Sunday, 4 October 2009

iHate The Use Of The Lower Case "i" As A Prefix For Everything

Today, the iPhone is probably the most talked about gadget in the world.

I regularly see news about iPhones show up on my iGoogle page.

If I wanted to, I could read about iPhones on iGoogle on an iMac.

Or perhaps I could watch "I, Claudius" on an iPlayer widget in my iGoogle on an iMac!

In the days before the "i" prefix was attached to seemingly everything, we were plagued by the "e" prefix, which at least stood for something - electronic.

We had e-mail, e-books and e-business. That's fine - these were all electronic versions of existing things, and having to say "electronic mail" every time would become annoying pretty quickly.

So the "e" prefix was helpful, for two reasons - it told us that we were talking about an electronic version of something, and it saved us having to pronounce 75% of the syllables in "electronic" every time.

The "i" prefix has no such redeeming features. Apple, who are one of the companies most responsible for its current ubiquity, originally stated it stood for Internet. Of course, since "Internet" is a proper noun it starts with a capital letter, so using the lowercase "i" prefix is a minor crime against grammar.

The more generous amongst you may be willing to overlook that, but even then, its standing for "Internet" doesn't really make sense. Apple originally introduced the prefix in the names of the iMac and iBook.

Sure, both of these could be used to access the Internet, but neither was noticeably more Internet-related than other desktop computers or laptops. In fact the iBook was the "cheapo" part of the Apple laptop range - using the Internet would be more fluid on the much more powerful (and much more descriptively named) Power Book series than on the supposed "Internet Book" range.

Seemingly encouraged by the success of these iProducts Apple went a bit iCrazy, and created the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iLife.

"iDon't Believe It!"

As if that wasn't iPlenty, the iLife software package consists of iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and... wait for it.... iWeb. Oh, and it also includes GarageBand, which somehow missed out on getting an "i". But that is "the exception that proves the rule*".

Almost all of these applications, apart from iWeb, have little or nothing to do with the Internet.

The "i" prefixes are seemingly utterly meaningless, just a branding-executive's fetish.

The iPlague has spread outside of Apple's product line-up though, with the BBC having branded its online TV service / application "iPlayer". Google have an offering called iGoogle. There's even an iCoke website!

iCan't take it any more, iJust want branding people to start using a bit more iMagination (and no, you can't just have the "i" stand for imagination!) and get off the iPrefix bandwagon. Please?

* actually this phrase in its modern usage is nonsensical, so apologies for using it! Originally it made sense as "proves" was used in the sense of "puts to the test", and in the case of exceptions, "tested to breaking point".


CNXTim said...

Actually, the convention is to spell internet with a lower case "i" and for a very plausible reason. Furthermore, convention or common use trumps rules every time, AKA evolution.

Uppercase usage in general is gradually fading away, and it began a long time before the common use of the internet.

Alltruism said...

Although "internet" with a lower case "i" is becoming more common these days, its still not "the convention" yet (although it probably will be fairly soon).... "Internet" is still the version used by many people and organizations including the Associated Press.

Also, from a technical point of view, there is a distinction between THE Internet and internets in general (the Internet is an internet, but there are other internets that aren't part of the Internet). But now that many of the non-Internet internets use Internet Protocol the distinction is less sharp than it was :)