a bit cheeky. And I could never understand the logic.

But Seth Finkelstein has solved the mystery. He has written a couple of pieces on ICANN-related issues for the Guardian*, and asked their copy editor why they changed his ICANN to Icann. The Guardian newspaper’s style guide says:

“Use all caps only if the abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters; otherwise spell the word out: the BBC, ICI, VAT, but Isa, Nato.”

Case closed. Except…

… except, I still think it looks funny, and wonder if we should have a style guide of our own. For example, the Guardian always says ‘internet’ instead of ‘Internet’. Now, ‘internet’ would be fine if they were talking about when you and your mates plug a few networks together into a finite little loop. But they’re not, they mean the global internet, the internet of internets, the ur-internet, the motherlode of all things internet; the Internet, in fact.

‘E-mail’ is another one. As far as I remember, the Economist style guide still recommends hyphenating the word. But if they want to be consistent, they should call a pram a perambulator, and a bus an omnibus, since that’s what we called them when they were invented in the nineteenth century. Maybe we called email ‘e-mail’ back in the twentieth century. But today it’s ‘email’, plain and simple.

Since ICANN is forever being accused of mission creep, perhaps the community should embrace this and create a proper Internet style guide to set the Luddites straight.

* Seth’s recent Guardian piece is here, and we got talking about a piece on new gTLDs I wrote here.


    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."