Elon University

20th anniversary closing keynote by ISOC’s founding president, Vint Cerf

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Brief session description:

Tuesday April 24, 2012 – The Internet Society’s founding president Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, was asked to deliver a message to close the 20th anniversary INET conference in Geneva April 24, 2012. Cerf worked from 1976-1982 with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, and he and Robert Kahn are the co-designers of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. He served as founding president of ISOC from 1992-1995; he was ISOC board chairman in 1999. Cerf was chairman of the board for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from 2000-2007. He has often been honored globally for his leadership. He is a distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is working on the design of the Interplanetary Internet.

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      Details of the session:

      Freedom, opportunity, responsibility.

      Throughout his closing keynote, Internet pioneer and popular leader Vint Cerf emphasized these three significant tenets of the Internet, exploring how they have influenced the past two decades of the Internet Society and challenging the audience to continue to uphold them.

      The Internet is all about freedom, he said. “Freedom to build networks. Freedom to interconnect them. Freedom to design and try out new protocols and applications without having to get permission. Freedom to ingest new communications technologies over which the Internet Protocol packets could be transported. Freedom to speak and share ideas. Freedom to access all the technical specifications without having to join an organization or pay a fee. The Internet is really all about freedom. Freedom to speak, freedom to hear, freedom to innovate.

      “It still amazes me that while Bob Kahn and I were working either at or for ARPA we were allowed to release all of the information about the Internet to anyone who was interested. As I recall we neglected to ask for permission. We had the idea that people should be able to build pieces of the Internet and connect them together with anyone else who was willing to cooperate.

      “It was an organic vision of growth. And of course we also hoped that the lack of barriers to use would facilitate their eventual adoption as international standards. By any reasonable metric, the Internet and its technology and the institutions it has spawned have benefited from this ‘open’ philosophy.”

      He said openness is a characteristic that must continue to thrive.

      Cerf called for the full implementation of IPv6 by users, providers of applications and Internet service providers.

      “Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, nearly 3 billion people appear to be online,” he noted. “Mobiles have joined the Internet to create yet another opportunity for innovation and creative expression. How often do we hear ‘there’s an app for that’ in reference to the smartphones that number in the billions? To keep the Internet growing it’s imperative that the newer IP version 6 protocols be widely implemented and used. The Internet Society has organized first an initiative in 2011 World IPv6 Day and in 2012 World IPv6 Launch. On June 6 of this year IPv6 will be ‘turned on’ by as many of the users and application providers and Internet Service Providers as possible and will stay on.

      “This will give us the freedom to expand the Internet well beyond the confines of its original 32-bit address space. The 128-bit address space of IPv6 allows for over 340 trillion trillion trillion terminations – enough to allow an Internet of Things to evolve in the new, digital Cambrian explosion.”

      He said the Internet Society – an open organization that any individual or group can join for free – is vital to the future positive evolution of the Internet as a human tool.

      “With all this freedom comes responsibility,” he urged, “and it is in this space that I believe the Internet Society may make its most important contributions. The Internet, and, in particular, its users, reflect the whole spectrum of human behaviors and motivations. It spans national and domestic jurisdictions. It crosses through and mixes culture, language, attitudes, social norms and conventions. It is both an instrument for limitless benefit and a means for producing harm. If we’re going to talk about freedoms enjoyed by Internauts around the world, we must also talk about freeing them from harm. Freedom from harm must be added to the list of important freedoms we value and express, for example, in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.”

      Cerf added that fraud, spam, social abuse and theft, among other harms, can be perpetrated using the Internet. He pointed out that these negatives are not new – they are pursued through people using other infrastructures, such as the telephone and the postal service.

      He added that it must be recognized that the values the Internet brings are eroded by abuse, saying, “We Internauts should feel a strong motivation to reduce risk and increase safety consonant with the rights and freedoms so important to our modern and increasingly global society.

      “The Internet Society has a natural voice and constituency for exploring and articulating steps toward increasing safety of the Internet and trust that is essential to its true potential.”

      Cerf Speaking Closing ISOCHe said the problems of the digital age are complex. “They draw into debate technology, domestic and international legal frameworks, social norms, voluntary behaviors and a host of other ingredients,” he explained. “That a multistakeholder dialogue is essential should be obvious. That governments have a role to play is equally obvious, but they are not and cannot be the sole arbiters of the path toward trust and safety. We all have a responsibility in the digital commons.

      “This then is the challenge that faces the Internet Society as it begins its third decade of existence. Upon it falls the responsibility to articulate and facilitate the discussion leading to a safer and more-trustworthy Internet that embodies the freedoms sought by all members of our global society. It is here that the Internet Society may be able to make its most significant contribution and it is here that we must take a stand.”

      Earlier in his talk Cerf shared a few inside stories about the early days of ISOC. He said the initial impetus behind the creation of the Internet Society came from the need to seek out non-governmental funding for the operation of the Internet Engineering Task Force Secretariat. The formal announcement of the organization came at the 1991 INET in Copenhagen. “Larry Landweber, who was the founder of the INET conferences, was very pleased that this conference would become the flagship event for the nascent Internet Society,” he noted.

      He recalled becoming ISOC’s founding president and moving into office space at CNRI. “During one of the preparatory meetings,” he recalled, “we opened up the opportunity to take up individual membership, and I recall that Steve Wolff, who had funded the IETF Secretariat, from the NSF, and Jon Postel had a race to see who could write the first $70 check. Jon won. His membership number was then 1314159, as memory serves. The mathematicians among you will recognize this as the number one followed by six digits of Pi. While the numbering of memberships has changed with time, I always thought this was a rather nice, if quirky, choice. It also avoided the problem of who got member No. 1.”

      Vint Cerf Speaking ISOC 2012He shared a second bit of historical background that is little-known: A conflict over the word “Internet.”

      “There was a fight over the use of the term ‘Internet’ as a trademark registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,” he explained. “Not long after the Internet Society was founded a company calling itself Internet Inc. had trademarked the term ‘Internet.’ It was in fact a company providing an automated teller machine network. Now remember this was a time period when the Internet technology was beginning to make use of something called asynchronous transfer mode communication. And I called up the company and I said, ‘Hi, I hear you call yourself Internet Inc., what do you do?’ and they said, ‘Well, we run an ATM network.’ Being an engineer I thought they were running an asynchronous transfer mode high-speed network for the Internet. The conversation went on for almost five minutes before I realized they were doing banking with an automated teller machine system.

      “Patrice Lyons, with the support of CNRI and ISOC, drove a 10-year contest in order to make the term ‘Internet’ specific to the system based on the TCP/IP protocols and subsequent protocol evolutions, and her success preserved the term and its use, not only for the Internet Society but for all who use it to refer to this remarkable global and transforming networked technology.”

      Cerf applauded Lynn St.Amour, the longest-serving president and CEO of ISOC, and her bold decision to bid on the operation of .ORG, Public Interest, top-level domain, which he said helped define the course of the organization.

      “The Internet Society has grown in scope, staffing and impact thanks to this visionary initiative and much of the credit for this lies with Lynn,” he said.

      He said ISOC is responsible for articulating and facilitating the discussions that will lead to a better future and continued freedoms online.

      “We had many aspirations for this organization, not only support for the future technological development and standardization of the Internet but also a social mission, driven by the belief that a new kind of society would arise from the spread and use of the Internet,” Cerf said.

      – Reporters: Janna Anderson and Caitlin O’Donnell

      Return to home page for Imagining the Internet’s
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      Twitter Logo A selection of Twitter Reports from this ISOC 20th event:

      Closing Discussion ISOC

      Google VP Vint Cerf delivers a forward-thinking closing talk at the Internet Society’s 20th anniversary INET  #ISOC 20

      Fun to read Wikipedia entry on Vint Cerf – he, Steve Crocker and Jon Postel attended Van Nuys HS together #ISOC 20

      Cerf worked in Leonard Kleinrock’s UCLA 1969 data packet networking group connecting first two nodes of the ARPANET architecture. #ISOC 20

      Vint Cerf co-designed TCP/IP with Robert Kahn in 1973-74, working out details at Stanford. #ISOC 20

      Cerf was a 1970s-80s program manager for DARPA during the development of networking that activated TCP/IP and the Internet. #ISOC 20

      Cerf is co-founder of ISOC, was long-time leader in ICANN, IETF and is working on the Interplanetary Internet. #ISOC 20

      Cerf #GlobalINET: At ISOC founding, there was a hope that a new society would arise thanks to the impact of the Internet. #ISOC 20

      @Brewster_Kahle – Vint Cerf #GlobalINet Internet adoption would have been inhibited by patents or copyright. Open access is absolutely fundamental.

      @nicolechadwick – Cerf discusses the early battles of ISOC: including using the term “internet” #GlobalINET #isoc 20

      @addmich – We said #ISOC will be a vehicle through which technical impact of Internet could be appreciated #GlobalINET

      Cerf: Values of Internet eroded by abuse, by those who use networks to harm. ISOC is a space in which solutions can be sought. #GlobalINET

      Vint: ISOC – Articulate and facilitate the discussions that will lead to a better future and continued freedoms online. #GlobalINET #ISOC 20

      The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at the Internet Society’s 20th Anniversary Global INET Conference included the following Elon University students, faculty, staff and friends: Jacquie Adams, Dan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Kacie Anderson, Nicole Chadwick, Jeff Flitter, Addie Haney, Brandon Marshall, Brian Meyer, Caitlin O’Donnell, Rachel Southmayd and Rebecca Smith.