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World Wide Web May Split ­p Into Several Separate Networks

The recent dispute between the Chinese government and Google, and the latter's subsequent threat to leave China, has some analysts worried that the World Wide Web may fracture into several regional fiefdoms. "A new information curtain is descending across much of the world," says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Analysts say that China wants to maintain control in shaping next-generation Internet standards, and note that it already has the tools to create and manage its own cyberspace. If Google leaves China for good, it could lead to a disintegration of the Internet into several regional or nationally sovereign clouds, says University of Toronto professor Ron Deibert.

Several other countries have already isolated themselves from the global Internet by blocking Web sites. North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Vietnam, Tunisia, and Bahrain are among the most isolated countries, according to a Harvard University-run Web site aimed at tracking Internet accessibility by country.

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