Vint Cerf is the man widely known as being the father of the Internet, although he humbly says, “a father might be okay.” The work that he and Robert Kahn began developing back in 1973 is still being used today to send data through the network. We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Cerf at SMX West and discover his thoughts on many issues such as Google’s Measurement Lab, net neutrality, and the future of the search industry and entire Web.
Google recently rolled out details for its new platform Measurement Lab. The tool is designed to help Web users know if their broadband providers are blocking access to services. Dr Cerf says:
“Measurement Lab at Google is our contribution to helping people understand what the behavior of the network is.”
Unfortunately, very little of the performance information of the commercial Internet Service Providers has been available to the research community. Google hopes to change that fact with this tool so the researchers can improve performance and build better models.
Dr. Cerf is also known for being a strong supporter of net neutrality. He is pleased since the Obama administration has shown an interest in science, technology, and new business development. Since growth and innovation of the Web depend upon everyone having equal access to it, Dr. Cerf expects President Obama to enforce openness on the Net. Not only is this good news for the tech industry, but it is also good news for the economy since it will create new jobs.
When speaking about the future of search and the Internet, Dr. Cerf expresses excitement. He predicts three significant transformations to occur. First of all, he sees mobile devices growing tremendously.
“I hope everyone will have this information window on their hip or in their purse.”
Secondly, he predicts Internet speeds to become faster and faster. As this happens, Web users will do things they would not have normally done because it would have taken too long. Thirdly, he foresees more Internet-enabled devices such as appliances.
As the Internet evolves, it is interesting to view the revolution from a child’s perspective. Dr. Cerf says he wishes he was eight-years-old just so he could see what will happen in the industry. Most people think of technology as something new, but for children growing up today, it is simply part of their normal life. Dr. Cerf points out that kids aren’t afraid of technology and will therefore be able to expand it in ways that would not have occurred to the older generation.
On the future of Google and search, Dr. Cerf sees the giant search company sticking to its mission statement of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. However, Google cannot do it alone. As the company’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Dr. Cerf says Google offers many of the services and programs Google for free because the company wants to encourage others to innovate as well. There are many areas within search that other companies can still expand on such as video, imagery, and sound.
One area that concerns Dr. Cerf is the issue of preserving bit content for future generations. As new software is created and developed, older documents could be lost if the new software does not support them.
“If we don’t preserve our ability to interpret the bits, they won’t be useful anymore.”
This concern is similar to the cloud computing issue: How do the clouds interact with one another? As much as the Internet has grown, there are still many opportunities for more innovation. Dr. Cerf compares the Internet to the universe since 95 percent of each one is still relatively unexplored.
“It’s [Internet] very heavily based on software. The interesting thing about software is it is an endless frontier…, which means that there really isn’t any end to this. It’s just a continuum of ideas and innovations and software that evolves in ways that you or I could never predict.”