Russia threatens to build a separate Internet


In the latest issue of FP, I wrote (subscription required) about the efforts of ICANN, the group that gives out Internet domain names, to "internationalize" the Web. Starting this year, ICANN will allow users to use non-Roman characters in top level domain names. For example, Arabic-speaking users will no longer have to end Web addresses in ".com"—they can register the last part of their Web address in their own native language.

Tina Dam, the executive director at ICANN who is in charge of the change, said that part of the reason for the switch was fears that China could "split the root," or create a second Internet that only recognizes Chinese characters. This would allow the Chinese government to control what people see. If, for instance, a Chinese user tried to access an FP article on censorship in China, the government could direct them to a completely different site.

Dam said she was confident the change would appease the Chinese. But ICANN now has a problem with Russia. Despite ICANN's efforts to incorporate Russian alphabet characters into Web addresses (it is one of 11 sets of characters the group is incorporating), Moscow is pushing for the creation of an Internet that recognizes only Cyrillic characters. Expert warnings echo those voiced about a Chinese Internet: increased international isolation and more government censorship of the Web. Given the wide control the Kremlin already has over media in Russia and its unwillingness to play nice with pretty much anyone these days, a separate Russian Internet might be just as dangerous a prospect as a separate Chinese one.


The World of Warcraft primary

Andrew Sullivan is all over Ron Paul supporters' seeming command of World of Warcraft, and links to a list of 49 characters named "Ronpaul" in the popular online fantasy game.

But that's nothing: There are 69 characters named "Obama" and another 36 named "BarackObama."

There are 71 characters named "Hillary," though a search for "HillaryClinton" comes up dry. Mike Huckabee, with 30 as "Huckabee" and two people going by "Mikehuckabee," is no slouch. There are 27 "McCain" avatars and another four for "JohnMcCain," and even "Romney," with 25 characters, makes an appearance.