The Politics of Internet Control

Why Geography & Borders Matter?


The most fundamental difference when dealing with different geographical locations and borders, is language. When the topic of language was first raised in relation to the Net, it was believed English would become the dominant universal language that would consume the Net just as the Net would consume borders, similar to how TCP/IP had become a universal protocol making Internet communications possible. However, by 2005 it was estimated that nearly two-thirds of Internet users were not English (Goldsmith & Wu 2006), causing many Web giants to confront the issue of having more than one language available for users. Yahoo was one of these, who in the end decided to build sophisticated portals that were designed to meet local needs, allowing them to compete with other local portals that were written in local languages.

Language is not the only difference reflected by borders, culture, currency and climate to name but a few all translate into many different preferences amongst Net users in different geographical locations. The links containing the ‘choose a country’ are a very raw way of trying to map real world borders into the realms of cyberspace in an attempt to better serve Internet users in different locations.
Another significant reason for the importance of real-space geography in terms of the Internet is highlighted with Amazon.com, whose business started out with no physical presence outside of Seattle whatsoever. This soon caused problems with inefficiency and so Amazon built giant warehouses that ended up scattered all over the world close to its customers, therefore placing a heavy investment in real-space distribution.

The consequences of these geographical borders is that the Internet is soon becoming a collection of nation-state networks that are separate from each other for a number of reasons, but still linked by the Internet protocol. This separation of networks is down to the differences in language spoken, culture and geography of different nations. China is a good example of an Internet that is governed by borders and what happens when governments choose to isolate themselves. China has proved very effective at placing a virtual firewall around their country using a number of sophisticated methods that in turn have created closed national networks, reinforced by bandwidth distribution, another reflection of an evolving Internet that is soon becoming a network of national and regional connections.

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