Monday, August 1, 2005


Last week Tony was at some roundtable discussion at Stanford on Innovation Journalism. I dropped by for a bit and found it very cool to see Vinton Cerf there. Cerf is commonly referred to as the "father of the Internet" and really co-founded the backbone protocol of the Internet. Anyway, I didn't know it, but Tony and Rich, the AlwaysOn managing editor, got some time to interview him, so check it out:

The Net 30 Years Later
Co-father of the Internet Vint Cerf reflects back on what he started and the 10-year cycles of innovation.

How does today's Internet compare to what you thought it would be?

Vint Cerf: The standard question is, "Did you have any idea that it would get this big when you started 30-some-odd years ago?" The answer is: No. We were trying to solve an engineering problem at the time and were very focused on the technical side of it. We had no inkling that this would become a commercially important functional capability or that it would have a global footprint. Inherent in the design and the ambitions for the technology are exactly the seeds of what we are seeing, but it wasn't obvious at the time. We wanted no limitation on the number of networks that could be interconnected. We wanted a nonproprietary capability for computers to communicate with each other. We wanted every new transmission and switching technology to bear Internet packets.

I was running around with a T-shirt that said, "IP on Everything," and the whole point was to try to absorb any new switching or transmission technology into the Internet architecture. I think we have done well with that because we assumed that the layers below the IP level would not be relied upon too heavily; that most of the interesting functionality would be derived from the edges of the technology. This was the inverse of the classic design of the telecoms (up to that time anyway)—which was that most of the systems had all their intelligence in the central-office switches and the conventional public-switch telephone net. (full interview)

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