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The global Internet and what that really means

Category : Internet governance ยท by Jul 27th, 2006

Everyone is forever talking about the global Internet but like in Orwell’s Animal Farm, it often seems that the endless repetition of “four legs good, two legs bad” is deemed enough in itself.

I have two articles published today that consider the reality or otherwise of this global Internet. The first is a long feature for The Guardian (“Divided by a common language“) which covers the increasingly important issue of internationalised domain names – effectively the inclusion of non-Western languages into the [tag]Internet[/tag].

It is a pretty detailed rundown considering the limited space and the fact that I had to start from an assumption that readers wouldn’t have a clue what [tag]IDNs[/tag] were (and why should they?).

A broad outline can be grabbed from this quote: “Despite everything you may have heard, the global resource we all know as the internet is not global at all. Since you are reading this article in English you probably won’t have noticed, but if your first language was Chinese, Arabic, Hindi or Tamil, you would know very different… The internet is a bewildering and often incomprehensible place for the billions of people who live east of Greece.”

The second piece is a review of the [tag]NTIA[/tag] meeting last night in Washington, written the early hours of this morning and just put live on The Register.

The meeting was really interesting and, I would venture, historical. To give the NTIA due credit, it has clearly realised it has to shift the US government’s role and it seems one of the problems it faces is that the US electorate just doesn’t get the Internet and so keeps insisting that the USG maintain its role.

Nevertheless the meeting was marked out by the fact that we were discussing the future of the Internet and it was exactly the same people in the room that have always been in the room – white, middle-aged, English-speaking engineers and lawyers.

There is a worrying seam of argument at the moment that there is no need to include more people in [tag]ICANN[/tag]’s processes, that everything is working fine, even when it is abundantly clear that everything is, in fact, not working fine. I think the calls for the wider public to effectively been kept out of ICANN’s decision-making will end up looking extremely foolish through the eyes of history.

But then that’s what always happens, people hate what change brings. Especially when it means they will end up with less power and influence for what they see as negligible improvement. But ICANN has a date with history. Anyone that decides to try to hold back the tide, rather than ride the wave, is going to be washed out to sea.

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