Is there only one internet? Probably — for now. But it could change and it will be a major change which might, in the long run, lead to fragmentation.
The internet is a disparate mix of interconnected computers, many of them on large networks run by universities, businesses and so on. What unites this network of networks are the communication languages known as the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, collectively TCP/IP.
Yet while a common computer language has proved a key to the internet’s phenomenal success, another form of language — this time human — could eventually trigger its fragmentation into several separate regional internets.
In 2007, under pressure from China and Russia, ICANN finally allowed the use of non-Latin characters in online addresses. The move will help billions of Chinese and Russian speakers use the internet, making communications easier and improving online trade within these countries. However, it could also prove to be the beginning of the end for the internet as we know it.
One possibility is that we could see the appearance of domain names that are not recognised by the rest of the network. If servers or routers aren’t set up to recognise the characters in these addresses, the domain names will not be readily accessible from all parts of the world.
New Scientist reports that worse will come if, say, the Chinese government decides to set up its own root directory of Chinese domain names, held on its own computers and independent of the existing US-based directory.
‘The language changes will accelerate national fragmentation of the internet,’ warns Tim Wu, professor of technology and law at Columbia University in New York. He predicts this will lead us down a road towards a divided internet: one part controlled by the US, one by China, and another by Russia.
You must log in to post a comment.