Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vint Cerf - “Father of the Internet”

vint cerf Tuesday night I went to hear Vint Cerf speak at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose. I heard about this great opportunity from the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley whose updates I get via e-mail. I was thrilled to share the experience with my SJSU SLIS instructor, Debbie Faires, who has definitely helped foster the geek in me. It was great to actually meet in person as opposed to in Google talk, Meebo, Second Life or Elluminate.

Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, is considered one of the fathers of the internet. He spoke about the past,  present, and future of the internet and while much of what he said went over my head, it was an incredible experience to hear him. In the 1970’s Vint Cerf co-designed TCP/IP with Robert Kahn. He talked about those early days of discovering that they could successfully move packets between 3 networks and watching that network expand and explode into today’s internet.

Dr. Cerf spoke about how the nature of the internet will continue to evolve as the population of internet users expands in Asia. Currently, there are about 1.5 billion internet users with the largest percentage (73.6%) being from North America which represents 248.2 million users. 15.3% of the internet users are from Asia but this translates to 578.5 million people. Dr. Cerf said that as the number of users from Asia approaches 70% the nature of the internet will be more heavily influenced by these users and will change. One change is the possibility of internationalized domain names using non Latin characters, though there are still issues that need to be addressed. Dr. Cerf said that mobile phones will continue to shape the internet as more applications are written to allow users to fully access the internet’s powers, particularly the geographic capabilities and possibilities.

Another change coming to the internet is IPv6, the next generation of IP protocol needed because we will run out of addresses sometime in 2010 according to Dr. Cerf. He takes full responsibility for this and says it was his fault as when he had to give a number of addresses they would need, TCP/IP was basically an experiment that they weren’t sure would work and he thought  232 addresses would be enough. He further said that IPv6 will provide enough addresses to last through his lifetime and then it’ll be someone else’s problem.

Dr. Cerf finished his talk by talking about interplanetary networks, which I can’t really explain but has to do with developing a protocol that allows communication in space and he explained how the Mars rovers transmit data back to Earth.

Dr. Cerf told amusing anecdotes (and a corny joke) and it was amazing to listen to him discuss both the beginnings of the internet and where he sees it going in the future. He could probably rest on his laurels quite happily but is involved in all these cool projects. You don’t get the chance to hear a legend every day. It was aweome!